This is the latest update in relation to the government’s action of suspending of court possession proceedings as a result of the current pandemic please read and share.
This information has not been widely publicised, and it is important that we are all fully aware that court action will be resuming this will obviously lead to an increase in homelessness. We should all be aware that not all cases that were suspended was a result of the impact of the pandemic some tenants for example were already in the process of being evicted for anti-social behaviour, or rent arrears. I am hoping that these tenants took advantage of the suspension of proceedings and make repayment arrangements if you have friends in this situation please encourage them to seek urgent legal advice in an attempt to stop any eviction proceedings once this is re-instated.
All evictions from social, private and commercial landlords except for cases of trespass in England and Wales will remain suspended until 23 August 2020. In March, the government put a temporary three-month ban on evictions due to fear the impact of coronavirus could have on individuals i.e. people may fall behind on their rent and become homeless.
Here is the background for those who are unawares, on 26 March 2020, at the same time that the Covid-19 lockdown started, Practice Direction 51Z(PD51Z) was issued which meant that all possession proceedings were suspended. This essentially stopped all possession proceeding claims that were about to be issued and cases that were about to go to trial. This also included those at the end of the process where a Possession Order had already been granted and an eviction date was pending.
PD51Z was amended on 18 April 2020 to make clear claims can still be issued and this applies but actions suspended this included all other types of possession claims ranging from rent arrears to the most serious anti-social behaviour.
The eviction ban was previously due to expire on 25 June 2020; however, under the Coronavirus Act 2020, the government has the power to extend the eviction period and has now done so.
A minister Lord Greenhalgh at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), confirmed possession proceedings will resume from 24 August 2020 in response to a parliamentary question.
He is quoted as saying “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.”
The government has said it plans to introduce a ‘pre-action protocol’ this means that before a landlord can take legal action, they must attempt to negotiate repayment arrangements with the tenant before going to court.
Recently the homelessness charity Crisis released draft emergency legislation asking the government to implement this, in order to avoid people becoming homeless during the pandemic.
This will include changes to eviction laws, which would see judges given more power when a landlord is issuing Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction notice or using Ground 8 of Section 8, which is used when a tenant is in arrears.
What to do if you are in arrears:
Please don’t ignore letters! from your landlord or letting agen or any other creditors. Speak to them as soon as possible about your situation and let them know you will send them an offer of repayment. If you are fearful of doing this seek advice or contact them via letter in first instance there are several sites that provide free templates.
If you are a council or housing association tenant ask your income officer for help/support with:
⦁ debts/budgeting/problems with your benefits
Most social housing providers have officers in post to support you they may be called for example Income Maximisation officers or Financial inclusion officers
Check your benefits use entitled to ensure that you are getting all your benefits.
If you are in receipt of Benefits
You can ask Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service to pay off your rent arrears through deductions from any of the following benefits:
- jobseeker’s allowance
- employment and support allowance
- income support
- pension credit
You or your landlord can request deductions if you owe at least 4 weeks’ rent and this has built up over at least 8 weeks.
You may be able to request deductions where your arrears have built up over a shorter time depending on your circumstances.
If you are in receipt of universal credit your landlord can ask for deductions from DWP. These can be much higher than deductions from other benefits.
Discretionary Housing payment
You can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if your benefits don’t cover the cost of your rent.
Who is eligible?
Anyone who needs more help with housing costs and is currently claiming:
- Housing Benefit or
- Universal Credit with housing costs towards rental liability
You cannot get DHP to help with Council Tax, although some councils run similar funds alongside their local Council Tax Support schemes.
What can DHP be used for?
You may be given DHP to cover housing costs, such as:
- a shortfall of rent, for example, as a result of welfare reforms
- rent deposits or rent in advance if you have found a home and need to move.
Contact your local council directly to apply for the scheme via your council’s website. Please click on the link below for further information:
I can’t emphasise how important it is to contact your creditors if you are struggling with your finances.
Rememeber as the saying goes ‘Prevention is better than cure’
Stay safe all!