The Government has introduced a further extension to the ban on enforcement of possession orders from 21 February 2021 to 31 March 2021 in respect of residential dwellings in England. This change is made under The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 which came into force on 21 February 2021 (“the Regulations”).

The Regulations make no further changes to the limited circumstances in which enforcement of possession orders may proceed. The following is a list of the exemptions which arise most frequently:

  • Enforcement of a possession orders made against unknown trespassers (under CPR 55.6);
  • Where the premises are let under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (“AST”) or assured tenancy and a possession order is made wholly or partly under one or more of the following grounds under Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988
    • Ground 7A – conviction of tenant or a visitor;
    • Ground 14 – nuisance;
    • Ground 14A – domestic violence.
  • Where the premises are let under an AST or an assured tenancy, there are substantial arrears of rent and a possession order is made wholly or partly under one or more of the following grounds of Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988:
    • Ground 1 – principal home of Landlord;
    • Grounds 8, 10 or 11 – rent arrears.
  • Substantial arrears of rent is defined in the Regulations as at least 6 months’ rent.

It is important for Landlords to note that if they have obtained a possession order following service of a Section 21 Notice then even if there are over 6 months’ arrears, they will be unable to enforce a possession order until the eviction ban is lifted. The High Court recently confirmed in relation to the previous regulations (in force until 21 February 2021) that it was not possible to read the legislation as permitting the enforcement of a possession order in those circumstances (The Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity of the Brotherhood of the Most Glorious and Undivided Trinity of St Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond and (1) Dequincy Prescott and (2) Clodagh Byrne [2021] EWHC 283). Accordingly, a possession order may be enforced if there is over 6 months’ rent outstanding and the Landlord has obtained a possession order on Grounds 1, 8, 10 or 11. This remains the position under the Regulations.

In addition, the temporary changes to the Civil Procedure Rules in the form of Practice Direction 55C have been extended until 30 July 2021. Landlords now have until 30 April 2021 to reactivate possession proceedings failing which they will remain stayed and it will be necessary for an application lifting the stay to be made.

The Coronavirus pandemic is having a profound effect on landlords and tenants in the private rented sector. The Government’s quarterly mortgage and landlord possession statistics for October to December 2020 report that claims for possession were down 67%, orders for possession were down 89% and warrants of possession were down 86% on the same quarter in 2019. This is not surprising given the stay on possession proceedings which was in place until September 2020 and the current ban on enforcement of possession orders except in limited circumstances.

In addition, changes to notice periods for certain residential tenancies including AST and Assured Tenancies remain in place until 31 March 2021, but there is power for this date to be extended. For more information, please click here for our insight on those changes.