One of the many unfortunate consequences of Lockdown has been an increase in both Anti Social Behaviour and rent arrears in private rented property. Most of us realised early on that some tenants would struggle to pay their rent and that some tenants would take the opportunity to withhold rent despite the fact that they were getting financial support and could have paid.
This left many landlords very concerned about how we would meet our own financial obligations, especially when many of us were not able to access Government support. What we had not anticipated was the increase in anti social behaviour which is very difficult to deal with while safe guarding and social distancing is necessary and while dealing with these issues the ultimate sanction at our disposal, eviction, has been removed:
On 18th March Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced
“Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters”
Initially this was a 3 month ban but in the legislation which backed this announcement there was provision for a review where the period could be extended if necessary. On 5th June a further press release confirmed our worst fears:
“Ban on evictions extended by 2 months to further protect renters”
This meant that evictions are suspended until 23rd August 2020 and takes the suspension of evictions to a total of 5 months.
Important note – Further guidance has been released since this article was written:
It will not be business as usual when the embargo on evictions end on 23rd August – Civil Procedure Rules amended to provide for how possession proceedings are to proceed after stay on evictions ends on 23 August 2020
This has left many landlords confused about exactly what we are allowed to do and when. Some landlords have failed to serve Notice on their delinquent tenants because they were not clear what the embargo meant, others have served Notice but have not lodged them with the Court because they believed that the closure of courts meant that the cases would not be dealt with until they reopened, there are even those landlords who think that the Section 21 Notice that they served has expired because it was not enforced in the time frames set out in Deregulation Act 2015. This article is to clear up the misunderstandings.
What has actually changed on evictions?
The minimum notice, you can give your tenant, of your intention to seek a Possession Order through the court process is now 3 MONTHS on Section 21 and whatever the grounds on Section 8. That is a minimum of 3 months from the date of service to the date you ask for possession, right up until an end of September service date, using the forms linked below:
Do I have to wait to issue a Section 8 or Section 21 Notice on my tenant?
No. It is important not to delay, apart from allowing tenants to believe that there will be no consequences to their behaviour a delay in issuing the Notice will put you further back in the queue when the embargo is over. At the end of the Notice period lodge your forms with the court as usual if you want to proceed
Remember that there is no compulsion to actually take the case to court, if your tenants modifies his/her behaviour as a result of you serving the Notice that is a good result and often works like this.
Which eviction notice should I use?
If you have got provable grounds a Section 8 is often quicker and enables you to add the rent arrears to the claim for possession rather than taking separate action to recover your losses but there must be a hearing in court because you are accusing the tenant of a breach of the tenancy contract and the tenant has the right to be heard in his/her defence.
Landlords often write off the rent arrears and just want the property back and in this case they will use Section 21 which doesn’t always need a court hearing – this usually depends on the documents you provide to the court. It has become more complicated to serve a valid Section 21 since we were required to:
- Provide the tenant with several prescribed documents before serving S21
- Protect deposit within 30 days of receipt and serve the prescribed documents on the tenant or return their deposit
- Not to take any fees which are not allowed
- Meet the time scales.
There is no reason why we cannot serve both Section 8 and 21 at the same time, landlords often do this to put pressure on a tenant but remember they are all aware that they cannot be evicted until the end of August at the earliest and therefore this is probably not going to help at the moment
Lodging an eviction case in court
The embargo on evictions doesn’t change the process for obtaining a Possession Order, it does however increase the time between service of the Notice and the time when the court can be asked to deal with the case. A Section 8 or 21 served on or after 26 March 2020 must give a minimum of 3 months from Service
If you served a Notice on or after 26th March and gave the wrong notice period this will be an invalid Notice and should be served again
Once the notice period has ended you can apply to the court but the case will not be dealt with until after 23rd August, it will be filed and dealt with in order of filing and it’s important not to delay filing.
My Section 21 notice has expired
In the Deregulation Act 2015 Section 36 under Time limits in relation to section 21 notices and proceedings there were important changes.
- A Section 21 Notice cannot be given until the expiry of the first 4 months of a tenancy
- Once the S21 is served it will expire if it is not enforced within 6 months of the date of service in the case of a Fixed Term Tenancy
- Once the S21 is served it will expire if it is not enforced within 4 months of the date of possession specified in Notice the case of a Periodic Tenancy.
THESE TIME LIMITS DO NOT APPLY DURING THE EMBARGO PERIOD.
In nutshell do not be concerned that your Notice will expire because of the delays imposed because of Covid19.
My thanks to Giles Peaker of Nearly Legal for pointing out that I had misinterpreted Section 3b (i)
The time limits DO apply once the Section 21 possession Notice expires (at 3 months) we have just 3 months more to enforce the Notice or lose it completely. In other words we need to file at court as soon as the Notice period has expired. The case will be put into the system and the clock will stop ticking.
My apologies for this important mistake.
Am I expected to reduce the rent, write off arrears or give tenants a rent free period?
There has been a lot of pressure on the Government to force private landlords to take the loss of rent where a tenant cannot or will not pay. The question is why should private landlords take a compulsory hit on their income during Covid19 when no other business is required to do so while still providing the service? Speaking on behalf of members Ben Beadle, CEO of National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA):
“Responding to the Committee’s calls for the Local Housing Allowance to be set at a rate that reflects real market rents, Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said:
“Our research shows that the vast majority of landlords approached for help by tenants struggling as a result of coronavirus are responding positively. We want to see that continue to ensure tenancies can be sustained. We have long called for benefits to cover rents which would be by far best option for tenants and landlords alike.”
What can a landlord do to stop Anti Social Behaviour of Tenants?
Lockdown has highlighted this issue, some people say that it has increased ASB but whether that is true or whether it is just more visible now is another discussion; For me the issue is exactly like bullying in schools – there are many, many policies, schemes, support systems…… none of them work because bullies continue to be bullies and victims continue to have their young lives made miserable or worse. We all cry when a young person takes his/her life because they could see no other way out – we fail as a society to protect our young.
Anti Social Behaviour is from the same mould, often from the same perpetrators or victims, we have Anti Social Behaviour Units with specially trained staff in many local authorities, when the ASB becomes more serious it is often reported to the Police who quite often call it “a domestic” or expect the landlord to deal with a tenant who is displaying this behaviour. We have Anti Social Behaviour legislation, The Local Trigger ………… none of them work and the victims continue to be made miserable. In the case of private rentals tenants often move out without reporting the fact that they were victims of ASB. During lockdown there have been some very difficult situations for tenants and for their landlords, especially those with HMOs where tenants are suddenly forced to be confined together and often discover a darker side to their house mates. Then there are cases where those living in neighbouring properties suddenly begin to show menacing behaviour which landlords are simply unable to stop.
Where should we go for help?
Where does the buck stop?
Even the Government website is unhelpful on this subject:
Report anti-social behaviour to your local council.
Your council can take over the management of a property to stop anti-social behaviour.
It can also create a ‘selective licensing scheme’ if people in several houses in an area are behaving anti-socially. All landlords of properties in that area must then have a licence to show they’re meeting minimum standards.”
And when the private tenant or/and landlord are the victims? ……………….
Report antisocial behaviour
You should contact your local neighbourhood policing team to report antisocial behaviour.
The link goes to https://www.police.uk/ At this point I gave up.
In conclusion only private landlords are expected to deal with the bad behaviour of consenting adults whether they live in our properties or our tenants are victims – I didn’t sign up for that and I’m fairly sure that you didn’t either.
I don’t know a single landlord who wants to evict a good tenant nor one who wouldn’t really like to avoid evicting a delinquent tenant but if our businesses are to survive some of us will have to go through this process because the private rented sector must survive. Love us or hate us thousands of people need us to provide them with nice, safe homes. I hope that this information has been helpful should you need it.
Let me leave you on a more positive note:
“COVID-19 Lockdown is Bringing Fathers Closer to Their Kids With Improved Relationships for 40% Surveyed
A pair of new studies reveals a silver lining amid the COVID gloom: Many fathers feel closer to their kids during the pandemic, and want to create a new normal going forward.
The studies, released last week as part of Canadian Men’s Health Week, were conducted in May on behalf of the nonprofit Canadian Men’s Health Foundation (CMHF). The first survey asked 1,019 Canadian fathers about the impact of the COVID lockdown on their roles as fathers.
“Even though families have faced stressors and challenges with COVID-19, we recognize that fathers have been granted a golden opportunity to take time to slow down and connect with their children,” said Canadian Health Minister Adrian Dix.
“Many parents work full time and commute, and when that is taken away, they have more opportunities for togetherness, like a game of catch or going for a hike. Men’s health is impacted by their living situations, and getting a little more physical activity with their kids is a little thing that makes a big difference. We can learn from this pandemic in more ways than we think.”
I don’t want to steal their thunder but the many, many working mums have also had time to step off the treadmill and spend more “at home time” with their children and those of us who no longer have young children have had time to “smell the roses” let’s try to remember the positives that have come into our lives over these last few months and perhaps try to hang on to the good changes that have come about.
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