The government has further extended the current ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in England and Scotland, much to the frustration of the property industry, with many saying that wider action is required to help renters deal with debt and rent arrears.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “It is right that as we move through the roadmap, we ensure that businesses and renters continue to be supported.
“We have taken unprecedented action to support both commercial and residential tenants throughout the pandemic – with a £280bn economic package to keep businesses running and people in jobs and able to meet their outgoings, such as rent.
“These measures build on the government’s action to provide financial support as restrictions are lifted over the coming months – extending the furlough scheme, business rates holiday and the Universal Credit uplift.”
England and Scotland subject to eviction ban extension
Last year, the UK put bailiff-enforced evictions in the rented sector on hold, in order to provide tenants with greater protection from eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The enforcement action bans were initially expected to end on March 31st, but have now been extended in both England and Scotland.
In England, the eviction ban is set to run for at least two more months, with the deadline having now been moved to May 31st. In an effort to support businesses who have suffered the most due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as bars and restaurants, the ban on commercial evictions will be extended separately, lasting until June 30th. In Scotland, the eviction ban is now active until September 30th for areas under level 3 and level 4 restrictions, an extension of six months.
The Welsh government says it will make a decision regarding the potential extension of its ban shortly.
Eviction rules across the UK
In England, landlords commencing eviction proceedings are required to give tenants six months’ notice, unless there are exceptional circumstances. These circumstances include anti-social behaviour (four weeks’ notice), over six months’ accumulated rent arrears (four weeks’ notice), tenants providing false statements (two to four weeks’ notice), and breach of immigration rules under the ‘Right to Rent’ policy (three months’ notice).
In Scotland, the ban will be reviewed every 21 days. In most cases, landlords planning to evict tenants must give six months’ notice. If they or their family plan on moving into the property, or they have their license revoked, a landlord only has to give three months’ notice. If the tenant has engaged in criminal activity or has already moved out, landlords are only required to provide tenants with 28 days’ notice.
As things stand, evictions are banned until March 31st in Wales, although this could change as it is currently under review. Unless there are cases of anti-social behaviour, landlords are required to give tenants six months’ notice before beginning eviction proceedings.
There is currently no ban on bailiff-enforced evictions in Northern Ireland, but landlords are still required to give tenants 12 weeks’ notice before starting the eviction process, at least until September 30th.
What do the experts say?
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “The further extension to the repossessions ban will do nothing to help those landlords and tenants financially hit due to the pandemic.
“Given the cross-sector consensus for the need to address the rent debt crisis, it suggests the government are unwilling to listen to the voices of those most affected.
“If the Chancellor wants to avoid causing a homelessness crisis, he must develop an urgent financial package including interest-free, government-guaranteed loans to help tenants in arrears to pay off rent debts built since March 2020.
“This is vital for those who do not qualify for benefit support. Without this, more tenants face losing their homes, and many will carry damaged credit scores, making it more difficult to rent in the future and causing huge pressure on local authorities when they can least manage it.”
Timothy Douglas, Policy and Campaigns Manager of ARLA Propertymark, said: “The UK government has yet again extended the ban on evictions in England, without putting any additional and specific measures in place to support the sector.
“With the furlough scheme extended until September, it is likely that we will see further changes in the months ahead. To this end, we urge the UK government to consider a wider strategy and plan for how the sector can deal with rent arrears and the backlog of eviction cases, to avoid a mounting crisis.
“As the impact of Covid continues to bite with household debt and unemployment rates rising, we remain concerned about how tenants will avoid future rent arrears and landlords will remain incentivised to stay in the market.
“Rather than short term measures that are not helping those renters that need it most, the UK government must focus on providing long-term support to help renters clear the debt and arrears they have built up during the pandemic.”
This article is intended as a guide only. For further information, please refer to the government’s website.