Lisa Simon, Partner and Head of Residential Division, offers a practical view on residential letting issues currently in the news.
Revised guidance for landlords and tenants on possession proceedings (July 2021)
With the passing of the Coronavirus Act 2020 last September, the possession action process was changed to assist landlords and tenants whose circumstances had been adversely affected by the pandemic, and to help manage the flow of new and outstanding cases in the county courts. After a string of changes throughout the year, the guidance has now been further relaxed in line with the lifting of restrictions on 19 July.
The emergency legislation had provided protection for social and private tenants by delaying evictions: between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021, with the exception of the most serious cases, landlords were required to give six months’ notice before commencing possession proceedings. From 1 June 2021, notice periods reduced to four months in most cases, including cases in which the tenant had less than four months of rent arrears. From 1 August 2021, the notice period for cases in which there are fewer than four months of unpaid rent has further reduced to two months’ notice. Notice periods for the most serious cases are lower, with most requiring two- or four-weeks’ notice. The notice period for ‘serious arrears’ is four weeks’ notice and the threshold for ‘serious arrears’ is ‘arrears equivalent to four or more months’ rent.
Although the stay on possession proceedings has expired and landlords are able to progress possession claims, courts have been instructed to prioritise the most egregious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.
Legislation preventing bailiff enforcement of evictions has also expired, as of 31 May 2021. Orders can now be enforced where a landlord has a valid warrant of possession. Bailiffs must provide 14 days’ notice of an eviction and should not carry out an eviction if they are aware of anyone living in the property having COVID-19 symptoms or self-isolating.
Further information can be found in Understanding the Possession Action Process: Guidance for Landlords and Tenants.
The Financial Conduct Authority has issued separate guidance covering mortgage repossessions.
September marks the END of the stamp duty holiday
The stamp duty holiday ends on 30 September. With under two months until the deadline, landlords hoping to buy or sell have been warned to act very quickly, as the summer holiday season, combined with the impact of the ‘pingdemic’ and a rush in activity is likely to cause delay which could result in chains breaking down and the deadline being missed.