The lettings industry is today preparing for the current ban on repossessions to be lifted on Sunday with courts to hear cases again from Monday.
This is barring any late action from the government, which last month extended the ban by another four weeks just two days before it was due to end.
The government has set out a raft of new rules for evictions. It has also confirmed that cases of extreme arrears built before lockdown, anti-social behaviour and domestic violence will be prioritised by the courts from Monday.
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and ARLA Propertymark have called on the government not to renege on lifting the ban so that landlords who have waited for six months can take action against the most serious issues.
New protections are being put in place to protect tenants affected by Covid-19. Any landlord with a claim already in progress will have to provide a ‘reactivation notice’ to ensure their case doesn’t remain dormant.
Meanwhile, where claims include non-payment of rent, landlords will now have to set out what knowledge they have of the tenant’s circumstances and how they have been affected by the pandemic.
The government has also extended the standard eviction notice period to six months, including all Section 21 repossessions, barring exemptions for the most serious issues.
The notice period for anti-social behaviour will be reduced to four weeks, while it will be two to four weeks for perpetrators of domestic violence.
Tenants providing false statements to landlords will also have to be served with a two to four week eviction notice, while those who have accumulated six months’ rent arrears will need to be given four weeks’ notice.
A breach of Right to Rent immigration rules will require a three-month notice period.
Last week, the government revealed it was introducing a commitment not to have evictions over Christmas and no enforcement action in areas under local lockdown.
Ahead of the ban being lifted, the NRLA has called on the government to address the problem of people who have let their homes while working elsewhere, such as those in the military.
It says the standard six-month notice period effectively locks them out of their own property.
Yesterday, the NRLA published a new set of ‘golden rules’ to provide practical advice and support to sustain tenancies where renters are facing financial difficulties.
The rules cover ensuring that tenants and landlords properly communicate with each other as soon as a problem arises, that the landlord understands the tenant’s needs and circumstances, and that suitable arrangements can be agreed where possible to address rent arrears that might be building.
They also also include advice about access to mediation services where it might help, and warn landlords to keep written copies of all communication with tenants to prove the efforts made to sustain tenancies should the case need to come to court.
“Despite the courts opening up again, it does not mean that repossessions are an inevitable consequence where tenants and landlords have struggled due to Covid-19,” says NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle.
“The golden rules published today provide all the advice needed to sustain tenancies – but it is incumbent on both parties to speak to each other.”
“We welcome the framework developed by the Government to ensure courts can begin to hear possession cases again.”
He says in challenging times they ‘broadly strike the right balance between protecting tenants and the need for landlords to tackle the most severe cases’.
“That said we remain concerned that the expectation for landlords, the majority of whom are not property tycoons, is to go without rent for anything up to a year before such cases are deemed a priority,” Beadle concludes.