COVID-19: Ban extended on enforced evictions
In the midst of the third lockdown due to COVID-19, several concerns were raised in relation to the likelihood of evictions taking place during the national restrictions. The government on 8 January 2021 has announced that they have changed the law in England, to ensure bailiffs do not enforce evictions for 6 weeks until 22 February 2021. This is due to be kept under review and could be further extended.
The only exceptions to this are cases of anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation, death of a tenant where the property is unoccupied, fraud, perpetrators of domestic abuse in social housing and extreme rent arrears equivalent to 6 months’ rent.
Previous rules still stand
The government has further confirmed that the previous court rules and procedures introduced in September 2020 to support both tenants and landlords will remain in place and this will also continue to be regularly reviewed. The courts will continue to prioritise cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation and perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector. Landlords will also continue to provide their tenants 6-month notice periods until at least 31 March 2021, except in the most serious circumstances.
New Mediation pilot
The government has also announced that a new mediation pilot will be applied to further support landlords and renters who face court procedures and potential eviction from next month (February 2021). It will offer mediation as part of the possession process to try and help landlords and tenants to reach a mutual agreement and keep people in their homes.
The government are hoping that by applying the mediation pilot, this would help to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants to resolve issues quickly via mediation rather than through a formal hearing. Thus, allowing the courts to prioritise urgent cases. The mediation pilot is set to work within the existing court arrangements in England and Wales. However, it is not yet fully clear how the mediation pilot will be applied nor how successful it will be in resolving disputes between landlords and tenants.