“Eviction ban” What it really means?
On 14 February 2021 BBC News reported that “the ban on evictions in England is to be extended until the end of March 2021” Senior Solicitor, Tom Hickingbottom, explores what this means for landlords and tenants.
“Eviction Notices – which could have started again on 22 February – cannot be served for another 6 weeks”
Regulations were introduced in November 2020 which prevented Bailiffs from executing writs and warrants of possession other than in limited exceptional circumstances. The Regulations prevented bailiffs from enforcing possession order initially until 11 January 2021 and then 21 February 2021. Announcements made over the weekend and reported by BBC News, say that evictions will not resume until 5 April 2021.
It is important that landlords and tenants understand that executing a writ or warrant of possession or the delivery of a notice of eviction is the last steps in a lengthy legal process which ordinarily would culminate in an eviction. The Regulations which have been enforced since November 2020 and which now look set to be extended to 5 April 2021 only serve to prevent those last stages in the process eviction process from taking place.
There are exceptions to the “ban on evictions” for example where the amount of unpaid rent arrears outstanding is at least an amount equivalent to 6 months’ rent. Landlords should take legal advice about whether their particular circumstances mean that an eviction can be carried out before 5 April 2021.
The Regulations which will govern the latest extension to the “ban” are yet to be published however the previous Regulations would enable landlords to execute a Warrant where a Possession Order has been made on for example, ground 8, and there is unpaid arrears equivalent to 6 months’ rent.
What the ban evictions in England does not mean
Section 21 Notices
Landlords may still serve Section 21 Notices by giving tenant’s 6 months’ notice and serving the prescribed form. Landlords considering serving a Section 21 Notice should obtain advice before doing so. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in Section 21 Notice periods being extended from 2 months to 6 months over the last year. The consequences of serving a notice incorrectly are greater and a landlord serving an incorrect Section 21 Notice on the first attempt may need to wait up to 12 months before starting possession proceedings.
Section 8 Notices
Section 8 Notices have always required different notice periods depending upon the grounds relied upon by the landlord. Notices relying upon rent arrears under grounds 8, 10 or 11 all require the tenant to be given 6 months’ notice where the arrears are less than an amount equivalent to 6 months of rent, or 4 weeks’ notice, if the arrears is equivalent to more than 6 months rent.
The current “ban” does not prevent landlords from commencing possession proceedings or from possession hearings taking place. Since 20 September 2020 the court have resumed hearing possession claims. Due to the additional regulations implemented in response to the pandemic, possession proceedings are taking longer and the time between a claim being issued and a possession order being made is locally 4-5 months.
As possession proceedings will take longer, landlords and tenants should be aware of the landlord’s desire to commence possession proceedings at the earliest opportunity after a notice requiring possession has expired.