The Business Legal Services Blog

Evicting Tenants During Covid-19

Just before Christmas the government introduced a temporary ban on evictions in the UK. This month, Anna Pettinger discusses what this means for landlords…

My tenants haven’t paid rent since October. Can I have them evicted?

Tenants falling behind on their rent has been a hugely worrying outcome of Covid-19.

The virus is causing hardship for many households in terms of jobs and income and a recent report by the Citizens Advice Bureau estimated half a million UK tenants are in arrears. This, of course, has created a spike in rental evictions.

Over the Christmas period, the government announced a ban on bailiffs carrying out evictions until January 11 and on January 8, this was extended by housing minister, Robert Jenrick, until at least February 21, when it will be reviewed again.

It is quite possible the ban will be extended further, depending on whether the government introduces stricter lockdown measures and/or extends the lockdown period until March 31, as anticipated, to follow Scotland and Wales.

Although it offers little by way of compensation for landlords struggling to pay mortgages, there are exceptions to the ban in serious circumstances. These include illegal occupancy, anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse and significant arrears (more than nine months prior to March 2020).

Currently – and it is not known if this will change – the courts are still listing possession hearings and judges are granting orders, but they are unlikely to impose the usual timescales of 14 or 28 days for tenants to leave. We wait with baited breath to see how judges will decide on these hearings going forward.

The only glimmer of positivity I can offer you is that a new mediation pilot is expected to be launched next month to support landlords and renters who face court proceedings and potential eviction. It will work with the possession process and enable the courts to prioritise urgent cases.

Our advice remains the same for the time being. In these difficult times for everyone, attempt to negotiate rent arrears payments with your tenants in favour of court proceedings and ensure you continue to comply with your landlord’s duties.

If you would like help or advice about recovering rent arrears, don’t hesitate to contact me. Email: anna.pettinger@tayloremmet.co.uk

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