New regulations will prevent landlords from pursuing eviction proceedings
The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations are now in force. Jenny Carter in Coodes Solicitors’ Personal Disputes team explains the measures and what they mean for landlords.
On 17 November 2020, the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations were enacted.
The new regulations follow a number of measures introduced by the Government to protect tenants during the Coronavirus pandemic. These include the Government’s announcement on 10 September that evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs in areas of lockdown. The further measures will affect many thousands of landlords who had thought they would now be able to proceed with evictions following months of a moratorium on their possession cases.
The moratorium was put in place through emergency legislation in the Coronavirus Act 2020 to temporarily prevent landlords from evicting tenants.
The regulations will be active during the period of lockdown which began on 5 November 2020 and will restrict the enforcement of evictions.
What do the new regulations mean?
Under the regulations, enforcement agents, including bailiffs, may not attend a property to execute a writ or warrant for possession (a residential eviction) or deliver a notice of eviction. The regulations are in force until 11 January 2021. Given that eviction notices carry a 14-day notice period, this effectively means that the earliest date that evictions, which need to be enforced by attendance by the bailiff, will resume is 25 January 2021.
Are any evictions permitted under the regulations?
Evictions in some circumstances and for the most serious of cases are exempt from the new rules. This includes cases involving some mortgage repossessions, anti-social and/or criminal behaviour, domestic violence, extreme rent arrears, devolved tenancies and claims against trespassers.
What are meant by ‘extreme rent arrears’?
The regulations classify extreme rent arrears as being arrears equivalent to at least nine months’ rent outstanding at the date on which a possession order is granted by the court. The arrears must have accrued before the first national lockdown was imposed on 23 March 2020. Any rental arrears accrued since 23 March 2020 must be disregarded in that calculation.
Can a landlord serve notice on tenants?
In practice, the regulations do not affect landlords’ ability to serve notice on tenants. A landlord may still serve a Section 21 or Section 8 Notice provided that they give tenants a minimum of six months’ notice to vacate the property.
Landlords may also restart an existing possession claim by filing and serving a Reactivation Notice before 29 January 2021. If they fail to do so, their claim will be automatically struck out.
New possession proceedings, following a tenant failing to vacate the property by the end of the notice period given in the Section 21 or Section 8 Notice, may also be issued. We recommend that landlords do so if appropriate. We can provide individual specialist advice on this.
However, if a tenant fails to vacate the property after the period specified in a court possession order has expired, landlords will not be able to evict them using the bailiffs until after 11 January 2021. The only exception to this would be those tenants who fall within one of the specific exemptions set out in the regulations.