After nearly 14 months of extended notice periods, the notice that landlords will have to give to their tenants will drop to four months from 1 June in England. This is the first step towards notice periods dropping to pre-pandemic standards, expected by 1 October 2021. The evictions ban in England also came to an end on 31 May, meaning that bailiffs can re-start the enforcement of possession warrants.
The four-month notice periods are expected to remain in place until 30 September 2021, when they will drop to two months in England. However, as is the case with the six-month notice periods, there will be exceptions to this for the most serious cases, including for:
The drop is intended to offer a balanced approach to supporting tenants while recognising that "45% of private landlords own just one property and are highly vulnerable to rent arrears."
In Wales, the current six-month notice periods will remain in place until 30 June 2021, when they are expected to revert to pre-pandemic levels, while in Scotland, the increased notice periods are projected to remain in place until September 2021.
The guidance in place for the possession action process encourages landlords and agents to work with their tenants "without recourse to court action". In line with this recommendation, a mediation pilot has been in place since February 2021 in England and Wales. The option of participating in the Housing Possession Mediation Process is raised at the review stage, before the court hearing takes place. If successful, an agreement on the next steps will have to be signed by all parties, and approved by the judge.
Your agency may wish to engage with tenants earlier than the review stage. You can find all our advice on managing missed rent and how to set up a payment plan with free downloadable templates in our blog.
For those who wish to continue or restart possession proceedings, the government gives the following guidance:
Warrants of possession are valid for 12 months from when they were issued. If you couldn't proceed with possession due to the Covid restrictions introduced and your warrant has since expired, you can complete an N244 form and send it to the court, asking them to "extend the life of the warrant for a further 12 months."
There will be no fee to do so between 1 June 2021 and 31 August 2021, but you will need to pay a fee of "either £100 (without notice to the defendant) or £255 (with notice to the defendant)" outside of these dates, and if the warrant was issued before 16 March 2020.
For any possession warrant not made on exempted grounds, as outlined above, the bailiffs will enforce now the restrictions are lifted in date order from when the warrants were issued. You'll be given a minimum of 14 days’ notice of the evictions appointment and the tenant may be able to apply to suspend the eviction.
Bailiffs will still not carry out an eviction if the tenant or anyone living with them "has coronavirus symptoms, has tested positive for COVID-19 or are waiting for a test result or, has been instructed by the NHS to self-isolate".
You should "carefully consider whether you wish to proceed with the eviction" but, if you decide to continue to apply for a warrant of possession, you can do so up to 6 years after the date the possession order is made.
The window for reactivating your claim using this process has now closed. If you brought your claim before 3 August 2020 and didn't file a reactivation notice before 30 April 2021 but you now want to progress your claim, you'll need to complete the N244 form and submit it to the court where your possession claim was filed, accompanied by the relevant fee.
If you made a claim for possession on or after 3 August, it will be processed "in due course". You won't need to provide a reactivation notice, but you should provide information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on your tenant. If you haven't done this, you should provide this information to the court as soon as possible.
The government has also put in place further support for tenants during this period, to help ensure income can continue to flow:
The Coronavirus Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme remains in place in England, Scotland, and Wales, with the government supporting eligible employers with 80% of their employees salary in most cases. However, from 1 July, employers will have to contribute 10% of the total salary, and 20% in August and September 2021, ending fully on 30 September.
Tenants will also have access to the Debt Respite Scheme in England and Wales, to help give them a "breathing space" of up to 60 days in most cases. Although "a debtor is still legally required to pay their debts and liabilities", landlords and agents can't "take any enforcement action" against tenants in rent arrears, including serving Section 8 notices during this period. They also can't contact tenants on the topic, giving them the aforementioned space to find a way to pay off their debts.
This document is based on the government's guidance and is a guide only. It should not be construed as legal advice. For more information, visit gov.uk.
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