The Government has recently updated its position regarding tenants, affected by coronavirus, who will receive further protection against evictions over the winter months.
The most recent announcement here from Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, places further restrictions on landlords trying to obtain vacant possession of their properties.
Mark Chick, Senior Partner comments as follows:
‘The pandemic has seen increased levels of difficulty for landlords seeking to gain possession of their properties and investors and private landlords have found frustration in the moratorium on possession proceedings. However, the government have now taken steps to lift some of the restrictions on possession proceedings and this has to be welcomed, as we have seen increasing levels of difficulty for landlords seeking to regain possession of their properties. Clearly, where economic circumstances have changed, there needs to be an appropriate rebalancing of rights, but these unprecedented measures were always intended to be short term in nature. There is clearly much to consider for both landlords and tenants in this announcement.”
From 21 September courts will start to hear possession hearings again.
These will be subject to new court processes and procedures which the Judiciary has developed.
The prioritisation of cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as extreme rent arrears where landlords would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
Cases already issued may require ‘re-activation’ by the landlord, and may be subject to a review hearing.
Landlords will also need to provide the courts and Judges with information on how tenants have been affected by the pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will be able to adjourn proceedings until the information is provided.
There will also be a ‘winter truce’ on the enforcement of evictions, with no evictions permitted in England and Wales in the run up to and over Christmas except in the most serious circumstances, such as cases involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse. This will ensure vulnerable tenants are not forced from their homes at a time when public and local authorities may be dealing with the usual level of increased demand for services during this time. To achieve this, guidance will be issued to bailiffs that they should not enforce possession orders in the weeks of Christmas.
“Restarting possession proceedings is an important step towards transitioning out of emergency measures and allowing the market to operate while ensuring people have appropriate access to justice”.
“The stay on possession proceedings was introduced at the end of March in response to the pandemic in order to protect public health. The stay was extended in June and was due to expire on 23 August 2020. On 21 August, this stay on proceedings was extended for a further month, bringing the suspension to a total of six months”.
Where tenants do experience financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, the government says 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.
If you would like to discuss this or something related to a landlord or tenant issue please contact our leasehold team at Bishop & Sewell to discuss any of the above issues email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 0207 631 4141 and ask to speak to a member of the Property Litigation Team.