Residential Landlords are only too aware of the longstanding issues since the beginning of COVID in 2020 that has prevented effective action against tenants who are in rent arrears.
The ability to commence Possession proceedings has resumed of course; subject to various procedural requirements; but for most residential landlords trying to get tenants out under S21 Notices (no fault) or S8 Notices (on the basis of rent arrears); it is much like getting on a bus and three stops down the line, the driver gets off and walks away leaving you sitting there with no way to get to your destination.
The ban on enforcing Possession Orders was due to end on 11 January 2021 and it was of no surprise that the New Regulations have extended that to 21 February 2021 with every expectation that it will be further extended after that.
The New Regulations announced in January are very similar to the regulations that they replaced, namely the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1290).
The new Regulations prevent attendance at a residential property for the purpose of executing a Writ or Warrant of Possession, or delivering a Notice of Eviction, subject to certain exemptions.
Evictions can still go ahead if a Court is satisfied that the Notice, Writ or Warrant relates to Possession Order made:
- Against trespassers to which CPR 55.6 applies; i.e. the stereotypical squatter where the proceedings have been issued against “persons unknown” as their actual identity is not established.
- Wholly or partly on the grounds of anti-social behaviour, nuisance, domestic violence or false statements.
- On the death of the tenant where the person attending is satisfied that the dwelling house is unoccupied.
The previous Regulations also allowed Possession Orders to be enforced where it was granted on the grounds of substantial rent arrears which occurred pre-COVID (i.e. 23 March 2020).
What is interesting about the New Regulations and which gives a glimmer of hope to Landlords; is that now the minimum amount of rent that must be outstanding has been reduced from nine to six months’ rent, and the arrears can now have accrued at any time and not just before 23 March 2020.
Landlords still have to decide if they want to start the Possession process against those tenants who are choosing to withhold rent (as opposed to plainly being unable to pay).
Even if you cannot currently see a point when you could enforce your Possession Order; starting the process now at least means you will be sitting on the bus rather than walking the 5 miles to the bus stop in the hope there will be a bus to catch; when the next set of Regulations are issued.