Personal Law

Eviction ban extended in England and Wales

Estimated read time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, August 21, 2020

The ban on private rental tenant evictions introduced during the coronavirus lockdown is likely to be extended in England and Wales. It has been reported that the government is considering an extension to 20 September.

It comes as the ban was set to end on Sunday 23 August.

When the ban ends, the courts can start hearing cases that were put on hold during the pandemic outbreak. Although eviction notices were served during the ban period, courts were unable to hear cases.

Scotland and Northern Ireland are extending their bans until March.

Stricter eviction rules

Although evictions will be able to begin again when the ban ends, landlords must give their tenants longer notice periods. In England, they will be required to serve renters three months’ notice, while six months will be required in Wales. Courts will only be able to hear cases once this notice period is up.

Before the ban, landlords were required to give two months’ notice.

There are also new rules being introduced around landlords wanting to gain possession of a property. They will have to adequately explain the impact that the pandemic may have had on their tenants before they try to gain possession.

If they don’t provide this information, judges can adjourn proceedings.

Landlords are being asked to only pursue the most serious cases when it comes to evictions and disputes with tenants, including those involving anti-social behaviour, fraud or domestic violence.

Rent arrears

Housing charity Shelter has highlighted research it carried out earlier this year that showed almost 230,000 private tenants in England fell into rent arrears since the pandemic began. It also found that 170,000 tenants have been threatened with eviction, despite the ban.

New research by the charity found that between January and March, almost 5,000 households were served Section 21 notices. These eviction notices are known as no-fault evictions as they are not based on tenant actions or behaviour.

Speaking before the likely extension was announced, chief executive of Shelter Polly Neate, said: “With daily news of new job cuts and the eviction ban set to lift on Monday, the coming months are likely to see a devastating homelessness crisis unfold unless the government steps in to safeguard people’s homes.

“Some may even face sleeping on the streets as councils struggle to cope with the intense pressure on oversubscribed services.”

She called on the government to change the law in order to give judges the power to prevent tenants being evicted because of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. She also urged the government to make sure local councils have the ability to help people facing homelessness in the coming months.

Meanwhile, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) Ben Beadle has called for the government to introduce a tenant loan scheme to help pay off arrears built up as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Evictions and infections

Just some of the voices urging the government to extend the ban on evictions were a group of medical professionals and organisations. They called for an extension in order to avoid a potential surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in England and Wales.

In a letter to communities secretary Robert Jenrick, representatives of bodies including the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Physicians and the Faculty of Public Health expressed concern that “failure to prevent an evictions and homelessness crisis could significantly contribute to an increase of COVID-19 infections”.

The BMA recommends that the government also introduce emergency legislation and funding to protect homeless people from the virus.

BMA board of science chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar said: “We recognise that the government has already taken decisive action to keep homeless people safe during this time. However, we desperately need this support to continue.

“We also need preventative measures to be put in place to help reduce the number of people at risk of losing their homes. This is particularly important as we head deeper into a recession and near the end of the eviction ban.”

Eviction spike unlikely

Despite the ban on evictions only being temporary, landlords’ groups think its end is unlikely to cause a spike in the number of evictions in England and Wales.

Research carried out by the NRLA found that 90% of tenants are still paying rent in full and that landlords have been able to offer financial support for the majority of tenants who are unable to.

Meanwhile, the association cited another survey that found 55% of landlords have granted at least one tenant a deferred rent or rent-free period in order to keep people in their homes. The NRLA advises that landlords and tenants maintain open and upfront communication in order to work together.

Chris Norris, NRLA policy director, said: “Extending the ban on repossessions is not necessary. Our research clearly shows that the vast majority of landlords and tenants are working together constructively to sustain tenancies wherever possible.

“We need the courts to deal with cases where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or where there are long-standing rent arrears that have nothing to do with the pandemic.”

If you are currently involved in a landlord-tenant dispute or experiencing a problem with a rental home, our property solicitors could help you work towards a solution for all parties.

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