Property Blog and News / What the eviction ban extension means for tenants and landlords

What the eviction ban extension means for tenants and landlords

25 August 2020


Property Expert

The Government has announced a four-week extension of the ban on evictions for tenants.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick decided to further extend what was originally a three-month ban announced in March.

In June the ban was extended for a further two months and the latest announcement on 21 August means the ban will have been in place for a total of six months.

The policy aims to protect from eviction tenants who are struggling financially because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, OnTheMarket considers the implications for tenants and landlords of the Government’s move.

What exactly has been announced?

Landlords will remain unable to evict tenants until at least 21 September, the Government has announced. That is when courts will resume eviction hearings.

The Government added that courts will “carefully prioritise the most egregious cases…such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.”

The Housing Secretary has also announced a further protection for tenants in the form of a minimum six-month notice period which applies for all eviction notices issued until 31 March 2021.

This means landlords will have to give renters at least half a year to vacate their property once notice has been served.

Only where there are serious mitigating factors, such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse, will this notice period cease to apply, the Government has said. In the case of domestic abuse, the notice period need only be two weeks.

In a further announcement on 10 September, the Housing Secretary stated that with coronavirus still posing a risk, bailiffs will not enforce evictions in areas that are a local lockdown including restrictions on gathering in homes.

Where in the UK do these measures apply?

The eviction ban extension, and prioritisation of the most serious cases, applies to courts in England and Wales.

It is only in England that the minimum notice period of six months applies.

The Scottish Government has already extended a ban on evictions in Scotland to March 2021, as has the devolved administration in Northern Ireland.

What does this mean if I’m struggling to pay my rent?

It means you are safe from eviction, certainly in the immediate future.

The Government does advise tenants in this position to engage in dialogue with their landlord immediately if they have not done so already.

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Research by the National Residential Landlords Association has found that eight per cent of tenants have already agreed with their landlord or letting agent a reduced rent or rent-free period, or made some other agreement to manage the situation.

Eighty-seven per cent of tenants have continued to pay full rent throughout the coronavirus crisis, the research found.

But housing charity Shelter claims that 442,000 private renters are in rent arrears and 174,000 have been threatened with eviction despite the ban.

What help is there if I’m having difficulty paying my rent?

Unlike struggling mortgage customers, who have the option of payment holidays, there has been no direct Government support to help tenants in difficulty because of the coronavirus pandemic to pay their rent.

But the extension of that scheme to buy-to-let landlords has at least provided indirect support for those renters whose landlords have taken advantage of the relief, and passed that support on to their tenants in the form of reduced rent or payment holidays.

The Government furlough scheme has also enabled many companies to continue paying staff they would otherwise would have had to consider making redundant.

If you are not already receiving Universal Credit or housing benefit it is worth finding out if you are entitled to either or both.

For those on Universal Credit, there’s also a Discretionary Housing Payment you may not have accessed, and help with public transport and childcare costs available, amongst other aid.

If you also have other debt to deal with, groups like Step Change, Citizens Advice or Money Advice Trust can help you manage your payments and make arrangements with creditors.

On 10 September, the Government did pledge an extra £1 billion to increase Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to cover the lowest 30 per cent of market rents.

An existing £180 million of Government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments is available for those renters who require additional support and is for councils to distribute.

As a landlord with a tenant who is in arrears, what are my options?

If you are able to make arrangements with your tenant for a reduced rent or payment holiday and haven’t done so already, then you should.

Those landlords struggling with their own mortgage repayments might consider a mortgage payment holiday.

If you still wish to proceed with an eviction and have not already served notice to your tenant, you will be able to do so but in the majority of cases you will have to give at least six months’ notice.

The Government has at least shortened the notice period for the most serious cases of rent arrears.

From 29 August, the minimum is four weeks where more than six months of rent is due. Six months’ notice must still be given if less than six months’ rent is owed.

In the case of failed follow up Right to Rent checks, 12 weeks’ notice will be required.

You must also consider the time it will take for the case to proceed through the courts given no cases are currently being heard, at least until 21 September in England and Wales.

Social distancing measures at courts have inevitably reduced the rate at which cases are being processed.

As of June 2020, the Government has required landlords to submit evidence about how coronavirus has affected their tenants’ circumstances if they wish to proceed with an eviction.

Judges will be able to suspend court proceedings if they don’t. This could further push back eviction proceedings even once hearings resume.

Landlords must also be aware that no cases lodged before 3 August 2020 will proceed straight away to hearing but must be ‘re-activated’, after which a new review hearing will be scheduled a minimum of four weeks before the main hearing.

What if I have been working away but but would now like my property back to live in? 

Unfortunately for those letting out their home while working away, such as service men and women, the six month notice period will still apply where they are seeking to regain possession of their property so they can live in it.