Early in the pandemic, the government brought in a moratorium on evictions for rent arrears. While this was good news for tenants struggling to pay, often through no fault of their own, it’s been a nightmare for some landlords, who have been unable to do anything about lack of rent.
From 1st June, however, the moratorium no longer applies — but is this really back to normal for landlords?
The History of the Moratorium
Very early in the pandemic, the government announced a moratorium on most evictions of private tenants. This acknowledged that many tenants would be hit by lockdown and struggle to find the rent.
There were a number of exceptions, including cases involving anti-social behaviour or breaches of the Right to Rent immigration rules. Tenants with more than six months arrears (which at the time would have been a pre-existing issue) were also excluded. However, since bailiffs weren’t allowed to enter residential properties, these cases were often unenforceable.
At the same time, the government brought in several measures to help people struggling with their finances, including rent payments. The Furlough scheme was the highest profile, but an increase in Universal Credit also provided some relief.
The End of the Moratorium
On 12th May, the government announced that the moratorium would finish at the end of the month. As of 1st June, bailiffs are once again able to enter homes to enforce court orders to evict tenants, if they refuse to go of their own accord. However, they are being asked not to enter any home where someone has COVID symptoms or is self-isolating.
At the same time, notice periods will be reduced, mainly from six weeks to four weeks. However, some cases, such as domestic abuse, false statement or breach of Right to Rent, can have notice as low as two weeks, while the worst cases of anti-social behaviour can result in immediate eviction.
Not Quite Business as Usual
The changes from the beginning of June, however, don’t quite mean going back to business as usual for landlords. For one thing, since there’s a large backlog of cases, priority will be given at first to the most serious ones.
For another, notice periods won’t be back to pre-pandemic levels until at least October, while the government has longer-term plans to reform private tenancies. These include banning “no-fault” Section 21 evictions and the introduction of a “lifetime deposit”, offering extra protection for tenants. A white paper will be published in the autumn, and I’ll bring you more news about this as soon as it’s known.
On the other hand, financial support for struggling tenants to pay their rent will continue for the time being, reducing the pressure on both tenants and landlords.
Nevertheless, landlords can now take action against any problem tenants who have been hiding behind the moratorium. Give me a call if you need help navigating the requirements for getting your property back.