The enforcement ban on possession orders will now remain in place until 22 February 2021. However, the impact of the ban being lifted is not likely to be felt until early March 2021 due to the 14 day notice period that must be given before enforcement can occur.
There are a limited number of exceptions where possession orders can be enforced despite the general ban and these exemptions are:
- enforcement of a possession order against trespassers
- where possession was awarded on the basis of:
- false statement
- anti-social behaviour
- domestic abuse
- where property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant; and
- substantial rent arrears where the arrears are equivalent to least six months’ rent.
The exemptions have been now set out in The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 which came into force on 11 January 2021.
If a landlord wishes to rely on one of the exemptions for enforcement, the Court possession order must state that the exemption applies. If it does not, an application will need to be made to the Court for a declaration that the exemption applies before any enforcement can take place.
The newly enacted Regulations have made an important change in respect of possession proceedings relating to rent arrears. Under the previous Regulations, a possession order could not be enforced on the basis of rent arrears unless there were at least nine months of arrears that had accrued prior to 23 March 2020. The new Regulations, however, have amended this criteria so that possession can be enforced where there are arrears of at least six months’ rent, regardless of when the arrears accrued. This will therefore now allow landlords to enforce possession orders against tenants where rent arrears have accrued during the pandemic. It appears that the Government are seeking to strike a balance between providing tenants with protection during these difficult times whilst acknowledging the potential problems landlords may be facing.
The Government also announced a new mediation pilot scheme which will seek to support landlords and tenants who are going through the possession process. The scheme will be launched in February 2021 and will operate within the Court system in England and Wales. It will seek to resolve disputes relating to residential lettings and, where possible, avoid eviction becoming necessary.
Further updates on these issues will be released in due course.
If you would like any further details on the matters covered above, please contact Alice Harris (up until 15 January 2021) and Naomi Baker thereafter.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at January 2021.