The past six months have felt like a re-running of Dante’s Inferno, with each day or week seeing a deeper descent into the abyss.

This chaos will be with us for the foreseeable future and will be endlessly analysed and questioned for even longer, but nothing sums up the severity of this disaster than the situation we find ourselves in with the so-called evictions ban.  

But the reality is evictions were never banned. Ministers enacted emergency powers to extend the notice period for possessions from two to three months and to suspend court hearings and close the courts so possession orders could not be issued.

The effect was not a prohibition but an almighty queue waiting for the doors to be open and for things to resume.

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Their decision to reopen the courts was only about restarting the process, not lifting a ban that was never in place.

The Government therefore has the power to extend the court suspension, which they have now decided to do until the 20th September.

What the Government has also done, under Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act is, under delegated powers to the Secretary of State, to extend the notice period to six months until at least the end of March.

They have also said courts will prioritise the most serious cases where there has been domestic violence or domestic abuse or in the most serious rental arrears cases.

In addition to the original decision to extend notices and close the courts, the Government directed the judiciary to introduce new practice directives and pre-action requirements for landlords to fulfil before a case pending a hearing could be reopened.

The requirements for a reactivation notice to instruct a court on what you want them to do and also for a landlord to demonstrate what the effect of COVID has had on their tenants, were brought into place. These remain and will still be needed after the courts reopen in a month.   

Why the U-turn

Why have we come to this? And why at this late hour has the Government done yet another U Turn?

The answer is simple. Politics. You would have had to have been living in more than your social distancing bubble to have missed this.

There has been a steady stream of pronouncements from both sides of the renting divide about the impact of the pandemic on tenants, landlords, homelessness and the effect on the rental market.

Each side has used statistics and figures to justify their stance and these have been pored over, criticised and questioned.

As somebody who tries to piece together the true picture from evidence, this has been a constant frustration as the saying “damn lies and statistics” has never been truer.

What however resonates with politicians are “true life” stories and there have been plenty of those to fuel the emotive arguments from both sides.

Protagonists

The Government as far as England and Wales is concerned however, has stood on the side lines and let the protagonists go for each other’s throats.

This contrasts with the actions of their counterparts in the other parts of the UK who, whether you like it or not have taken more decisive action to try and deal with the root causes of the situation.

The political heat has however now ratchetted up and today’s announcement cannot be unrelated to the campaigning and press coverage that this issue has attracted this week.

It must be remembered however that this is not just about the high politics of this.

There are real people affected by this. Tenants and landlords still face huge uncertainty and this is just another short extension not a permanent solution.

The Government needs to understand the unseen consequences of this.

Despite the rhetoric of the media this is not or has ever been an Eviction Ban, arrears are not being waived, obligations still stand and a tenant who needs to get help from a local authority or free themselves from an ever increasing mountain of debt is trapped for yet another period of time.

Yes the courts will be encouraged to deal with the most serious cases first, but rent arrears will hang like the Sword of Damocles over both a tenant’s and landlords head.

Rescue package

Nowhere is there a rescue package, such as the loan system the Welsh have announced and the NRLA have been calling for, nor has a coherent strategy to deal with the long term homeless situation, the iceberg beneath the water of those who are now stuck under rooves they can’t afford with a landlord who cannot afford to maintain or some cases keep the property their tenants call home.

Both sides of the private rented sector in a seemingly endless purgatory.

This is neither opting for heaven or hell, this is Limbo, a nether region of uncertainty and despair which needs a bigger vision from not just Government but from us all.   

16 COMMENTS

  1. I have a squatter – given access by the tenant who left three months ago. He has no intention of either paying or leaving and there is nothing I can do. 7 months rent due now.

  2. He is not a squatter if given access by your ex tenant. However your ex Tenant is still responsible for the Rent & all associated bills as they have not given you back possession of your Property. Pointing this out to your “Ex” may make them act!

    • I have a similar problem. Believe me, these tenants and kookoos don’t act! They exploit the current situation and turned into professional tenants. I’ve have months of sleepless nights and feel absolutely helpless. The government is basically encouraging tenants not to pay their rents despite people get financial help. Little private landlords like me rely on this income as an addition to our meager pension. But now, we have to act as a social welfare tap. Where is help for us???

      • Hi Starke,

        In terms of any rent owing while during the current climate, this will still be owed to you. The government have made it clear that there is no rent holiday or suspension for tenants. The guidance is that landlords and tenants should attempt to negotiate a sensible solution.

        If you are currently owed at least 2 months’ worth of rent, you would have mandatory grounds for a Section 8 notice and you could give your tenant notice to either pay of leave.

        We can help you with the eviction process and offer fixed fees. We are a firm of solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that specialise purely into Landlord and Tenant law.

        If you want Landlord Action to act, we are ready.

        https://www.landlordaction.co.uk/eviction/take-action/

  3. I have a tenant that has paid no rent since October last year and who is now vandalising the property by smashing windows and doors. Nothing I can do until the court process restarts.

    • Please note, that the Government announced that new notices served will have to give six months’ notice to the tenant except in very serious cases involving anti-social behaviour and domestic violence (we await further details regarding this and the date when it would go live). But you can still start the process of eviction which is to serve notice and if you have a case of anti-social behaviour the notice period would be still 3 months and court might prioritise your case.

      We are a firm of solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that specialise purely into Landlord and Tenant law.

      If you want Landlord Action to act, we are ready.

      https://www.landlordaction.co.uk/eviction/take-action/

  4. Call it whatever you will, but it is in effect a ban. And forget the notion tenants and landlords are equally affected because, ultimately, landlords will end up wearing the cost of this to varying degrees. Doubtless with some suffering financial hardship or going bust. Landlords have, effectively, been forced by law to provide unsecured credit out of their own pockets with little chance of ever getting it back. Landlords are now covering the cost of social housing that should have been paid for by the state. It is manifestly unfair. No question. But because of the negative narrative surrounding landlords, coupled with the Government’s inclination to pay more attention to leftist tenant advocacy groups, we’ve been well and truly hung out to dry.

  5. Why would anyone want to be a landlord??? Government shit on you, council shit on you tenants shit on you, you have to be crackers if not you are wondering how to get out of the whole sorry business.

  6. I also have a similar dilemma with three empty flats which were vacated at end February and still not rented out. Also I have 3 tenants in arrears amounting to over £20k. I was beginning to see some light with courts opening up for eviction cases until the recent new changes. The landlords and tenants alike need urgent help.

    • Dear Paul,

      If you already serve notice, but did not issue proceedings yet, you can instruct Landlord Action to undertake the eviction process by checking your current notice and the circumstances of the tenancy. This is to avoid delays as we can try to issue court proceedings, for courts to look at after 20th September 2020 when the suspension should be lifting (therefore safeguarding the lifeline of the notice).

      We are a firm of solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that specialise purely into Landlord and Tenant law.

      If you want Landlord Action to act, we are ready.

      https://www.landlordaction.co.uk/eviction/take-action/

  7. Yet another shot in the foot for landlords from politicians, and I doubt any other politicians will give us justice either. My next ballot paper will show the message “NONE. I AM A LANDLORD.” Maybe other landlords should do the same.

  8. I’m still homeless, since last October.. needing my property back from the tenant so I can live in it, who refuses to leave until the council house her and a council who won’t house her until she gets an eviction notice..

    I gave her a years notice and it’s been nearly a year since the section 21 was issued ????‍♀️

    • Hi Lorna,

      Unfortunately, your Section 21 notice is no longer valid. A Section 21 notice has a 6 months lifeline for you to issue proceedings. It will need re-serving and we can help you with the eviction process and offer fixed fees. We are a firm of solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority that specialise purely into Landlord and Tenant law.

      If you want Landlord Action to act, we are ready.

      https://www.landlordaction.co.uk/eviction/take-action/

      • If you have to give six months notice and the notice is only valid for six month (so called use it or lose it) then the six months is, effectively, a permanent ban as you can’t issue proceeding until the six months is up, or am I missing something here??

  9. This is why we are selling up, we no longer have rights over the properties we own but the tenants still expect a fully maintained property.

    • You are right, Steve. Both political parties are out to get private landlords. This disgusting government is actually expecting landlords to become a part of the welfare state by providing free accommodation to people who can’t pay their rent. If you can’t evict a tenant it means effectively they can steal your property.

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