Residential eviction ban extended to 31st May 2021 in England
On 10th March 2021, the Government announced that there would be a further extension to the current residential eviction ban which in England was due to expire on 31st March 2021.
In addition to extending the eviction ban, the Government also confirmed that notice in respect of possession proceedings will now not default back to their original pre-Covid notice periods, but instead the current notice periods in England are to continue in place until 31st May 2021.
Court arrangements and rules have also been extended until the end of July 2021 with a continuation of priority being given to serious cases.
Landlords also continue to be required to provide the courts with information on how the pandemic has impacted their tenant and claims that were issued before 3rd August 2020 will still require re-activation notices and such notices are being extended until 30th April 2021.
Pre Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords (“the protocol”)
It is likely that private landlords will be required to comply with the protocol in the future.
The aim of the protocol is to encourage more pre-action contact and exchange of information between landlord and tenant and avoid court proceedings, where possible. These steps will be expected of private landlords. Once landlords are able to start court proceedings for possession again, they will need to ensure that they are compliant with the protocol.
Based on the general requirements of the protocol, landlords will be expected to:
● Avoid court action where a settlement out of court is being actively pursued;
● Document steps the landlord has taken to communicate with the tenant ahead of time and the tenant understands any documents being served on them;
● For vulnerable tenants, landlords should be mindful of whether they have mental capacity to defend a possession claim and any discrimination issues to consider under the Equality Act 2010.
If landlords fail to comply with the protocol, a Court may make an order for costs, adjourn or dismiss the possession claim entirely.
For section 8 notices for rent arrears, landlords should make reasonable efforts to contact the tenant to discuss the situation and send the tenant a copy of the protocol. Possession proceedings should be postponed if a payment plan has been agreed between the landlord and tenant, and the tenant is sticking to it.
For section 21 notices, the landlord should write to the tenant explaining why they seek possession. This letter must give the occupiers a timeframe to make representations to the landlord (in writing) of any personal circumstances or other matters they wish to have taken into account by the landlord. This letter can be sent at the same time as sending the section 21 notice.
The landlord should consider any representations the tenant makes and respond giving reasoning why the landlord still intends to start possession proceedings. Once possession proceedings have started, the landlord is expected to attach to the claim form a witness statement including the following:
● Whether the tenant was invited to disclose personal circumstances / matters to be taken into account;
● Whether any representations were considered by the landlord;
● Why proceedings are being brought;
● Attach relevant documents.
Possession of residential property is a rapidly moving area; we will update the above as new information on the residential eviction ban becomes available.