The coronavirus pandemic has seen the introduction of a number of additional restrictions into the residential possessions process. This page gives a summary of these changes.
How Long will this last?
Procedural changes to the Court process will continue to remain in force until March 2022.
Changes prohibiting evictions and lengthening notice periods all came to an end in mid-late 2021.
Stage 1 – Notice
From 1st October 2021, Notice Periods will revert to pre-pandemic rules.
The most common way of giving Notice is by either giving a Section 8 Notice, for a fault based eviction, or a Section 21 Notice, for no fault based evictions.
These notices must be given on prescribed form and served on the tenant.
Section 8 Notices require the Landlord to give a ground under Schedule 2 Housing Act, these range from unpaid rent, which is the most well-known ground, to less well-known ones, such as the house being required for use by a minister of religion (if notice was previously given this was a possibility).
The Notice period for a Section 8 also varies considerably, ranging from 2 weeks for unpaid rent, to 2 months for some of the other grounds. This is the minimum period that must be allowed before an application to the Court. However, the Landlord does not have to apply immediately and can delay issuing proceedings for up to a further 6 months.
A Section 21 Notice does not require a reason but does require the Landlord to comply with some other formalities, such as the need to serve information about the deposit, serving an EPC and other information. A Section 21 has a uniform notice period of 2 months.
It is unlawful for the Landlord to remove the tenant without a Court order and may also be a criminal offence. Therefore, if the Tenant does not leave at their own accord, the Landlord must issue Court proceedings.
However, the pre-pandemic notice period only applies with respect to Notices issues on or after 1st October 2021. The regulations make it clear that the changes do not have retrospective effect. Therefore, if a Notice is issued before 1st October, the notice period that applied when it was issued must be followed, or the Notice withdrawn, and the procedure restarted.
Homes situated elsewhere in the UK will be subject to different legislation.
Stage 2 & 3 – Restrictions on Litigation
Court proceedings for possession continue to be affected by the temporary changes introduced by the pandemic, which have introduced a extended procedure following and extended pause during most of 2020. However, Landlords and their representatives will now face additional procedures to obtain a possession order.
The first change is that a COVID-19 statement is required in which the applicant confirms the nature and extent of the effect of COVID-19 on the parties. This must be served 2 weeks before the hearing but details must also be given in the Particulars of Claim upon issue.
All cases are now also subject to a Review Date, which is a pre-hearing step to encourage the parties to settle. A judge will review the case and decide whether it should proceed to a full hearing. Parties are encouraged to discuss the case on the Review Date, but the process is administrative and the parties are not allowed to attend Court when the judge carries out the Review.
The Courts have indicated there is no maximum time between issue and Review Date, and extended waiting periods have been experienced by Landlords.
After the Review Date, if the issue remains unresolved, and the judge is happy for the matter to proceed, a hearing will be set down at least 28 days later, although the actual wait is in our experience between 1-3 months.
It is anticipated that the changes will mean it will take substantially longer to evict a tenant. Landlords are therefore encouraged to try and work with their tenant to reach a negotiated solution to avoid Court proceedings where possible. This can continue even once proceedings are issued before a hearing date arrives.
What about Evictions?
Evictions have now resumed, and landlords with possession orders can apply to the bailiffs to evict residential tenants if the time limit in the possession order has expired. As was the case before the pandemic, evictions carried out without a possession order are likely to be illegal.
How can we help?
The additional requirements imposed by the Coronavirus Act means that it is now more important than ever that Landlords take steps to ensure that the procedure is followed correctly and that they stay up to date with the latest procedures, many of which still remain in force.
At Barrett & Co, our solicitors can carefully guide you through the process, and will ensure that all the requirements are met. This includes advising you on the best way to ensure the best outcome for you and assisting with the preparation of the necessary documents. We will also be able to assist you in ensuring you are in the best possible position to present your case to the Court, which may include recommending the instruction of specialist Counsel.
For more information or to book an initial fixed fee meeting for £95 including VAT, please call 01189589711, or e-mail our Property Litigation Solicitor, Chris Miller, via [email protected].