A ban on evicting a tenant has been in force for a large chunk of the pandemic and so it is perhaps no surprise that it has extended once again with the latest restrictions.
The ban was brought in to protect tenants who have been hit by a loss of income as a result of coronavirus.
A ban on evictions has been extended until March following the latest lockdown
Mark Hayward, of the estate agency body Propertymark, said: ‘In light of the recent lockdown, it is no surprise the Government has made this announcement.’
However, he went on to suggested the Government’s lack of updates about evictions in recent weeks has made it ‘impossible’ for agents to respond and plan for the ‘difficult winter months ahead’.
The Government has previous said on the back of the lockdown before Christmas that evictions would not be enforced by bailiffs until January 11 at the earliest. The most recent extension to the eviction ban was made on that day.
The numerous eviction ban extensions have meant that the courts face a growing backlog of cases, and Mr Hayward urged the Government to ensure landlords and tenants have access to the justice system going forward.
He said: ‘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 through no fault of their own.’
What does a ban on a tenant evictions mean?
The ban is only on physically evicting a tenant, and means that a landlord cannot start court proceedings against the tenant.
The ban is not on serving section 21 and section 21 notices, which is still permitted.
A section 21 notice allows a landlord to evict tenants for whatever reason they like, while a section 8 notice allows landlords to evict a tenant inside the fixed term of their tenancy – but it can only be used if the tenant has breached their tenancy agreement and where certain conditions are met.
Six month notice periods are also still in place until at least the end of March.
TENANT LOAN SCHEMES
There are several tenant loan schemes in place aimed at helping tenants remain in their homes during the pandemic.
They include the Tenancy Saver Loan scheme in Wales and the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund in Scotland.
However, those involved in the initiatives have warned that they should only be used as a last resort.
Ann Francis, of Cambrian Credit Union, said about the Welsh scheme: ‘This is a loan scheme of last resort and not a grant, so it may be that not every applicant will receive a loan.’
In Wales, the Tenancy Saver Loan scheme is open until the end of this March to private rented sector tenants in rent arrears and those who may also struggle to pay future months’ rent as a result of coronavirus.
It is paid directly to landlords or agents, and has an interest rate of 1 per cent on loans to be repaid over a period of up to five years.
In Scotland, the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund, aims to help people who have had their finances or employment impacted by the pandemic and do not have other means of housing support.
The loans are available for up to a maximum of nine months’ rent costs, covering rent arrears and future rent, where those arrears have arisen since January 1, 2020. The loan will not be available where a tenant had rent arrears before this date. The loan can include up to a maximum of three months of future rent payments as part of the nine-month total.
Oli Sherlock, of lettings experts Goodlord, said: ‘The Government’s motives here are completely understandable and it’s vital we continue to support tenants during this latest phase of restrictions.
‘Indeed, landlords and tenants have, on the whole, been working well together throughout the crisis to create payment plans and strategies that keep people in their homes.’
But he added: ‘We are concerned that a further extension to the ban without additional provisions for landlords and tenants is storing up even more trouble for the future.
‘For tenants, accruing arrears cannot be ignored. These debts will eventually catch-up with them and the small proportion who aren’t engaging proactively with their landlords will eventually find themselves facing County Court Judgements, which can have a long-term impact on their credit ratings.’
The evictions ban means that a landlord cannot start court proceedings against a tenant
Mr Sherlock warned that the more debt individuals get into now, the more serious the consequences.
‘We must ensure that systems, potentially similar to those in Scotland and Wales, are in place so tenants stay on top of their rental payments and keep arrears low, or are supported to move to cheaper properties if needed,’ he said.
There are currently loan support schemes in place in Wales and Scotland, aimed at helping tenants remain in their homes during the pandemic. The eviction ban applies to all four nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To date, no loan support schemes have been introduced in England and Northern Ireland.
Mr Sherlock added: ‘For landlords, many are now nearing breaking point. Scores are facing financial difficulties as a result of unpaid rent and ongoing mortgage costs, with a few facing uncommunicative tenants who are refusing to vacate properties even when leases come to an end.
‘Unless more support is put in place for those struggling, we can expect to see a large number of landlords withdraw their lets from the housing market over the next year. This will put pressure on a vital source of housing at a time of critical need. Decision makers must start thinking about how tenants and landlords can recover from these challenges during and following the stay on evictions.’