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On the 18th of March 2020 the government announced a “complete ban on evictions” for renters in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. This article sets out the changes introduced by Coronavirus Act 2020 and the government announcement that followed suspending all possession hearings.
Last week the government announced that “no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their homes in this difficult time” and the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home”. This announcement left landlords without any information on what restrictions will be placed on their ability to regain possession. Conversely, renters did not know what protection they have and at what point they become eligible for that protection. Since then, the Coronavirus Act 2020 (‘the Act’) has been introduced. Further, the government subsequently announced that the Master of the Rolls and Lord Chancellor had reached an agreement that all ongoing possession actions are suspended from 27th March 2020 for 90 days.
The announcement regarding suspension of all current actions means that cases progressing through the courts or about to be listed will be suspended. Landlords will therefore not be able to get a possession order against a tenant for the next 90 days (at least) regardless of when the relevant notice was served or when proceedings were issued.
There has been no mention of whether possession orders which have already been made may be enforced. That being said, the practical difficulty of getting a bailiff appointment may mean that this question is academic. Over recent days some bailiffs have been refusing to carry out eviction but that has been sporadic.
Section 81 of the Act titled “protection from eviction” refers readers to Schedule 29. The effect of the provisions in Schedule 29 is to extend the notice period before which possession proceedings will not be commenced to three months for all tenancies with statutory protection no matter what the period would usually have been. This means, for example, the notice period under a s. 21 notice will not be three months rather than two and the period under a s. 8 ground 8 claim will be three months rather than 14 days. The Schedule makes provision for the prescribed “to be read” as saying three months in lieu of the usual periods.
These amended periods apply to notices served from 26th March 2020 until 30th September 2020. However, there is already an indication that this period may be extended to even later in the year.
In these unprecedented times, the protections afforded to renters who were at risk of being evicted from their homes will certainly provide some relief. There is help in place for landlords who are unable to pay their buy to let mortgages because of tenants being unable to pay their rent. However, that is little consolation to landlord’s who’s hardship goes beyond ability to pay rental instalments, for example, those that require possession on safety grounds or due to planned redevelopment.
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