Rent arrears of greater than six months exempt from evictions ban - including rent accrued since March 2020

13 January 2021

The guidance for landlords and tenants during Covid-19 has been updated to make serious rent arrears "greater than 6 months' rent" exempt from the extended evictions ban in England - removing the stipulation that rent accrued since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 could be discounted.

The situation with Covid-19 is rapidly changing and this article will continue to be updated throughout. For the latest guidelines, please refer to gov.uk.

Agents should be aware of an update to the guidance for landlords and tenants during Covid-19, which now states that "serious rent arrears greater than 6 months’ rent" will be exempt from the evictions ban - regardless of when the arrears started to accrue.

This contrasts with the previous guidance, which stated that the exception would apply to rent arrears "equivalent to 9 months' rent" - and only for rent owed that built up prior to the first lockdown in March 2020. The concession to allow action, irrelevant of when arrears started, is an important change and one that may have slipped under the radar of some letting agents and landlords. The NRLA has claimed this as a result of their "sustained campaign" to obtain more financial support for the industry at large.

The evictions ban was recently extended to 21 February, aside from in the most "egregious cases", such as serious rent arrears, meaning that bailiffs can't enforce evictions before this date. The government announcement highlighted that there are no evictions expected before 8 March "at the earliest", when taking into account the notice that bailiffs are required to give. Other "egregious" circumstances which are considered exempt from the ban include "anti-social behaviour", "domestic abuse" and "false statement".

Goodlord's Head of Insurance, Oli Sherlock, says: “The concession to be able to apply legal action to arrears totalling six months no matter when they began is a helpful concession. Many landlords are now nearing breaking point. Scores are facing financial difficulties as a result of unpaid rent and ongoing mortgage costs, with a few facing uncommunicative tenants who are refusing to vacate properties even when leases come to an end (although this is a minority of tenants).

“More action is needed as we come out of the pandemic. Unless more support is put in place for those struggling, we can expect to see a large number of landlords withdraw their lets from the housing market over the next year. This will put pressure on a vital source of housing at a time of critical need. Decision makers must start thinking about how tenants and landlords alike can recover from these challenges during and following the stay on evictions.”

This article is intended as a guide only. For more information, see gov.uk.

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