Eviction process under COVID-19
Under Covid-19, the UK government has passed legislation hitherto to prevent landlords from evicting their tenants.
First, we had the total ban on evictions in March this was again extended in August.
Then the Government introduced extended eviction notice periods from 2 months for section 21 to 6 months’ notice period. For section 8 notice the notice period went up to 6 months too.
The popular grounds for rent arrears 8,10 &11 went from 14 days to 6 months causing severe problems for landlords with bad problem tenants.
It is worth noting this change in legislation is temporary and is likely to end early next year. However, this does depend on the Coronavirus pandemic, as we seem to be at the mercy of COVID-19.
Exemptions when evicting a tenant
There are exemptions to the extended notice period if the rent arrears were over 6 months, Nuisance cases and trespass.
The Government has recently in the last few days passed further legislation preventing Court bailiffs from evicting tenants even when landlords have a possession order. Landlords are precluded from serving eviction notices during this period (England only) too. This is in force until early next years.
The exemption to this rule is if you have rent arrears of 9 months or the claim for possession is for nuisance. Trespass cases are still exempt.
Landlords should tread carefully when claiming possession under nuisance, nuisance cases can be contentious. Seek legal advice before proceeding under the grounds of a nuisance possession claim.
It is no doubt a green light for bad tenants to continue to misbehave and refuse to pay rent.
The British Landlords Association members legal advice line has reported a growing trend where landlords are being told by their tenants, to name one quote: “to get lost, they know their rights, and they will wait for the court action, so do your best”.
We presume when tenants say they know their rights they mean; they cannot be evicted, and they know this.
Landlords have been stripped of their rights albeit temporarily and tenants have been given an unholy right by the Government.
We now even have Homeless landlords due to bad problem tenants. Two accidental landlords’ members of the BLA are not sofa surfing but physically on the street because they have nowhere to live.
The British Landlords Association is currently conducting a survey on how many accidental landlords are homeless due to the pandemic and we will be writing a blog on the results once the survey is complete.
The British Landlords Association members legal advice line in the last week have been swamped by telephone calls regarding non-paying tenants.
At one stage 134 callers were waiting while 7 lawyers were continuously dealing with members who wanted advice on how to deal with non-paying tenants under Coronavirus.
How to Evict a tenant quickly
Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic landlords are on the search for ways to evict a tenant the best and fastest way. This blog aims to lend some clarity on things you should consider.
If you don’t understand some of the technical jargon, you don’t need to worry too much, use the comment button below and we can clarify anything you may be unsure about.
Landlords who have bad or non-paying tenants during the Coronavirus Pandemic should note the following tips to avoid delay and, in some cases, will speed up the eviction process:
- It is important you are aware of what temporary legislation is in force, when it came in and when it comes to an end. This will mean you will know what you can and cannot do and the dates that may affect you. We have written blogs as each legislation has been introduced which you can navigate through by clicking here.
2. At an early stage if you have problems with a tenant, make sure you serve a notice section 8 or section 21. Check when and what notice can be served on your tenant crucially ensure you check the notice period required. Notice period means when the notice expires and allows you to go to court if required.
- Make sure you use the correct notice; Under Coronavirus the prescribed notices have changed. Members can download the latest notices for free from The BLA members services tab on our website.
- It is Crucial if your rent arrears pleaded are more than 9 (or 6 months if applicable) months the case file is marked to highlight this. This may ensure the case is dealt with quickly. Mark the correspondent to the court in bold, in yellow or red highlighting that: “Please note this claim for possession is due to rent arrears of more than 9 months, please list this case as a matter of urgency under the CPR”.
Likewise, for Nuisance and trespass cases to avoid delay case files should be marked appropriately, so court staff know to list the case for an early date.
All courts are under pressure, and even urgent cases are likely to experience some delay. Each court is different when it comes to its workload and its ability to deal with the case urgently.
- It is crucial when your claim for possession is being prepared permission to use High Court enforcement officers is sought. To make an application later after you have obtained a possession order and find the county court bailiffs are taking 6 months to evict a tenant may be a mistake.
To make an application later will cost more money, anything from £700+. Don’t forget to calculate to add the time it takes for the court to deal with your application to seek permission to use High court enforcement officers.
To seek permission when you prepare the claim for possession claim avoids you paying £700+ fees and avoids delay later obtaining permission to use high court enforcement offices. You have nothing to lose by pleading permission to use High court enforcement officers.
- If your tenant has paid a deposit then ideally, you do not want to have an argument later over the deposit money. You should plead for the Judge to make a declaration the deposit monies can be kept by you. Most judges will not be averse to this request, especially if you have serious rent arrears.
- You must not attempt to try to do the possession yourself. It is no longer a matter of form filling. Use lawyers who are specialists in eviction. Landlord Advice UK is just one of the national companies that deal with bad problem tenants.
know all the above and will plead everything that needs to be pleaded to make things easier for you. It is essential before a claim for possession is issued you obtain information regarding how your tenant was impacted by COVID-19.
Landlords must obtain a court order should they wish to evict a tenant, to evict a tenant without a possession order from a court is illegal.
Once your possession claim has been submitted to the county court, before the court lists the case, in rare cases if you speak to the staff listing the case, they may be provided you have compelling reasons to list the case earlier than they may otherwise. You have nothing to lose by speaking to the court staff.
Rent arrears claims issued online through PCOL (Possession claim online) used to be listed immediately electronically, you knew the date and time the claim was going to be heard. The courts have de-activated the electronic automated listing and now manage it manually.
So this does give you an opportunity to speak to the listing section within the relevant court to see if your claim can be listed quickly.
Due to further changes pending in legislation please check the latest legislation before acting on any information in this blog.
Source: British Landlords Association
Author: Simon Hampton & Sarah Featherstone
Date: 29th of November 2020
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