The government has confirmed its intention to end the ban on evictions from social or private rented accommodation on 23 August. This means that from 24 August, “the courts will begin to process possession cases again.” By this date, the “moratorium on evictions” will have covered a five month period in total.
Originally set at three months’ notice for evictions during the coronavirus pandemic, the “buffer period” was extended on 5 June for an additional two months. This meant no gap between the original ban, which came into force on 26 March, and the extension until 23 August.
Landlords therefore have had to extend any notice given to renters to the end of August, if they intend to seek possession of their property, and they cannot apply to start the court process until after this period. After 23 August, if the tenant has not moved, the landlord can apply to court.
This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, all grounds of evictions, and possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988.
This means that a tenant issued with a three-month notice immediately after the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 25 March will see that notice expire after five months. At the expiry of the notice, a landlord who wanted to progress the possession claim would have to apply to the courts for a possession hearing. This process would ordinarily take between six to eight weeks and may take much longer under the current circumstances.
The court service suspended all ongoing housing possession action on 27 March 2020, which means neither current cases or those about to go in the system will be able to progress to the stage where someone could be evicted during the five-month period.
Tenants are still liable for their rent during this time and should pay this as usual. If tenants are facing financial hardship and think they will have difficulty making a rental payment, they should speak to their landlord in the first instance. The government is encouraging tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme. However, there is other support available for tenants facing financial difficulties:
- The government is “working with the judiciary on proposals to ensure that when evictions proceedings do recommence, arrangements, including rules, are in place to assist the court in giving appropriate protections for those who have been particularly affected by coronavirus.”
- A £500 Hardship Fund will go to local authorities in England so they can reduce the 2020 to 2021 council tax bills of working age people receiving Local Council Tax Support. Councils will also be able to use the funding to provide further discretionary support to vulnerable people.
- Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the government will pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per month, until August.
- Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will increase and, from April, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area.
During this time, “landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard and urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made” to their properties.
Landlords with buy-to-let mortgages will also be protected by a mortgage payment holiday of at least three months.
This article is based on the “Government support available for landlords and renters reflecting the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak” guidance and the "Ban on evictions extended by 2 months to further protect renters" announcement. It is intended as a guide only. It is not exhaustive and doesn't constitute legal advice. See gov.uk more information.