In order to protect renters through the economic uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has created, back in March the Government took the unprecedented step of ceasing all possession proceedings. This prevented landlords from accessing the courts for orders to evict tenants struggling to meet payments, and has remained in place since.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick recently announced that possession proceedings would be recommenced in the courts as of 21st September, but with emergency legislation and a number of protective steps in place. The intention is to grant access to justice for landlords, whilst ensuring renters continue to be protected for the duration of the ongoing pandemic.
So what does this mean for you?
If you are in a position where you need to evict a tenant from your property, you will now be able to take the appropriate steps to do so, but this will not be a speedy process.
Notice periods have been extended via emergency legislation to 6 months, to protect tenants through the winter. An exception to this is in circumstances where over six months rent is due, in which case the required notice period has been reduced to 4 weeks.
The Judiciary will initially be prioritising cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as extreme rent arrears where landlords would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
Further to this, no ongoing cases commenced before 3rd August will immediately proceed to hearing. These will need to be re-activated by the landlord and will be subject to a new review hearing at least four weeks prior to a substantive hearing.
Landlords will also be required to provide the courts and judges with information on how tenants have been affected by the pandemic, with judges able to adjourn proceedings wherever this is not provided.
Finally, once a possession order is attained, there will be some circumstances where bailiffs will be informed to delay its enforcement. This will include the weeks in the lead up to and over Christmas, in order to protect vulnerable tenants at a time public and local authorities may be dealing with an increased level of demand for services, and also in areas under local lockdown measures that include a restriction on numbers gathering in homes.
As you can see, there are a number of obstacles in place for landlords seeking to reclaim their properties, however the reintroduction of hearings does make this possible and we can help you to navigate the steps necessary to resolve any such issue.
If you are a landlord and need assistance in a possession matter, we can help.
The recommencement of hearings does mean that your landlord will have the ability to evict you, however the government have put in place a number of protections to ensure that, in all but the most extreme of cases, a notice period of six months will be required, meaning you will not be made to leave through the winter months and can use this time to resolve the issue with your landlord, or find alternative support or accommodation.
The notice period is the time given by your landlord to vacate a property when they wish to terminate your tenancy and in most circumstances (except anti-social behaviour and significant rent arrears) will be six months. Further landlords will have restricted times to act on notices and may also need to re-activate proceedings before the court will action.
If you are a tenant and and need assistance in a possession matter, we can help.