COVID19 was always going to have an impact on the rental market. The mere rumours of threats of mass redundancies were enough to make even the most resilient landlords nervous. Luckily the Government’s furlough scheme meant that despite not being required to work throughout the pandemic, many tenants still had the means to continue paying rent.
According to research by NRLA, 87% of tenants continued to pay full rent since the start of the pandemic, with a further 8% agreeing to reduced fees with landlords.
The government announced on August 21st that new timeframes were being introduced for assured tenancies until March 2021 – an extension from the previous deadline of September 30th. It was also confirmed that the ban on possession proceedings in England and Wales is being extended until September 20th.
These measures have been put in place to protect the most at-risk tenants. In contrast, many landlords and those within the private rental industry have felt that not enough steps were taken to protect and support landlords that faced financial hardship as a result of the impact of the pandemic.
The results from the NRLA survey show that 55% of landlords allowed at least one tenant to defer rent, absorbing those costs themselves. While short-term this is an empathetic and kind act, long-term merely isn’t feasible and will have severe financial implications for landlords relying on this income.
In this post, we will outline the changes to eviction timeframes and what to expect for possessions proceedings. We also offer our recommendations to landlords, based on our experience as lettings agents.
What are the new timeframes?
Landlords are now required to give tenants six months’ notice to leave the property. The exception is when cases involve tenants displaying anti-social behaviour and committing domestic abuse.
What this means is that landlords in England are prohibited by law to ask a tenant to leave during the fixed term unless they have grounds to do so.
The grounds include:
- Tenants being in rent arrears
- If the tenants have used the property for illegal purposes and criminal activity
- If the tenants have caused significant and severe damage to the property
The deadline for the extended notice period is the end of March 2021, to ensure that tenants can remain in their homes during the winter period.
Further details can be found in the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020
Are you a private landlord looking for help with tenancy management? We can help. Take a look at our Landlords page for more information.
What happens after September 21st for possessions cases?
During the pandemic, there has been increasing hardship when it comes to landlords having access to courts should they need to regain possession of their property. The government has faced severe criticism for this, with many accusing them of not providing enough protection for landlords. The Housing Department recently responded by saying that they would like to “thank landlords for their forbearance during this difficult time” and offering reassurance that they will be helping landlords moving forward.
Possession hearings will be commencing from September 21st, 2020. These cases will be subject to new processes and proceedings, including:
- Cases will be heard in order of priority. Those cases with extreme anti-social behaviour or other criminal activity or excessive rent arrears that leave landlords facing unmanageable debts will be heard as a matter of urgency.
- Cases raised before August 3rd, 2020 will not immediately proceed to a hearing, landlords will need to re-activate these cases.
- Landlords will be required to provide the courts and judge with information relating to how tenants have been affected by the COVID19 pandemic. If no information is presented, the judge can adjourn proceedings until landlords have this information.
What do City and County recommend?
In our experience, the vast majority of private landlords are individuals renting out just one or two properties for whom subsidising rents for extended periods is not viable as they rely on this income.
The extension of notice periods will cause additional hardship to these types of landlords. At City and County, we cover ALL of our landlords (under our Full Tenancy Management packages) with a Rent Warranty and Legal Expenses policy free of charge for the 1st 12 x months of every new Tenancy to a new Tenant. This eases the situation should the tenant stop paying rent or if they continue to pay rent but refuse to leave the property at the end of a notice period – this gives our clients peace of mind during what is a very stressful time outside their control.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a worrying and confusing time for many. If you would like expert advice when it comes to the management of your assured tenancy and property, we would be happy to offer our advice.