During the pandemic, the government brought in measures that restricted the power of landlords to seek possession from tenants who fell behind in their rent payments. Most of these restrictions ended from 31st October, but what does this actually mean for landlords?
The Pandemic Restrictions on Evictions
In March 2020, the Coronavirus Act 2020 placed major restrictions on landlords’ ability to seek possession of their properties. This was, of course, to protect tenants whose incomes had been severely impacted by the lockdown, but it also resulted in hardship for many small landlords whose income from other sources may have also been reduced.
The rules originally stated that at least six months’ notice must be given to a tenant, except in cases of severe rent arrears or antisocial behaviour, but this was reduced in June this year to four months. At the same time, there was a moratorium on bailiffs carrying out enforcement orders. The effect was that, even when the court did grant a possession order, it couldn’t be enforced if the tenant refused to leave.
What Are the Rules Now?
The 31st October was the end of these restrictions, and they haven’t been extended. Notice periods have now returned to their pre-pandemic values, meaning that the notice for Section 21 possessions is two months.
For Section 8 orders on the grounds of rent arrears, the notice period is two weeks, although Section 8 orders on other grounds may be different. Bear in mind, though, that the government has issued new forms for both types of order and using the wrong form could see your claim rejected.
The moratorium on bailiff enforcements lapsed in May, but a few restrictions still remain. Bailiffs must give tenants fourteen days’ notice of enforcement visits, and they should not carry out an enforcement at a property where anyone has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.
How Should Landlords Approach the New Rules?
It will be a relief to landlords that they now have the power to recover their properties from tenants who aren’t paying their rent. However, having this power doesn’t necessarily they should do so in all cases.
Many people are still in the process of recovering from the effects of the lockdown and consequently finding it difficult to make ends meet. It seems likely, however, that many of them will soon be a better place. Even in the best circumstances, finding a new tenant can be expensive, so it might sometimes be advisable to give your current tenant the time they need.
On the other hand, if you have a tenant who won’t pay, or who you can’t see being able to pay in the foreseeable future, there’s nothing now stopping you from seeking possession. Give me a call if you need help or advice about the process.