Possession Proceedings and the Pandemic – where are we now?
In response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Government limited actions available to landlords looking to re-take possession of a property from a tenant. These have developed from March 2020 – essentially preventing a landlord from issuing possession proceedings – to the situation which had existed from September 2020, which mainly lengthened the notice periods landlords needed to give to tenants.
On 1st June 2021, there was a significant update to the pandemic rules surrounding possession proceedings. Here are the main changes:
Section 21 Notices As before the pandemic hit, a landlord needs to ensure that certain key requirements are met before a valid Section 21 Notice can be given to their tenant. These can include complying with the deposit scheme and keeping up to date with gas safety certificates amongst other requirements.
For any Section 21 Notice served upon a tenant between 1 June 2021 and 30 September 2021, a landlord must give 4 months’ notice. A landlord then has 8 months from the date of serving the notice to commence court proceedings if necessary.
Section 8 Notices Often referred to as the ‘fault notice’, these notices are issued if a landlord believes a tenant to be at ‘fault’, such as being in rent arrears.
From 1 June 2021 where a tenant is in arrears of 4 months’ rent or more, a landlord must give them 4 weeks’ notice. If the tenant is in arrears of less than 4 months’ rent, then a landlord must give 4 months’ notice.
There are various other grounds to seek possession and a landlord should check the current law and notice period for any other ground upon which they wish to rely.
Court Proceedings As a result of the pandemic, procedural changes were put into place throughout 2020 and are set to stay in place until at least 31 July 2021. This includes the addition of a Review Hearing as part of the court process and also the requirement for a landlord to provide a statement on the impact of Covid upon the tenant.
A Housing Possession Mediation Pilot Scheme has also been established. By mutual consent, a landlord and tenant can refer their case to the scheme as part of the court process to try and reach an agreement.
Enforcement Bailiff evictions can recommence from 1 June 2021 except where a household has symptoms of Covid or are self-isolating. As this ban has been in place throughout 2021, we anticipate a significant backlog of work for County Court Bailiffs.
Whether a landlord or a tenant, the implications of possession proceedings can be far reaching. If you require legal support, please contact Berwins.
Natasha Guest is a Dispute Resolution specialist at Berwins