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Residential Property: Evictions

Volume 690: debated on Thursday 11 March 2021

I wish to update the House on the measures taken to support renters following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the roadmap for national restrictions in England.

To support renters as we move towards the lifting of most restrictions in June, the Government announced yesterday that we will extend the ban on bailiff enforcement of evictions and the requirement for landlords to provide six months’ notice when seeking possession of residential property. These measures will be extended to 31 May, to continue to protect public health and minimise the effect on essential public services. Exemptions will continue to apply to both of these measures in the most serious circumstances.

Ensuring that renters remain protected until the end of May, while national restrictions remain in place, will align with the Government’s broader strategy for protecting public health and will continue to help reduce pressure on essential public services as we start to move out of lockdown.

The ban on bailiff enforcement

Legislation will be brought forward shortly to continue to prevent bailiffs from attending residential premises to enforce a writ or warrant of possession except in the most egregious circumstances.

I am grateful to landlords for their continued forbearance during this unprecedented time. It will remain important for landlords to be able to advance cases in the most serious circumstances, and therefore exemptions will remain for:

cases where the court is satisfied that the claim is against trespassers who are persons unknown;

cases where the court is satisfied that the order for possession was made wholly or partly on the grounds of antisocial behaviour, nuisance or false statements, domestic abuse in social tenancies or substantial rent arrears at least equivalent to six months’ rent; or

where the property is unoccupied and the court is satisfied that the order for possession was made wholly or partly on the grounds of death of the tenant.

These measures only apply to England and they are expected to end on 31 May 2021, as we transition out of emergency measures, subject to public health advice and progress of the national road map.

Longer notice periods

A landlord seeking to recover possession of residential property must give notice to the tenant before they start court proceedings. We know that many tenants will leave accommodation at the end of their notice period, before the case reaches court. The Government laid yesterday a statutory instrument to extend measures in the Coronavirus Act 2020 that require landlords to provide tenants with six months’ notice, except in the most serious circumstances. The statutory instrument applies to England only.

This means that most renters served notice during April and May will be able to stay in their homes until October and November, giving them time to find support or alternative accommodation.

Shorter notice periods will continue to apply for egregious cases, recognising the continuing effect these circumstances have on landlords and the broader community. These cases include antisocial behaviour (including rioting), false statement, in certain cases of domestic abuse in the social sector, rent arrears over six months, where the tenant has passed away or where the tenant does not have the right to rent under immigration law. This approach provides balance for both landlords and tenants during the ongoing risk of covid-19, by continuing to provide tenants with enhanced protections while allowing landlords access to justice quicker where proportionate.

The Government will consider the best approach to tapering down notice periods from 1 June, taking into account public health requirements, progress with the road map and the longer-term transition into our broader programme of reform.

Guidance and wider support measures

We will update our covid-19 renting guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities to ensure it reflects the latest information. We will also update our guidance to support landlords and tenants in the social and private rented sectors navigate the possessions process.

The Chancellor has also confirmed that financial support will remain in place, continuing to support renters in paying their living costs. This will include the support for businesses to pay staff salaries through the coronavirus job retention scheme and the boost to universal credit, both of which have been extended until September 2021.