The government has extended the eviction ban in England and Wales by a further four weeks, giving a little extra breathing space to worried tenants.
The ban, which was set to expire last week, will now run until 23 September.
Here, we explain how the extension will work and offer advice on landlord and tenant rights during COVID-19.
- Eviction ban extended – what’s changed?
- Trade bodies criticise extension
- Eviction ban around the UK
- COVID-19 help for tenants and landlords
- Tenant rights during the coronavirus
- Landlord advice during the coronavirus
The eviction ban in England and Wales has been extended by a month.
This means that courts won’t be able to hear any repossession cases until at least 23 September. Once hearings recommence, the most serious cases will be prioritised.
In addition, landlords evicting tenants in England before April 2021 must now give six months’ notice, double the three months’ previously required.
The government says this change will apply to all eviction cases apart from those involving serious issues, such as domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour.
- Find out more: how the eviction process works
Trade bodies criticise last-minute extension
The government says this extension will offer renters greater protection over the winter months, but it hasn’t gone down well with everyone.
The housing charity Shelter reports that around 227,000 renters have fallen into arrears since the start of the pandemic.
It said that while the extension means ‘a bullet may have been dodged’, the government must use the extra time to put further safeguards in place for tenants.
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has described the blanket extension as ‘unacceptable’ and says landlords ‘cannot be expected to foot the bill for government failure’.
The NRLA says extending the ban means landlords who need to evict tenants who’ve built up serious arrears unrelated to COVID-19 now won’t be able to do so.
Eviction ban around the UK
The move to increase notice periods to six months in England comes after similar measures were announced elsewhere in the UK.
- Scotland: landlords must give six months’ notice unless they are seeking to end the tenancy due to antisocial or criminal behaviour or if the landlord or their family need to move into the property.
- Wales: landlords must give six months’ notice to tenants except in cases of antisocial behaviour. This rule currently applies until 30 September, but it could be extended.
- Northern Ireland: landlords must give 12 weeks’ notice to tenants, regardless of why they are commencing eviction proceedings.
COVID-19 assistance for landlords and tenants
Many landlords and tenants have faced financial strain during the pandemic, and the government claims these new measures will protect those most at risk.
Some support was already available for landlords and tenants facing financial difficulties.
In March, the government announced that landlords whose tenants were having problems paying their rent could apply for a three-month mortgage payment holiday to help alleviate their issues.
The government and UK Finance say tenants who are unable to afford their rent should contact their landlord to try to reach an agreement, which could include reducing or suspending payments in the short term.
- Find out more: how to get a mortgage payment holiday
Tenant rights during COVID-19
You’re still required to pay your rent as per the terms of your tenancy agreement, but landlords are being encouraged to offer support for renters who are struggling.
If you’re not currently earning, you might be able to qualify for financial support. Housing allowance and Universal Credit have been increased to cover housing costs, so it’s worth checking with your local council to see if you’re eligible.
Your right to live in a safe property is unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak. Your landlord is still responsible for conducting essential maintenance and dealing with urgent issues (for example if the boiler breaks down).
If your tenancy agreement is coming to an end and you’re concerned about moving during the pandemic, speak to your landlord about your options. Some landlords may be willing to discuss a month-by-month agreement given the current circumstances.
- Find out more: what coronavirus means for tenant rights
Buy-to-let landlord advice during COVID-19
Your responsibilities as a landlord are unaffected by COVID-19, so any essential repairs must still be conducted, and planned gas and electrical safety inspections should be arranged wherever possible.
If for some reason you can’t have essential work carried out (for example if the tenant is self-isolating), then you should document your attempts to do so in case your council requests evidence.
You can now carry out viewings and let out homes again, but you’ll need to adhere to the government’s guidelines. These including social distancing, wearing a face covering and providing separate towels for people coming to view properties.
If a current tenant is isolating or has COVID-19 symptoms, you won’t be able to conduct viewings.
- Find out more: buy-to-let landlords and COVID 19