This article was updated on 24 September 2020. Although we endeavour to keep our coronavirus (COVID-19) content as up to date as possible, the situation is rapidly changing, so please ensure you refer to gov.uk for the latest advice and information.
The government has changed the law to increase notice periods to six months and confirmed that possession proceedings will resume on 21 September 2020. The only exceptions to the six-month notice period are the most egregious cases, including where tenants have demonstrated anti-social behaviour or committed fraud, where notice periods have been shortened. In these cases, "notice periods must be at least 4 weeks where over six months of rent is due (if less than 6 months is owed, then 6 months’ notice must be given)." A "winter truce" on evictions also means that no evictions will take place between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021.
When possession proceedings resume, cases will be subject to new court processes and procedures, which will be in place until at least 28 March 2021. These include:
The prioritisation of cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as extreme rent arrears where landlords would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
No cases from before 3 August 2020 will immediately proceed to hearing, but will have to be ‘re-activated’ by the landlord and then subject to a new review hearing, at least four weeks before the substantive hearing.
Landlords will also need to provide the courts and judges with information on how tenants have been affected by the pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will be able to adjourn proceedings until the information is provided.
In addition, the government has announced a "winter truce" on the enforcement of evictions, meaning no evictions will be permitted in England and Wales in the run up to and over Christmas except in the most serious circumstances.
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 plan. However, there is other support available for tenants facing financial difficulties:
There is an existing £180 million of government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments made available this year, an increase of £40 million from last year and which is for councils to distribute to support renters with housing costs.
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.
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