Most evictions prohibited until 31 March 2021

The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 expire at the end of Sunday 21 February 2021. They prohibited most evictions (as well as the service of notices of eviction) and took the prohibition beyond the previously scheduled deadline of 11 January 2021, albeit in a modified form.

On Sunday 14 February, the Housing Secretary announced that the prohibition on the majority of bailiff evictions would be extended until the end of March 2021. On Friday 19 February, The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (“the England Regulations”) were laid before Parliament and published. They come into force on Monday 22 February 2021.

The current iteration of the prohibition is extended until the end of 31 March 2021. The Regulations apply in England only; the position in Wales is governed by The Public Health (Protection from Eviction) (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 (“the Wales Regulations”). Those Regulations have been in force since 11 January 2021, and continue until the end of 31 March 2021. The Welsh Ministers must review them at least once every 3 weeks; thus far, no changes have been implemented.

Regulation 2 of the England Regulations prohibits a person’s attendance at a dwelling-house for the purpose of executing a writ/warrant of possession or delivering a notice of eviction, except in certain circumstances. These exceptions are the same as have been in place since 11 January.

The most pertinent exception to the prohibition, from the perspective of LPC Law advocates and stakeholders, is for “substantial rent arrears” in Regulation 2(3) and (4) – where the amount of unpaid rent arrears outstanding is at least 6 months’ rent, and where the underlying order for possession was made wholly or partly on the rent arrears grounds in the Housing Act 1985, Housing Act 1988 or Rent Act 1977 as the case may be.

The Wales Regulations do not contain an exception for substantial rent arrears, but otherwise are almost identical to the England Regulations, in that both sets of Regulations permit eviction notices to be delivered, and writs/warrants of possession to be executed, in cases involving trespass, anti-social behaviour, nuisance, domestic abuse in social tenancies, death of the former tenant, or false statements which induced the grant of the tenancy.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has stated that the legislative measures have been “reducing the number of evictions, as applications to the courts for possession by private and social landlords were down 67% between October and December 2020, compared to the same quarter in 2019.”

Between April and December 2020, only 548 repossessions were recorded, compared to 22,444 in the same period in 2019.