Evictions banned over Christmas, but courts will re-open as planned

Courts will reopen on September 21, although a further eviction ban will be put in place over Christmas, the government has confirmed.

In a statement the government said that – except in cases of anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse – there will be a pause on evictions over the festive period, with bailiffs unable to evict.

If an area is in a local lockdown that includes a restriction on gathering in homes, evictions will also by unable to be enforced by bailiffs.

The government also reiterated last month’s announcement, that the notice period – again with exceptions for criminal behaviour – would be increased to six months, which it said will keep tenants in their homes over the winter and give them the chance to find somewhere else to live.

Announcing the plans to halt evictions at Christmas it said: “There will also be a ‘winter truce’ on the enforcement of evictions, with no evictions permitted in England and Wales in the run up to and over Christmas except in the most serious circumstances, such as cases involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.

“This will ensure vulnerable tenants are not forced from their homes at a time when public and local authorities may be dealing with the usual level of increased demand for services during this time. To achieve this, guidance will be issued to bailiffs that they should not enforce possession orders in the weeks of Christmas.”

The government did not elaborate or confirm what was meant by the ‘weeks of Christmas’ when asked.

The NRLA said it is pleased the government has reiterated its commitment to reopening the courts.

NRLA policy director, Chris Norris said: “We welcome confirmation that the courts will begin to hear possession cases again from the 21st September.

“It is vital that this happens so that landlords can begin to take action against anti-social tenants, those committing acts of domestic violence and those with rent arrears that have nothing to do with COVID-19.”

MHCLG says that it will keep these measures under constant review and that its decisions will continue to be “guided by the latest public health advice and support with housing costs may also be available for those on low incomes or who are out of work eligible for Universal Credit.”

It also thanked landlord for their ‘forbearance’.

It said: “No landlord, including those who only rent out a single property, has had access to the courts since March, including to regain possession in cases where the tenant has broken the law. So it is right that landlords are able to access justice, alongside measure to protect the vulnerable. The government would like to thank landlords for their forbearance during this difficult time.”

Housing Secretary  Robert Jenrick MP said: “We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for six months – the longest eviction ban in the UK. To further support renters we have increased notice periods to six months, an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter months.

“It’s right that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice. Our legislation means such cases will be subject to shorter notice periods and then prioritised through the judiciary’s new court processes.”

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