New rules have been added to the rental eviction ban, initially designed to offer breathing space to private and social tenants in England and Wales whose health or finances were affected by coronavirus.

In the first weeks of lockdown, the Coronavirus Act 2020 extended the period before landlords were able to start the legal process to evict tenants from two months to three.

Tenants who were financially impacted by coronavirus lockdown were also encouraged to agree rent reductions or rent “holidays” with their landlords, along with repayment plans.

The National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations in England, also confirmed their tenants would not be evicted if they fell behind on rent as a result of coronavirus.

What are the changes to the rental eviction ban?

The initial ban was extended three times with the third extension, to September 21, also requiring landlords to give tenants a six-month notice period, meaning that no tenant would find themselves evicted before March next year.

However, from August 29, landlords are required to give only four weeks’ notice to tenants who have not paid rent for more than six months.

Other exceptions will be made in the “most egregious cases”, for example where tenants have committed fraud or demonstrated antisocial behaviour.

A further restriction was confirmed on September 10 that if an area is in a local lockdown that includes a restriction on gathering in homes, evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs.

The Government also announced a “Christmas truce”, with no evictions permitted in the run-up to, and over, Christmas. Again, this will not apply in serious circumstances such as cases of domestic abuse.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for six months – the longest eviction ban in the UK. To further support renters we have increased notice periods to six months, an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter months.

“It’s right that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or antisocial ways have access to justice. Our legislation means such cases will be subject to shorter notice periods and then prioritised through the judiciary’s new court processes.”

New guidance will be published before the eviction ban ends to help landlords and tenants understand their rights under the court system and the financial support available.

Can my landlord evict me?

by Charlie Duffield

Charities have warned that if the eviction ban is lifted without extra protection, tens of thousands of outgoing tenants could be unable to find or access affordable homes, prompting a “devastating homelessness crisis”.

Shelter said that by the end of June, some 174,000 renters had been warned by their landlord that they are facing eviction, and 58,000 moved out after being asked to leave during the lockdown.

However, it is a criminal offence for a landlord to evict a tenant without following the correct legal steps.

If you are a private tenant, a landlord can ask you to move out by issuing a Section 21 or Section 8 notice.

A Section 21 notice is commonly referred to as a “no-fault eviction” as landlords don’t need to give a reason for evicting you.

However, as of June this year, the Government now states landlords must submit evidence about how their tenants’ circumstances may have been affected by coronavirus.

If they don’t, judges will be able to suspend the court proceedings until such details are provided.

This means eviction proceedings for thousands of people could effectively be pushed back by months.

With a Section 8 notice, landlords already have a reason to evict you, for example if you’ve fallen behind on your rent, have damaged the property or there are complaints from neighbours.

The amount of time you get with Section 21 is two months if your landlord gave you notice before March 26 this year. This was extended to three months after this date until September 30 and is now six months.

For a Section 8, the notice period is three months until September 30 this year, if your were told by your landlord on or after March 26 — as opposed to just two weeks previously.

However, you don’t have to leave your home once these periods have expired, as your landlord must apply to a court. So you may be able to challenge your eviction if you think you’ve been unfairly asked to leave.

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