The changes to the eviction laws that were implemented in March with the intention of protecting tenants have now run out.
There has already been much discussion relating to the merits of allowing the legislation to lapse - many believe the ban on evictions should persist, others argue that even with the lifting of the ban more still needs to be done to protect and compensate some landlords.
In this post, we will detail what the changes mean for landlord and tenant alike and outline why opinion is so divided.
A Return To Eviction Laws As They Were
Perhaps the easiest way to think of the changes is that they are in fact just an alteration that sees regulations regarding evictions largely returning to how they were before the emergency measures were introduced in March.
In March, with a huge surge in Covid-19 cases, the Government took action designed to give tenants certainty that they would not be forced from their homes.
Initially, this was a three-month ban on evictions, this then being extended and running up until September 20.
For the past six months, there has been no processing of evictions and new cases have not been undertaken.
However, it is not quite as straightforward as the situation now mirroring the old.
Backlog and a Key Change
Two factors make the situation very different now from a more normal time.
Firstly, there will be a huge backlog of cases.
There were eviction notices served pre lockdown that can now be enacted and there are sure to be many new eviction notices served, whether this is no fault (for instance section 21 evictions) or an eviction notice where blame is attached.
The second major difference is that there is a minimum six-month notice period for no fault evictions, so anyone served with an eviction notice at the start of October would be able to stay in situ until at least the beginning of April. It is probably also unlikely that many of these types of eviction will be processed by October.
The Government have introduced this to, in their own words, “help keep people in their homes over the winter months.”
However, this six-month notice does not apply to those who were served their notice prior to the eviction ban introduction in March.
The Overall Picture
In short, there are two very different views and much will depend on personal circumstances.
Many tenants are understandably worried, prior to the pandemic rent was on average 40% of income, this figure often higher still in south east London and Kent. Renters are also often a group with limited, if any savings, research suggesting 61% of those renting have no savings.
During the pandemic, many landlords worked with tenants to agree rent reductions, coming to what they deemed a fair solution. Now, the threat of eviction has returned, including the Section 21 no-fault eviction.
Among landlords, many will now feel relief that they can take action against tenants who have not being paying rent, including those who have used the eviction ban as a cover for not paying even when they have still been able to.
It may be that cases are slow to process and the six-month notice period prevents fast resolution in many cases, but a landlord who has not received any payment for six months might at least be able to look ahead to a time when they get their property back.
Of course, those who ‘only’ have five months of arrears to suffer might have a lengthy delay as this would fall outside the criteria for ‘significant rental arrears’.
What Will Happen Next?
Tenants may be worried that they will soon find themselves having to find alternate accommodation or, in a worse case scenario, without a home.
Some landlords will be hoping they can either have rental arrears paid or evict tenants they deem unsuitable.
The courts meanwhile will face both a backlog of old cases and a likely surge in new ones, this at a time when Coronavirus cases are increasing and so court workloads might be further impacted in coming months.
In many instances, action will be slow. It will take months until a hearing and even then there would be the further six-month notice period unless the eviction was brought about by, for example, anti social behaviour, domestic abuse or substantial rental arrears (at least six months).
Cases will be prioritised. A Section 8 notice could now proceed relatively quickly depending on the court’s workload and the landlord could have the keys back inside a few weeks.
A new Section 21, no fault eviction notice served will fall to the bottom of the pile and may face getting pushed back repeatedly as other cases deemed higher priority are filed.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to provide certainty. The tenant served with a Section 21 notice will have stress and anxiety but also no real sense of when they might have to leave. In the meantime, do they sit tight or start looking for a new property knowing that at some stage they will be given six month’s notice?
Similarly, the landlord can now start proceedings but with no clear picture as to when their case will progress. Some evictions will be prioritised, but what that means in terms of actual timescales could vary greatly by local area.
Landlords will also be impacted by whether they are under a local lockdown - and in the UK at time of writing more than 16 million people fall into this category.
Tenants located in an area under local lockdown cannot be evicted, there is ongoing speculation that London, or parts of the capital could be placed under this restriction.
This would add further delay to any eviction cases, both potentially in the processing of cases and then in the enactment of any that had already been processed.
The change means that landlords can once again begin the eviction process and that the court wheels will once again start turning, slowly in some cases.
For those serving an eviction where there is clear fault on the part of the tenant, action may be prompt.
Those serving a no fault eviction notice or similar will, we suspect, face very substantial delays.
At A Glance Guide To Changes
- New eviction proceedings can now be undertaken
- For new no fault evictions, once processed, tenants will be given six month’s notice of requirement to vacate
- Where the eviction notice was served prior to the temporary legislation (March 2020), this six month notice period does not apply
- The six month notice does not apply in new cases where fault is attached, for instance a section 8 eviction
- Courts are likely to prioritise cases where there are clear and serious breaches by tenants, for instance cases of domestic abuse
- A huge backlog of cases is expected to emerge, many landlords may have to wait months before they get a hearing
- Tenants cannot be evicted if they are under a local lockdown, the expectation is this would extend to a national ban on evictions if the UK returns to full lockdown
- Further significant increases in Covid-19 cases could impact courts’ abilities to process cases.