Update – since the below was written the Government have extended the moratorium until 20th September 2020. We are here to advise on the changes as and when they happen.
Details are slowly emerging as to how courts will deal with housing possession cases when they resume on Monday 24th August. Existing and new possession proceedings have been on hold since March to protect private and social renters, and those with mortgages and licences covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 during the Covid-19 crisis.
(Note that the Financial Conduct Authority has directed banks to hold off reinstating possession claims or starting new ones until the end of October 2020). The following relates to residential tenancies only.
Landlords should be aware that the procedure to secure possession on the grounds of rent arrears is going to be slower than it was before. Nothing is going to happen immediately. Both solicitors and the Court staff are getting to grips with the new rules and directions currently being drawn up. Even though we are only days away from the suspension being lifted, some forms/guidance is still in draft form.
Initially, the Court will begin looking at the backlog of cases and new ones coming through, and list them. Landlords with cases in the backlog will have to file at court and serve on the tenant, a reactivation notice. If such a Notice is not addressed by the 29th January 2021, their case will be automatically stayed and they would then have to spend money applying for the stay to be lifted.
When submitting a reactivation notice or issuing new proceedings, Landlords will have to flag up any Covid-related issues and tenants will also be able to do so. New possession cases will be listed for a review date. This will enable tenants to get advice, likely by phone, from a court duty adviser in advance of any court hearing.
Any tenants facing possession should urgently seek advice because failure to do so could go against them if arrears have been allowed to increase.
BG Solicitors can provide advice and assistance to landlords under a fixed fee arrangement and legal aid to tenants if they are in receipt of qualifying benefits or on a low income.
Tenants should be warned that they could still be evicted at the whim of landlords. At present, tenants can be evicted under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, which requires no specific reason for possession. At the moment, a landlord wishing to pursue possession under section 21 must give 3 months’ notice of intention to issue proceedings (it used to be 2 months).
Landlords should take care to ensure their paperwork is correct before serving a section 21 notice and therefore we recommend seeking our advice and assistance.
As long as the section 21 procedure has been followed correctly, possession will ultimately be granted and often, this is the best option for landlords with troublesome tenants.
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