Modified ban on evictions comes into force

Having been laid before Parliament on 8 January 2021, the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021/15 come into force in England today, 11 January 2021. They expire at the end of 21 February 2021.

The effect of the Regulations is to extend the previous de facto prohibition on most bailiff-enforced evictions and the delivery of eviction notices, which had been due to expire on 11 January 2021.

The Regulations preserve the exceptions to the prohibition which were already in place under the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020. The specified exceptions permitted, and continue to permit, evictions to be effected, and eviction notices to be delivered, for claims based on the grounds of trespass, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence in social tenancies, false statements inducing the grant of the tenancy and the death of the former tenant (where the property is unoccupied).

Importantly, however, the current iteration of the prohibition at Regulation 2(3) and (4) permits writs/warrants of possession to be executed and notices to be delivered where they relate to orders for possession made wholly or partly on the grounds of substantial rent arrears, which is now defined as where ‘the amount of unpaid rent arrears outstanding is at least an amount equivalent to 6 months' rent.’ This is an expansion of the exception beyond the previous 9 months’ of arrears, with those arrears previously having been required to have accrued prior to the first nationwide lockdown on 23 March 2020.

This means that any outstanding arrears, whether they arose before, during or after the first lockdown may be taken into account. Arrears accrued as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and its economic impact are therefore no longer a bar to evictions taking place, if the arrears are at least 6 months’ worth of rent.

Landlords continue to have their cases reviewed by the courts, and possession orders have been granted by courts since the lifting of the stay on possession proceedings in September 2020. Mortgage lenders are currently adhering to FCA Guidance on not enforcing possession orders until after 31 January 2021 unless exceptional circumstances (such as the borrower’s consent) exist, although they too may seek possession orders from the courts.

Given the requirement of at least 14 days’ notice of eviction, it is anticipated that the earliest date on which other evictions, which are not permitted under the specified exceptions, may take place is 8 March 2021.

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