Both landlords and tenants need to be aware of the latest moves which affect notice periods for tenants, as well as the changing situation involving evictions and possession proceedings.
During lockdown, all residential possession proceedings against tenants were automatically put on hold (stayed) under an amendment made to the Civil Procedure Rules 1998.
That holding process was originally brought in for an initial period of 90 days, but in late August that was extended by four weeks until 20 September. That meant that no tenant could have been legally evicted for six months at the height of the pandemic. It could also be extended further – it is important that landlords remain aware of the situation.
On top of this, the government also changed the law so that most renters now have a six- month notice period, until March 2021.
Effect on landlords
These leaves landlords unable to evict a tenant, except in the most serious cases, before March next year. Exceptions to this can be made in the most serious of cases, such as incidents of anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators. Notices served on and before 28 August are not affected by these changes, and must be at least three months long.
Any possession claims issued before 20 September will be held by the court for listing until after that date.
There are bound to be significant backlogs in the County Courts, where resources were spread thinly before the pandemic had even occurred, so the relisting of dates may take many months with the government confirming as much:
“When courts do resume eviction hearings they will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as where landlords have not received rent for over a year and would otherwise face unmanageable debts.”
The government is looking to help landlords affected by the worst cases, however, with notice periods for the most egregious cases returning to pre-coronavirus levels.
If a landlord made a claim to the court before 3 August, they must now notify the court, and their tenant, that they are still looking to seek repossession before the case will proceed.
Trial dates set before 27 March 2020 will be vacated unless documents have been filed in the case and a reactivation notice has been served not less than 42 days before the hearing date.
Failing to file and serve a reactivation notice by 4pm on 29 January 2021 will mean the claim is automatically stayed. However, if the landlord wishes to continue with the claim after 29 January, they will need to apply to lift the stay.