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Changes to residential possession proceedings

As of 1st June 2021 changes are to be introduced to notice periods and the process of obtaining residential possession Orders, removing some of the protection to renters introduced by the Government at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.  As matters stand at the moment in the vast majority of cases landlords who wish to give notice to their tenants must give six months’ notice, even where the tenant is in arrears, or has breached the terms of the Lease.  From 1st June that notice period is to be reduced to four months and will be reduced still further to two months’ notice from 1st August.  In addition, landlords will be allowed to instruct the bailiffs to enforce possession Orders, although bailiffs will still give notice of their intention to enforce a Court Order and should not proceed with an eviction if anyone living at the property has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.

This is a clear signal on the part of the Government of its intention to “get back to normal”.  The Government has also indicated that they intend to produce a White Paper in the autumn to set out proposals for reform of the privately rented sector which may include the abolition of Section 21 “no fault” evictions and the introduction of a “lifetime deposit”.

Reform of the Section 21 procedure is something which has been raised before. Tenants argue that it is unreasonable for them to be asked to move from their home on a mere two months’ notice when they have not been in breach of their obligations under the tenancy and in fact may well have been model tenants.

Based on the information that has been released it seems that the Government is introducing a tapered system of changes which will eventually, probably from 1st October, signal the return of notice periods to their pre-pandemic requirements.

It is clear that the Government are trying to strike a balance between protecting tenants and limiting wholesale evictions, probably based on rent arrears, and recognising that the privately rented sector, in particular, cannot be expected to house tenants for free.

As matters stand at the moment there is a huge backlog of possession cases which were issued before the first lockdown and which are still waiting to be dealt with.  So despite the reduction in notice periods it could still be a very long time before these new possession proceedings are dealt with by the Courts. It is almost certain that a considerable number of tenants will be facing possession proceedings because of rent arrears and there will be a huge demand for social housing as private landlords, who have always tried to avoid taking tenants who have previously been in rent arrears, will be even more reluctant to do so in the future, especially if the widely used Section 21 procedure is to be withdrawn.

The reality is that private landlords may well decide that they no longer want to invest in the rental market unless the Section 21 procedure is replaced by something which enables landlords to recover their property quickly and cheaply at a time when they chose to do so. 

Please note that the information set out above applies only to the rental market in England.

If you wish to discuss any of these matters in more detail then please contact Fiona Gaskell at Clough & Willis by emailing her at Fiona.gaskell@clough-willis.co.uk