CLA Housing Adviser Hermione Warmington explains the government's latest announcement regarding evictions and notice periods during Covid-19.
The Government has introduced two measures to protect tenants during the pandemic: extending the notice period and suspending the housing courts. On 21 August, the government announced an extension to both of these.
Extending the Notice Period
From 27 March until 30 September, the notice period required to end a tenancy increased from two months to three months. The government has now announced that the notice period will increase from three months to six months until at least the end of March. It is not clear when the six-month notice period will come into effect, but it is thought to start on 1 October.
The CLA is continuing to advise our landlord members to work proactively and sympathetically with their tenants to find solutions during this pandemic. It is a difficult time for all parties, with a substantial amount of emotional and financial stress for everyone.
However, there will be circumstances where a landlord will need to regain possession of their property. Landlords are still able to serve a notice and until the six-month notice period comes into force, landlords will need to use the templates below:
The caveat to serving a notice is that if the tenant does not leave on its expiry, the suspension of the housing courts and backlog of cases may make it difficult to obtain a court order for possession.
For advice on serving a notice, please contact your regional office.
Housing Court Suspension
The housing courts will now be suspended until 20 September. This means that the housing courts will not hear any existing or new cases until this date. When courts do resume, ‘the most egregious cases will be prioritised such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.’
Even before the pandemic the housing courts struggled with their workload, taking an average of 22 weeks for repossessions. Members are advised, as far as possible, to keep a good channel of communication with their tenants to avoid having to go through the courts for repossession.
If a notice has been served and the tenants have not left on the date of its expiry, then you will not be able to apply to the court for a repossession order until they reopen. The timing of your notice is not compromised because the notice is ‘paused’ until the courts reopen. As always, you will need to weigh up the time and cost of going to court against reaching a negotiated settlement with your tenants.
There is a level of uncertainty around these changes and a number of questions which require clarification, particularly for the extended notice period. The CLA will continue to bring you up to date advice on this so please keep an eye out for our blogs.
For any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or your regional office.