Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed a ban on bailiffs carrying out eviction enforcement during the lockdown in all but the most serious of cases will mean no evictions can take place until January 2021.
While the courts are continuing to hear eviction cases, under the new rules announced last week as England returned to lockdown, bailiff enforcement action cannot be implemented until January 11, 2021, “at the earliest”.
Mr Jenrick says the move protects those who have found themselves in financial difficulty through no fault of their own “while ensuring landlords have access to justice in the most serious cases”.
He adds: “We are now going further by protecting renters from eviction during the new national restrictions and throughout the Christmas period – with a pause on bailiff activity other than in the most serious circumstances, such as anti-social behaviour or fraud.”
There are a few exceptions to the enforcement ban. The bailiffs can act on cases of illegal occupation, fraud, anti-social behaviour, eviction of domestic abuse perpetrators in social housing, and where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant.
Large scale arrears accumulated before the Coronavirus will also be an appropriate reason for an eviction to go ahead.
Courts will remain open throughout the lockdown with the COVID-safe rules and procedures introduced in September. These include the strict prioritisation of cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.
Uncertainty and case backlog
The latest announcement from the government adds another layer of complexity to the legal landscape when it comes to evictions. This year landlords have had to contend with an eviction ban and an extension to the eviction notice period.
To further complicate matters, courts in England are currently working through an unprecedented backlog of cases caused by the first lockdown and eviction ban. As a result, any landlord considering eviction proceedings should prepare for nightmarish delays (and bear in mind that even in the pre-COVID-19 era, the process took months).
There are several ways to avoid the tenant-landlord relationship breaking down to the extent that eviction is the only answer. By investing time and effort into managing your tenant relationship, and by being thorough with reference checks, record-keeping and inspections, many issues can be resolved without legal action.
And if a dispute does occur, expert negotiation and communication can mean a finding a solution without the lawyers getting involved.
Investing in a professional letting agent can save you as a landlord time, money, and stress. As the nation continues to navigate its way through the uncertainties of the pandemic, having an expert on your side who can look out for your best interests will help you sleep well at night. For more information, call Abode on 0161 883 2525.