New lockdown means evictions effectively off-limits for months
It is thought likely that the new four week lockdown in England coming into effect on Thursday will mean evictions will be extremely difficult to enforce for some months.
Although the eviction ban actually ended several weeks ago, it was agreed last week that tenants living in areas under the old Tier 2 and Tier 3 Covid-19 restrictions in England and Wales were temporarily protected from eviction.
The government asked bailiffs not to enforce court possession orders in areas with the highest Coronavirus restrictions. So although evictions could still proceed through the courts, bailiffs will not enforce court orders in Tier 2 and 3 areas.
Bailiff trade bodies agreed to the request made in a letter from Justice Secretary Robert Buckland who wrote: “We would request that your members should instruct the enforcement agents working under their authorisation not to enter properties that are classified as local alert level 2 (high) or 3 (very high).”
With the new lockdown in England lasting from November 5 to December 2 – at least – it is thought that the bailiffs’ decisions not to enforce evictions in high-restriction areas will be extended across England.
The government has already said that enforcement action will also be paused over Christmas – specifically between December 11 and January11 – except in ‘the most serious circumstances’, such as cases involving antisocial behaviour or domestic abuse.
It is thought likely that courts in England will still sit during the imminent lockdown and they are prioritising eviction cases involving anti-social behaviour, crime and extreme rental arrears.
However, practical enforcement for any eviction agreed appears likely to be on hold until mid-January.
On top of all that, agents acting for landlords in England and Wales must now give six months’ notice to tenants before starting eviction proceedings, apart from in the most extreme circumstances.
These include where tenants are proven to have demonstrated anti-social behaviour, committed fraud or if they are more than six months in arrears with their rent payments. The six-month minimum notice period was introduced by the government in September and will remain in place until at least March 31 next year.
Meanwhile analysis by consumer group Which? has shown that in Scotland, landlords must give tenants six months’ notice in most circumstances. If the landlord or their family wants to move in or the landlord has had their registration revoked, the notice period is three months.
If the tenant has a criminal conviction, has engaged in antisocial behaviour or has moved out, only 28 days’ notice is required.
And in Northern Ireland, private landlords must give 12 weeks’ notice to evict tenants, and have been encouraged to not issue eviction notices unless it is ‘absolutely unavoidable’.