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After the eviction ban

Our People - Ayana Porteous Simpson
9 November, 2020

Since the eviction ban was lifted on 21 September 2020, we have been bracing ourselves for a rush of work in this area. However, there has been little change. This article explores why that is and why people faced with evictions due to anti-social behaviour (ASB) may be more vulnerable than most.

Recap

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a stay in evictions, initially until 25 June 2020 (actioned by Practice Direction 51Z of the Civil Procedure Rules) and then extended to 23 August 2020, and again to 20 September 2020.

Claims for evictions prior to August 2020 were stayed until 20 September 2020, too. This meant that they were on hold and would not progress until the claimant filed a reactivation notice at court to reinstate the claim.

Moving forward

Claims issued before March 2020 will be given priority by the courts.

Eviction proceedings will now include further discussions about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the defendant. A recent report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recorded a rise in unemployment to 4.1% from May to June 2020. Understandably, the government does not wish to exacerbate homelessness during the winter period. The combination of these two factors may well encourage judges to be lenient.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 has changed the notice periods for some grounds for possession. The changes state that six months notice is required unless the facts of the case fall into one of the exceptions below:

  • 2 weeks’ notice may be given for assured tenancies relating to riots, domestic violence or acquiring the tenancy by fraud or deception
  • 4 weeks’ notice for at least 6 months’ unpaid rent, anti-social behaviour and secure tenancies relating to riots, domestic violence or acquiring the tenancy by fraud or deception
  • 3 months’ notice for evictions relating to immigration status or death of a tenant

Anti-social behaviour

As can be seen above, a tenant can now be evicted in less than a 6-month notice on the grounds of anti-social behaviour. The Master of the Rolls, the second senior judge in courts in England and Wales, has set out a ‘priority group’. This is a list of types of possession proceedings that will take priority in being heard. During this period, grounds of ASB are on the priority list. The list also includes:

  • extreme rent arrears (12 months or 9 months if it amounts to 25% of a private landlord’s total annual income from any source)
  • squatters/ illegal occupiers,
  • domestic violence,
  • fraud or deception,
  • unlawful subletting, and
  • abandonment of the property/ death of the defendant.

If there is proof of ‘mandatory’ anti-social behaviour, i.e. if you are convicted of this offence, the court must make a possession order. A landlord is required to give only four weeks’ notice on the basis that a tenant has been convicted.

However, a tenant can be given a two-week notice on the discretionary grounds of nuisance, annoyance (related to anti-social behaviour). The court will determine whether it is reasonable to make a possession order on discretionary grounds. A possession order may be made in instances where the anti-social behaviour is serious and continuing.

Predictions until 2021

It is unlikely that there will be many evictions this year on grounds other than those in the priority group. If you have received any type of notice or experiencing other issues related to Homelessness, ASBOs and Disrepair and need advice and assistance during these difficult times, then please do not hesitate to contact our Housing Team on 020 8492 2290.

Solicitor
Ayana Porteous-Simpson is a solicitor in the Actions Against Public Bodies Department and is based in our Finchley office.

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