Last week, the government extended the tenant eviction ban for a further four weeks. Buy-to-let landlords must also now give renters six months’ notice to repossess.
Back at the start of lockdown, the government announced a complete ban on evictions across England and Wales. This measure was to prevent additional hardship for those who had been directly effected by coronavirus.
After an initial three-month period, the government extended the ban for a further two months. Now, four more weeks has been added to the scheme, meaning courts will not hear repossession cases until 20 September. This means tenants will have been safe from legal eviction for six months so far this year.
Further to this, landlords in England will now need to give tenants’ a six-month notice period of eviction. As a result, most tenants will now be able to stay in their homes until at least the end of March.
Courts will prioritise worst cases
Buy-to-let landlords facing issues such as anti-social or criminal behaviour from tenants or extreme rent arrears will be top priority when courts reopen. This means those who wish to evict due to other reasons may need to wait a while longer.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of COVID-19. That is why today I am announcing a further 4 week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for 6 months.”
“I am also increasing protections for renters – 6 month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.
“However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases.”
The Housing Department statement also points out that most landlords have supported tenants. It says they have shown “understanding and leadership”, with 8% of landlords reducing rents.
Protection for the rental sector
The eviction ban has given thousands of tenants some much-needed stability during the pandemic. Before the new measures, tenants were also protected in a number of ways.
Landlords could only evict their tenants using a Section 21 or Section 8 notice. The Section 21 “no-fault eviction” has been under review by the industry for some time, however. Landlords must also follow a series of set procedures to evict a tenant successfully. If they don’t, the tenant can appeal against the eviction.
For landlords, the government has made mortgage payment holidays available. Like other homeowners, landlords can apply for a payment break through their lender to help with financial difficulties. This scheme runs until the end of October at present.
While many in the industry have welcomed the latest eviction extension, others fear landlords are bearing the brunt.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), said: “Landlords have been left powerless in exercising their legal right to deal with significant arrears unrelated to Covid-19, antisocial behaviour and extremely disruptive tenants who make life miserable for their neighbours and housemates.”
“There must now be a plan to support households to pay their bills and to compensate landlords fully for their lost income.”
How have buy-to-let landlords fared through coronavirus?
According to a recent poll by the NRLA, the vast majority of tenants have paid rent through the crisis. More than 95% have either made full payments, or set up agreements with their landlords.
The research shows 87% of landlords received full pay with no issues from renters. Just 3% have reported tenants in arrears who are unwilling or unable to resolve the issue.
NRLA’s Ben Beadle added: “Consistent with our previous surveys, this latest data demonstrates that the vast majority of landlords and tenants are working together constructively to sustain tenancies, and critically that the overwhelming majority of tenants are paying as normal.
“Eviction is not, and need not be, an inevitable outcome where tenants have struggled to pay their rent due to COVID-19. Those who argue otherwise are stoking needless anxiety for tenants.”