This week I spent a long time putting together an article about the reopening of the courts yesterday, however after the 11th-hour u-turn late on Friday evening I have been spending time looking into what has changed as the Government swiftly pulled the rug out from under landlords’ feet.
As you will undoubtedly be aware, the evictions ban has now been extended, with current cases stayed until 20th September and extended notice periods applied for new notices.
This is a tremendous blow to landlords, many of whom have found themselves not being able to evict tenants for any reason, and, once again, landlords have been painted in an unnecessarily negative light. The majority have been flexible due to Covid-19, however not being able to evict tenants for reasons completely unrelated is absolutely unacceptable.
It is incredibly worrying that landlords have been overlooked and I personally know several landlords who are facing the consequences of thousands of pounds of rent arrears, additional legal costs, and potential repossession by inflexible mortgage companies due to lack of support apart from a three month mortgage holiday.
My evictions specialist Mark Windsor from Evict Tenant Limited hit the nail on the head during a consultation with him to clarify some points:
“With the ability for private landlords to evict tenants being very limited, it appears that the burden to deal with a potential lack of ability to pay rent has been shifted from the Government to private landlords.
It is the business of the Government to support tenants struggling with arrears, not landlords who have a business to run, property to maintain, mortgage and bills to pay.”
Let’s hope that additional support is made available to landlords who could now be stuck without any rental income for 6 – 12 months. I have heard nothing about homeowners getting an additional mortgage holiday, being let off of paying other bills due to Covid-19 and I suspect that mortgage companies will be fairly swift to repossess should homeowners fall into arrears!
I know that the NRLA is lobbying the Government for this additional support on behalf of landlords and will be interested to see the response… however I won’t be holding my breath!
I consulted the NRLA on several common questions that I have been asked about how to manage evictions following the lifting of the ban (now in September). I believe the answers to these questions disclose some useful information so I have shared here.
I would, however, highlight that this does not constitute any form of legal advice and would certainly advise that you consult a solicitor before progressing with any eviction proceedings.
Q: I started eviction proceedings before lockdown and need to restart. What should I be doing?
A: For any claims made to the courts prior to August 3rd, you will need to serve a reactivation notice to the courts and your tenant.
Where possession is based upon rent arrears you will need to include an up-to-date statement covering the past two years rental payment alongside your reactivation notice. Notices will need to include:
- Whether you wish for the case to be listed, relisted, heard, or referred for a judge to review
- What knowledge you have regarding how Covid-19 has affected the tenants or their dependants
If you are a member of the NRLA, they have some helpful templates that you can download from the members portal.
Q: What is the full impact on Section 21 notices?
A: A big concern that was raised when the policy was announced is that Section 21 notices are only valid for six months, so a six-month ban effectively abolished the use of Section 21. The full policy confirmed that Section 21 notices issued up to 31st March are valid for ten months.
Q: What about anti-social behavior?
A: In relation to anti-social behavior, landlords can issue a Section 21 notice of four weeks as opposed to six months. I would strongly recommend legal advice here however as it will be interesting to see what type of behavior a judge will deem to be anti-social!
Q: Are there any other exceptions?
A: It is my understanding that the notice period where there is a case of domestic violence is just two weeks, for rent arrears over six months it is four weeks and for tenancies gained through fraud it is two weeks.
In addition to this, where the grounds of eviction are in relation to a tenant’s immigration status or if possession is sought by the landlord following the death of a tenant the notice period is just three months.
Q: My tenants had a three-month rent holiday and have now stopped paying due to Covid-19. What should I do?
A: It is my understanding that if tenants have had a three-month rent holiday and continue not paying, month four would count as the first month without arrears. Landlords are required to have two months’ arrears before serving notices. I would strongly recommend getting proper legal advice on this point due to the unique circumstances.
Q: My tenants have fallen into arrears, but not requested a rent holiday, where do I stand?
A: Again, it is my understanding that if tenants have not requested a rent holiday and fallen into arrears, the whole period will count. If their arrears were due to Covid-19 (ie: after 27th March 2020) and request a rent holiday, however, it can be given retrospectively.
It will be interesting to see how this will be viewed by a judge as I strongly expect that if arrears were due to Covid-19 and a rent holiday has not been requested, they will sit on the side of the tenant and apply a three month holiday to the case… we will need to see!
I hope that you found this blog-post helpful. If you are considering investing in property, remember that you can book a free 15-minute initial consultation here. Alternatively, you are very welcome to contact me via LinkedIn.
**Article edited on 8th September 2020 following the release of the full policy information