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Protection from eviction during Coronavirus pandemic
The Government has foreseen a big increase in the numbers of people who may not be able to pay their rent during the current Coronavirus pandemic. With businesses shutting their doors and uncertainty about how self-employed people will be supported, it is likely that many people renting are going to be placed in a situation where they do not have money to pay their rent. So on 18 March 2020 the Government announced that they will be implementing emergency legislation to ban new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while the national emergency is taking place. They will also not allow any new possession proceedings to be issued in the Court to start during the crisis.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:
The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.
These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.
These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.
So what does this mean for landlords if their tenants are unable to pay? In order to assist Landlords during this time, they will be extending the 3 month mortgage payment holiday provisions to Buy-to-Let mortgages. This will obviously only be helpful to landlords who have mortgages on their properties. It also doesn’t assist landlords who perhaps have historic rental arrears but have not yet issued their possession claims in Court as they will now be prevented from doing so for the foreseeable future. There will also be help for those who have bought their property with the assistance of the Help to Buy scheme.
At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances at the time. A pre-action protocol that is currently in place for Mortgage Repossession claims will be extended to renters and will mean that meaningful discussion will need to take place before Court proceedings are issued. Landlords will be asked to show compassion during this difficult time. This means that it will ultimately become more difficult for landlords to actually evict their tenants.
The Government has confirmed that existing claims which have been issued in Court will be allowed to proceed as normal. The Civil Courts are only dealing with urgent hearings currently while the lockdown is taking place and are in the process of trying to relist other hearings remotely if they can be. However, this does raise practical issues if tenants are unable to leave their homes on the date of an eviction because they are experiencing symptoms of the virus. We anticipate in that situation the Bailiff may have to return at a later date, perhaps after 14 days.
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords association said:
“Landlord groups welcomes government support. We recognise the exceptional circumstances and we will work collaboratively with government to ensure these measures protect both landlords and tenants”
Nobody knows how long the current situation will last or whether landlords will agree to write off arrears just because they have been able to obtain a payment holiday on their mortgages. Mortgage companies are not writing off the monthly repayments that are being missed and instead they will be added to the remaining term of the mortgage. Therefore it is likely that some landlords will still want to be compensated in some way for the rent payments that have been missed. Hopefully landlords and tenants can work this out amicably at the end of the crisis and come to an understanding as is hoped by the Government.
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