New Eviction Ban Rules for Renters and Landlords

It goes without saying that the last few months have certainly been some of the most trying times within the rental industry in recent memory. The effect of the Coronavirus outbreak has been unscrupulous in who it has impacted, leaving a record number of households receiving financial support in an effort to prevent equally historic figures for homelessness and redundancies. Whilst certainly divisive in whether the initiative has had the intended impact, the eviction ban and its numerous extensions have saved thousands of vulnerable renters from being left without a home.

Whilst the 1st of June 2021 market the end of the eviction ban after being upheld since the initial UK lockdown back in March of 2020. As can be expected, the eviction ban has not been met with universal praise by those in the industry, with some landlords stating that the move didn’t place a great enough distinction between tenants that couldn’t pay their rent, and those that simply took advantage of the situation to neglect their duty to meet these payments.  With the original eviction ban being set to end in January, then being further extended the following month, some landlords have been unable to address longstanding issues with caused by problem tenants, in some cases even predating the outbreak of the virus.

With this being said, the UK charity Stepchange revealed that since the first lockdown measures were implemented in March 2020 almost 40% or 19 million adults across England Scotland and Wales have been subject to a heavily reduced income as a result of the furlough scheme and fluctuating working hours. This has brought the need for additional support for tenants to the forefront of the industry, but with 45% of UK landlords having rental income deriving from a single property, this bleak financial outlook isn’t exclusive to tenants.

How Did the Eviction Ban Rules Change During the COVID Pandemic?

As mentioned the eviction ban has seen multiple revisions and extensions throughout the course of the COVID-19 outbreak, with The Coronavirus Act 2020 implementing radical changes to the eviction procedure that landlords must following, granting thousands of vulnerable tenants increased protection from homelessness.

Prior to the pandemic depending on the specific eviction notice being implemented by the landlord, they would only be required to supply the residents of the rental property with a few months’ notice before the evictions proceedings commence in court.  However, since the implementation of the eviction ban landlords have been required to supply their tenants with a far greater notice period than previously demanded, creating a significant backlog of court proceedings to be addressed and in some cases, landlords unable to deal with problem tenants.

If the owner of the rental property served the tenant with an eviction notice anywhere between the 26th of March and the 28th of August 2020, they will have been required to give the resident a minimum of 3 months’ notice before proceedings could commence. However as the impacts of the pandemic became more apparent, with economic and financial hardship becoming more widespread, the UK government once again intervened to offer tenants increased notice. With this in mind any notices that were issued to tenants between the 29th of August 2020 and the 31st of May 2021 demanded that the landlord gave the tenants of the property at least six months’ notice when serving them with a notice of eviction.

With this being said, the notice period remained somewhat unchanged in regards to problem tenants; however with a lack of enforcement through bailiff action many condemned the changes as artificial. In the circumstance that a landlord knows the occupants of their rental property is consistently engaging in anti-social behaviour, property damage or domestic abuse, they are able to remove these tenants from the rental property at the same rate as before the measure were introduced in march 2020. Perhaps as a result of the outcry of many landlords been increasingly susceptible to any rent arrears that their tenants accumulate, if the occupants of the property fail to pay their rent for over six months, the landlord is only obliges to provide them with four weeks’ notice when serving an eviction notice.

New Eviction Ban Rules

As of the 1st of June 2021 the eviction ban has been lifted meaning that landlords will be able to depend on enforcement measures taken by bailiffs, expedition the eviction procedure. With this being said it does come with somewhat of a caveat, the bailiffs will be unable to take enforcement action if the occupants of the rental property are currently self isolating or are displaying symptoms of COVID-19. 

However, much to the delight of landlords the minimum threshold for notice been provided when being served with eviction is being decreased. Rental property owners will no longer be required to give tenants a minimum of six months’ notice before legal proceedings, with this now being only four months. Whilst this may not be the radical shift that many landlords were hoping for, it is demonstrating the initial shift towards a “normal” rental sector. With this being said it is still important to consider that the financial implications and devastation caused by the outbreak is far from over and this is far from a move intended to encourage evictions at this time.

Further changes are set to be carried out on the 1st of October 2021, where the amount of notice landlords will be required to give will once again return to two months.  It goes without saying that even if a notice is being issued to the tenants the landlords must respect that the occupants still have possession of the property and must not harass them, change locks in the rental property or otherwise try and encourage them to leave the property early.  It would be an understatement to say that this say been a difficult time for both renters and landlords; however the advice coming from the UK government has remained constant. Any tenants that are apprehensive about falling behind with their obligated rental payments must open an honest dialog with their landlords; after all, it is in their best interest to receive these payments and a middle ground resulting in temporarily reduced rental payments, or a repayment plan for any arrears can always be reached.

What Is the Eviction Process?

As can be expected, landlords cannot simply evict a resident on the spot making them vacate the property immediately, as there is a strict procedure in place that must be adhered to. If a landlord wished to evict a tenant from a rental property they must first serve them with a notice, with the specific notice issued being dependent on the reasoning as to why the landlord wished to remove the occupant. As the name suggests, Section 21 and Section 8 Notices this notice is a period of warning allowing the tenant to address the situation before court proceedings begin at the end of the notice period. The eviction ban gave tenants additional protection through drastically extending the amount of notice that landlords are required to prove to their tenants before legal proceedings commence.

Section 21 and Section 8 Notices

Typically when a tenant signs a tenancy agreement with their landlord, the specific type of agreement both parties have entered into will be an assured shorthold tenancy. One of the benefits that landlords can enjoy through this form of agreement is the ability to serve the residents of their rental properties with a section 21 notice.

A section 21 notice permits the landlords to reclaim possession of their rental property from a tenant, something once again possible now the eviction ban has been lifted. First established through the Housing Act 1988, similarly to the eviction ban, the section 21 notice has been similarly divisive, with campaign groups labelling the procedure as a leading contributor to homelessness in the UK. Whilst on the other hand the section 21 notice has been hailed by landlords as a more efficient and in some regards “fairer” way of dealing with the eviction process.

This is because when a landlord serves a tenant with a section 21 notice they are not trying to push the tenant through the door because of any specific reasoning, merely that once the agreed upon fixed term has come to an end the tenant must move on to find new rental accommodation elsewhere. This has led to the section 21 notice being often referred to as the “no fault” eviction, as unlike a section 8 notice, rental property owners do not have to site the specific grounds of the tenancy agreement that have been breached by the tenant. However, in order for a section 21 notice to be upheld the landlord must not have neglected any of their duties toward the tenant as per the agreement. This additional accountability upon the landlord is enforced through the Deregulation Act 2015 which establishes a series of circumstance under which a section 21 notice cannot be served to a tenant. To this end if the landlord has failed to provide their tenant with the appropriate safety documentation for fire, gas and electric appliances, alongside a current energy performance certificate then a section 21 notice will not be upheld.  The owner of the rental property must also ensure that any amounts taken for a tenancy deposit must be entered into a government backed protection scheme, whilst also providing the tenants with the most recent “How to Rent Guide”.  Further to this, if the landlord has unlawfully taken any amounts from the tenants, owes an outstanding amount to the tenants, or has neglected to maintain the rental property through essential remedial work, they will be unable to reclaim possession of the property until these issues have been addressed.  In addition landlords are prevented from issuing their tenants with a section 21 notice within the first four months of the fixed rental period; however this does not apply if the tenancy agreement has been renewed with an existing tenant.

Section 8 Notices

Typically the preferred method by landlords of removing problem tenants that has conducted behaviour that is in breach of the tenancy agreement, the section 8 notice is another way in which a landlord is able to reclaim their property. Similarly to the section 21 notice there is of course a period of which the tenant has to prepare for legal proceedings, however this is commonly far shorter, ranging anywhere between two weeks to two months depending on the specific terms of the tenancy agreement that have been breached. As this is dependent on the conduct of the occupants of the rental property, when serving the tenant with a section 8 notice the landlord must also detail the grounds on which they wish to uphold the eviction on. Each ground that can be sited by the landlord on the notice will specifically relate to a distinct violation of the terms of the agreement, with varying degrees of accumulated rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and damage to the rental property and its contents all being encompassed by these grounds.

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