What is the new six-month rule for evictions?
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about huge disruptions for the rental property market – and they’re not over yet.
The Government has now announced further measures aimed at protecting tenants during the pandemic. So how will they affect you as a landlord, and your property rental business?
Six-month notice period
On 21st August, the Government announced that it was extending the notice period for evictions from three to six months. This six-month rule will be in place until at least the end of March 2021, to give tenants protection over the winter months.
At the same time, the Government also announced a further one-month extension to the temporary ban on evictions that was introduced at the beginning of lockdown. This had initially been due to end in June, but was later extended for another two months, and will now last until 20th September.
The new six-month notice period means that even once the ban on evictions ends, landlords will still face a delay to plans to remove tenants from their properties, with some exceptions.
Additionally, the courts are already facing a backlog, and have been instructed to prioritise the most serious cases when the stay on evictions is finally lifted.
Who is affected?
The measures, which are part of the Coronavirus Act 2020, apply to social and private rental housing.
The temporary ban on evictions applies to both England and Wales. The six-month notice rule applies to England only, but a similar measure is already in place in Wales.
The Government has said all measures are subject to review, depending on public health advice.
Who is exempt?
When the Government announced its latest measures on 21st August, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) called them “unacceptable”.
CEO Ben Beadle said: “Landlords have been left powerless in exercising their legal right to deal with significant arrears unrelated to Covid-19, anti-social behaviour and extremely disruptive tenants who make life miserable for their neighbours and housemates.”
The Government quickly agreed to clarify rules concerning evictions of the most problematic tenants.
It published new guidance stating that in cases of anti-social behaviour, only one month’s notice of eviction is required. Tenants who have carried out acts of domestic violence can be evicted with just two weeks’ notice.
Where tenants have built up arrears of six months, landlords are required to give four weeks’ notice. Therefore, action can begin now against tenants whose arrears pre-date lockdown – although the courts have not yet reopened for such cases.
Why have these measures been introduced?
Announcing the new rules, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “I know this year has been challenging and all of us are still living with the effects of COVID-19. That is why today I am announcing a further four-week ban on evictions, meaning no renters will have been evicted for six months.
"I am also increasing protections for renters – six-month notice periods must be given to tenants, supporting renters over winter.
"However, it is right that the most egregious cases, for example those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse perpetrators, begin to be heard in court again; and so when courts reopen, landlords will once again be able to progress these priority cases."
According to figures from the NRLA, 87% of tenants have paid their rent as usual during the lockdown period, with a further 8% agreeing a reduced rate with their landlords.
What does it mean for landlords?
When the ban on evictions was announced in March, it was widely accepted by tenants and landlords alike. Financial support was made available for struggling renters and landlords.
This time around, Ben Beadle of the NRLA said: “Today’s announcement provides welcome clarity about how possession cases will be handled. However, it will mean nothing without a complete guarantee that the courts will hear cases from 20th September.
“It is disappointing that the Government has so far failed to heed the warnings of the NRLA and others that a financial package is needed to pay-off rent arrears built due to COVID. In the end this is the best way to sustain tenancies. We will continue to campaign hard for this important measure.”
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