The law surrounding possession claims and evictions has changed several times over this difficult period. The Government introduced various measures to give some respite to tenants who may be struggling financially as a result of the Coronavirus period. In March, the Government asked that landlords did not serve notices seeking possession, and in turn offered landlords mortgage holidays.
Six months down the line, there have been numerous changes. Here are our top tips for landlords who want to recover possession of their rental properties.
1. Notice periods
The Government extended the period of notice that a landlord must give before starting possession proceedings. In most cases this is now six months. There are exceptions for urgent matters such as anti-social behaviour and rent arrears of six months or more.
A solicitor will be able to advise you on the most appropriate notice to serve. They will also ensure that the correct timescale is in the notice. This is especially important at a time when the law on notice periods is constantly being revised.
2. Rent arrears
We are all conscious that lockdown and the pandemic have caused financial problems for some people. This includes tenants. Therefore, if your tenant is struggling to keep up the rent, we would recommend that you discuss this with them. You may be able to come up with a payment plan that allows for the repayment of the arrears over time.
3. Potential delays at Court
The procedure for seeking possession of a rented property is the same as pre-Covid. However, the Court stopped dealing with possession claims and evictions for almost six months. They only began to deal with these again on 21 September 2020.
As a result, the Court will be extremely busy with a backlog of possession cases to deal with. The Court will deal with urgent matters first (e.g. domestic violence). As the ban has only just been lifted, it is difficult to know how long any delay will be. However, it is important to note that there could be quite a wait for a hearing date or possession order.
4. Effect of the pandemic on you and your tenant
If you need to issue proceedings, you will have to explain to the Court the effect of the pandemic on you and / or your tenant. If you do not, the proceedings may be delayed.
Therefore, it is important to keep a record of your discussions with the tenant.
If you already have a possession order and want to apply for an eviction date, there are a couple of points to note.
Firstly, as with possession claims, there was a six month ban on evictions which was lifted on 21 September. This means that the bailiffs will be extremely busy, potentially leading to delays.
Secondly, bailiffs will not be able to carry out evictions where local lockdowns are in place.
Finally, the Government has announced a ‘winter truce’. They have agreed that, except in exceptional circumstances, evictions will not go ahead between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021.
6. Legal advice
With the law and procedure surrounding evictions changing frequently, it is more important than ever to seek early legal advice. A solicitor will take you through each stage, and ensure that you comply with all requirements.
We understand that this is a tricky time to be a residential landlord; balancing compassion to your tenants during the pandemic, and the need to collect rent. If you are a landlord and have an issue with your tenant, our property disputes team can assist. Call us today on 0800 988 7756 for a free initial discussion..