For those of you who are unaware all evictions from social, private and commercial landlords except for cases of trespass in England and Wales will remain suspended until 23 August 2020.
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. This means that the government implemented a temporary three-month ban on evictions because of the fear of the impact that the coronavirus could have on individuals e.g people may fall behind on their rent and become homeless.
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 written 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’ 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 will 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. This is the right action to take as this has the potential to reduce the numbers of homelessness cases.
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 (for Assured Shorthold tenancies) ‘no-fault’ eviction or using Ground 8 of Section 8, which is used when a tenant is in arrears.
What to do if you are in arrears:
Don’t ignore letters from your landlord or letting agent. Speak to them as soon as possible about your situation and inform them that you are unable to afford the rent. The landlord may be willing to keep you as a tenant if payment problems can be sorted out.
It is so important to act now whilst this suspension is in place. Please read and share this may help to prevent someones homelessness.
It should be noted that the Act does not stop a landlord serving a notice requiring possession on their tenants (often known as a notice to quit). What this means in practice is that landlords must give a longer notice period.
From 26 March to 30 September 2020 landlords can still serve a notice on their tenant, but now all notices have been extended to a three month notice period to end the tenancy.
In practice this means that if a tenant defaults on their rent, the landlord may be in a position to serve either a Section 8 or 21 notice, but the landlord is only able to enforce the notice after the new three month period expires. Again this gives tenants more time to resolve their housing situation.
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