On the 10th March, the Government announced that the current moratorium on evictions will be extended until 31st May, for both domestic and commercial tenancies. This is clearly good news both for people who rent their home and for struggling businesses, but not necessarily for equally struggling landlords.
So, does this mean that no evictions can take place, regardless of the circumstances?
The Extension of the Moratorium
The ban has already been extended a few times, since it was imposed at the outset of the first lockdown. Expectations about how the pandemic would play out have changed several times, especially with the emergence of new, more dangerous variants of the virus.
At present, the Government is cautiously optimistic that the vaccination programme should be having real effects by May, though of course this could change. This assumption is behind the extension till the end of that month.
Limits on the Ban
However, the ban isn’t absolute. As before, landlords can still apply for evictions of domestic tenants in several circumstances, in particular:
- In the event of “substantial” arrears (over six months).
- On the grounds of antisocial behaviour by the tenant.
- On the grounds of trespass (this also applies to commercial properties).
In these cases, landlords can continue to apply to the courts for an eviction order in the normal way.
Will the Ban Work in the Long Term?
The extension has been cautiously welcomed by tenants’ groups, but concern has been raised that it won’t solve the problems in the long run. Richard Lane, StepChange Director of External Affairs, comments:
“With wider restrictions due to continue until at least the end of June and the economic effect of the pandemic expected to go on well beyond that, renters have little hope of a return to anything like normal by May… Without targeted financial support, many renters are at risk of losing their homes…That’s why StepChange is calling for an emergency financial package from the Government that helps people deal with their rent arrears through a system of grants and no-interest loans.”
Such a move would clearly be in the interests of tenants, but it could also be of benefit to domestic landlords. The worst-case scenario is that landlords will have to struggle till the end of May without income from the property and then, even if they manage to gain an eviction, have a down period till they can get another tenant in. Government help for tenants willing to pay would help avoid this.
If you need advice on what you can still do about non-paying tenants, or about preparing for when the moratorium ends, give me a call to have a chat.