Covid-19 has provided UK Landlords more than their fair share of woes over the last three or four months and as we come slowly out of lockdown the damage can be viewed in all its glory!
Millions of renters across England and Wales have received greater protection after the government suspended new evictions until 23 August 2020 due to the Pandemic. This gave a moratorium on evictions to a total of 5 months to ensure that renters continued to have certainty and security. Ministers worked with the judiciary, legal representatives, and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, which will mean that courts are better able to address the need for appropriate protection of all parties, including those shielding from coronavirus.
Where tenants experienced financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, the government was clear that landlords and tenants should work together and exhaust all possible options – such as flexible payment plans which take into account a tenant’s individual circumstances – to ensure cases only end up in court as an absolute last resort.
Easing Lockdown Measures
Over the coming weeks, the government is taking careful steps to ease lockdown measures, alongside decisive steps already taken to unlock the housing market so people can move if they need to – for example where they may need to move for work or for family reasons. While the government is taking unprecedented action to protect tenants and landlords during these times, the ultimate ambition is to transition out of these measures at the end of August to allow the market to operate while ensuring people have appropriate access to justice.
However they are also working with the judiciary on proposals to ensure that when evictions proceedings do recommence, arrangements, including rules, are in place to assist the court in giving appropriate protections for those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus – including those tenants who have been shielding.
If you have a problem with a tenant and/or arrears at this moment in a property anywhere in England or Wales, there is limited action you can take but you can get prepared for the easing of restrictions.
Where Can You Find More Information?
Take a look at the sources of information that Tenants use by clicking the logo, this will assist you in understanding the tenant’s rights, and the advice they receive.
It is always better to try to negotiate a peaceful end to any dispute, if you have an agent, use them. This is a role they should take from you.
Evictions: The relaxing of the court close down has been confirmed for the 24 August 2020. As a section 21 notice to a tenant, advising them that you require possession of your house, is considered to be “no fault” departure, it may be a low priority to the courts. Which could mean waiting months to gain possession of your property. If your real reason for possession is anti-social behaviour, and/or rent arrears, then use a section 8 notice or even both an 8 and a 21.
Also, documentation has not kept up with the changes. On the Gov.UK website the Section 21 form still states 2 months-notice is to be given, whereas the Coronavirus Act 2020, refers to three months. Whichever version you choose to use it would be open to someone defending the tenant to argue you should have used the other version. Due to this confusion we are advising agents not to serve the section 21 notice themselves but to advise landlords that they should get the solicitor who will handle the court case to serve the notice. The solicitor can then choose which version to serve, or even serve both with the same dates to cover all the bases. This is only a temporary confusion that will resolve itself as we work out of Coronavirus but for now it is an issue that you must be aware of.
As we head to the end of July 2020 you should also consider if it is advantageous to wait before serving notice. For example, a section 8 notice for rent arrears served now would have to expire no earlier than the last week of October 2020. However, if you waited till 1 October 2020 to serve the same notice for the same reason it could expire on the 15 October. Clearly this will require a little more evaluation around the dates than normal.
The normal rule requiring courts to deal with cases within 8 weeks has been suspended, clear indication they think cases will take longer than 8 weeks to be heard.
We can answer any questions of a generic nature and for more specific cases we can guide you to the best resource.