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Emergency lockdown tenant protections are eased

Emergency lockdown tenant protections are eased as ban on evictions ends and minimum six month notice period is reduced

  • Government announces emergency measures to protect tenants are easing
  • The notice period that landlords can give tenants is reduced to four months
  • The ban on tenant eviction is ending, meaning court proceedings can restart

Emergency measures introduced to protect tenants during the pandemic are being eased, the Government has announced.

The changes include a reduction in the minimum notice period that landlords can give tenants, and the ban on tenant evictions coming to an end.

The measures had been introduced during the coronavirus lockdowns to help prevent tenants losing their homes as unemployment rose.

The Government has announced that emergency measures  introduced during the pandemic to protect tenants are easing

Experts say that while the measures needed to come to an end as lockdown lifts, financial support would be required for tenants going forward.

This is because some tenants have built up arrears during the pandemic and there is now a huge backlog of court cases that means landlords may have to wait longer to repossess their properties. 

The easing of the rental restrictions will see notice periods reduced from their current level of six months to four months.

They were increased to six months during the pandemic, but will now be eased from June 1.

The Government said it would look to reduce notice periods even further, back to pre-pandemic levels, from October 1. However, this will depend on the progress that the country makes with the virus, it explained.

The Government also announced that the ban on tenant evictions would end on May 31.

The ban has only been on physically evicting a tenant, which means landlords have been unable to start court proceedings.

But the ban has never been on serving Section 21 and Section 8 notices, which have been permitted throughout the pandemic.

A Section 21 notice starts the legal process for a landlord to evict tenants for whatever reason they like. A Section 8 notice starts the legal process to evict a tenant inside the fixed term of their tenancy, but can only be used if the tenant has breached their tenancy agreement and where certain conditions are met.

However, bailiffs cannot evict tenants until after 31 May under current rules. 

The notice period that landlords can give tenants is being reduced from six to four months

The notice period that landlords can give tenants is being reduced from six to four months

Speaking about the easing of the rental restrictions, housing minister Christopher Pincher said: ‘From the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken unprecedented action to protect renters and help keep them in their homes.

‘As Covid restrictions are eased in line with the Roadmap out of lockdown, we will ensure tenants continue to be supported with longer notice periods, while also balancing the need for landlords to access justice.’

The ban on evictions has been extended several times throughout the pandemic. The notice periods on serious cases remain lower, being only four weeks for anti-social behaviour or for at least four months of rental arrears.

The ban on tenant evictions is ending, meaning that court proceedings can restart for landlords seeking repossession of their property

The ban on tenant evictions is ending, meaning that court proceedings can restart for landlords seeking repossession of their property

The changes comes in the same week as the Government announced that it would be publishing a White Paper on rental reforms in the autumn.

In the meantime, experts said more financial support is required to help tenants deal with the fallout of the pandemic.

Oli Sherlock, of the lettings platform Goodlord, said: ‘The stay on evictions couldn’t remain in place forever and, with the last lockdown restrictions almost behind us, now is a sensible time to roll-back the measures and provide clearer timelines on next steps.

‘While the ban was clearly a well-intentioned decision designed to protect tenants, it has caused financial distress to some landlords and enabled rogue renters to avoid paying rent in isolated cases.

‘The key concern throughout, however, has been and remains what happens after the ban is lifted. Renters who have amassed arrears will soon be faced with the need to repay or face eviction. And courts are braced for a deluge of cases to process evictions that they may struggle to cope with. 

‘What the Government needs to do now is ensure that robust, effective mediation services are available to all and that tenants and landlords are both clear on their rights and responsibilities.

‘Without a sensitive, practical, and nuanced approach to the next phase, the fallout will be harsher than it needs to be. No stakeholders – from tenant to landlord – would benefit from that.’ 

Ben Beadle, of the National Residential Landlords Association said: ‘Having operated under emergency conditions for over a year, today’s announcement from the Government is an important step in ensuring the sector’s recovery.

‘It does nothing though to address the rent debt crisis. With the number of private tenants in arrears having increased threefold since lockdown measures started, more are at risk of losing their homes as restrictions ease.

‘We want to see tenancies sustained wherever possible and call on the Chancellor to step in and provide affected tenants with the financial support they need to pay off rent arrears built as a result of the pandemic.’