Restrictions on evictions are set to be lifted as temporary measures put in place by the UK government due to COVID-19 are due to come to an end between 24th August 2020 and 30th September 2020, Landlord Advice UK is offering free legal support to landlords dealing with evictions as special protection from the Coronavirus Act 2020 winds down for both residential and commercial tenants.
Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, Section 8 and Section 21 evictions notices were temporarily changed to protect tenants from eviction during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation made longer notice periods for evictions mandatory on a temporary basis.
Commercial businesses who were unable to pay their rent because of COVID-19 also benefitted from protection from eviction, but this is due to change at the end of September with business tenants still liable for any missed rent due during the period covered by the Coronavirus Act 2020.
New temporary Civil Procedure Rules were also brought in which required all courts to suspend all possession claims, except claims against trespassers. This meant that possession claims that were already in the court system were stayed (put on hold) and any new cases issued were also stayed immediately and this currently remains the same. However, On 01 July 2020 Parliament confirmed the current suspension of evictions will end on 24 August 2020.
This will be a relief to many landlords who are waiting to enforce possession orders already obtained prior to the suspension on possession claims as well as all of the cases already issued but not yet heard by the courts.
There is an estimated 5,700 possession claims ‘in limbo’ that were granted hearings just before the ban, and an estimated 60,000 new eviction notices that have been issued during the lockdown.
Lord Greenhalgh confirmed on 01 July 2020:
“From 24 August 2020, the courts will begin to process possession cases again. This is an important step towards ending the lockdown and will protect landlords’ important right to regain their property.
Work is underway with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, to ensure that judges have all the information necessary to make just decisions and that the most vulnerable tenants can get the help they need when possession cases resume.”
With the Coronavirus Act amendments to eviction notices due to end on the 30th September 2020, many landlords are confused about how to go about serving eviction notices in line with current legislation and when the restrictions on eviction are due to change.
How are the court planning to deal with the inevitable backlog of cases?
The Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 4) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 provides for a further amendment to court rules that govern possession claims. These rules are set to come into force on 23 August 2020.
The main changes under these new rules are:
- To require a landlord who wishes to continue the proceedings after the expiry of the stay to provide a “reactivation notice” informing the court (and tenant) in writing of this (without which the case will remain dormant).
- Where the claim includes non-payment of rent, that the particulars of claim set out what knowledge (if any) that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the tenant and their dependants
- Suspends the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing which would usually be not more than eight weeks, meaning it could take longer for possession cases to be heard by the court
- Encourages the landlord to produce the full arrears history in advance rather than at the hearing.
- These new temporary rules will expire on the 28 March 2021
Despite restrictions on eviction being lifted, the government continues to urge both residential and commercial landlords to continue to work with their tenants to find alternative avenues to eviction. This has further compounded the confusion felt by landlords around the country and heaped additional uncertainty on exactly what action landlords can take when dealing with their tenants.
Landlord Advice UK is a West Sussex-based organisation which supports UK landlords with a variety of property law needs. The Landlord Advice UK team is made up of time served lawyers who are able to help with any aspect of UK property law. It routinely supports landlords dealing with issues relating to residential eviction, problem tenants and deposit disputes.
Sasha Charles, Director of Landlord Advice UK, said, “Although some of the temporary restrictions regarding eviction are due to be lifted, landlords should continue to make all reasonable attempts to work with their tenants. We are already starting to see that many landlords are confused about what they can and can’t do and how to move forward when the law changes. Our advice to landlords is that it’s important to keep logs of all communication to demonstrate that reasonable attempts have been made to resolve issues with tenants before taking legal action.
“This will be helpful for landlords should the matter progress to court and will help landlords prepare to follow the new court protocol which is yet to be enforced. The new protocol will require landlords to make further efforts to resolve issues with their tenants before taking legal action.”
Further information on the new protocol that landlords will be required to follow can be read here.
For further advice for both residential and commercial landlords on the Coronavirus Act 2020, visit our website here. Or book a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of the Landlord Advice UK legal team.