Extended Section 21 Notice Periods
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed that it is to extend the evictions ban in England until the 20th of September 2020, and will also introduce six-month long notice periods that will run until the 31st of March 2021.
The ban, which was announced in March as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, was to end on the 23rd of August, with some cases due to be heard immediately at the newly approved Nightingale courts. It has also been confirmed that once the courts do re-open, only serious cases such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse will be prioritised.
Now that the ban on evictions has been extended, the Government must use this time to introduce further guidance and prepare the sector. It is important to take steps back towards normality so that both landlords and tenants have access to the justice system while putting measures in place to offer further support to tenants who have built up COVID-related arrears and this four-week extension will give Government the time to introduce such measures.
Timothy Douglas, ARLA Propertymark
MHCLG has advised landlords to work with tenants who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic and consider all possible options – such as flexible payment plans which take into account both parties’ circumstances – to ensure cases only end up in court as an absolute last resort.
Landlords must disclose impact of COVID-19 on tenant
Those cases which do make it to court will be affected by new rules requiring landlords in England and Wales seeking possession of their properties to set out in their claim any relevant information about a tenant’s circumstances.
This information includes what effect COVID-19 has had on a tenant’s vulnerability or whether they are claiming benefits – information should also be provided on how the pandemic has affected a tenant’s dependents, if they have any. However, the rules do not require agents or landlords to actively seek out information but merely to make the court aware of what information is known.
The rules do not change the regulations around possession for landlords and they do not amend Section 21 claims or Section 8 arrears claims. What is changing is some of the steps that landlords must follow if they want to apply for possession through the courts.
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