On 31st May 2021 the tenant eviction ban brought in by the government to protect vulnerable tenants during the coronavirus pandemic ended. With £437m of bad debt in the lettings sector many landlords may now be looking to reclaim their properties. It’s not just unpaid rent that’s a problem, all types of serious cases involving tenants have risen during the pandemic.
Tenant eviction ban: the detail
The tenant eviction ban prevented bailiffs from issuing eviction notices or carrying out evictions. That has now ended and evictions can resume. Furthermore, in some cases, landlords now only have to give 4 months’ notice of their intention to seek possession rather than the 6 months as was the case earlier in the pandemic. From 1st August 2021 this will also reduce to 2 months, where less than 4 months’ rent is unpaid.
Importantly too, notice periods can be significantly less for serious cases:
- Over 4 months’ rent arrears = 4 weeks’ notice
- Cases of false statement = 2 weeks
- Domestic abuse = 2 weeks
- Anti-social behaviour = immediately [Ground 14] / 1 month [Ground 7A]
- Death of a Tenant = 2 months
There are other serious cases that require less than 4 months’ notice too.
There has however also been the introduction of The Debt Respite Scheme – ‘breathing space’ in relation to rent arrears. If a tenant has applied for this the landlord cannot progress with possession proceedings.
So, that’s the current situation. Let’s now look at the role mediation can play at this critical time for both the private rented sector and social housing. We will also get a solicitor’s perspective on the tenant eviction ban ending, their recent experiences of handling eviction cases, and what’s likely to change in the coming months.
The eviction ban has ended: what now?
Many landlords will have struggled with their hands tied under the tenant eviction ban, but many tenants will have been extremely hard hit too.
All types of serious issues have risen over the past 12-18 months. Rent arrears, anti-social behaviour, tenant disputes and domestic abuse, to name a few. This has impacted tenants directly as they’re in the thick of it and landlords have had to struggle to find resolutions from afar.
Is eviction the right route to take for landlords? Or in some cases would it be better to try and resolve situations with their existing tenants? There’s still a huge court backlog too with priority only offered to the most severe cases.
As we look to get life back to normal, landlords should recognise that a tenant’s struggles and some unfortunate situations may just be temporary. Equally, it’s now going to be critical for many landlords to resolve situations that have been damaging to them financially and emotionally for too long.
Mediation can help with all this.
The role of mediation
Mediation and housing possessions is a prominent topic at the moment with mediation now getting the recognition it deserves for its ability to resolve cases.
Mediation can help all parties involved – tenants, and both private and social landlords. It can also be invaluable in supporting letting agents and housing associations manage their tenants. Mediation is about creating a mutually beneficial resolution that benefits all involved and with everyone in agreement.
The role mediation can play is a broad one when it comes to landlord-tenant issues. It’s a powerful tool to tackle some of the more serious instances that could lead to a landlord pursuing an eviction. Including:
- Rent arrears
- Breach of tenancy terms
- Anti-social behaviour
- Tenant disputes
- Refusing access
It’s never too late to introduce mediation, even if you have started court proceedings.
- Managing ASB Through Mediation
- Mediation and Housing Possessions
- How to Get Tenants to Agree to Mediation
- Dealing with Rising Tenant Disputes
A solicitor’s experience
Sarah Rogers, Partner and Head of Housing Management at Forbes Solicitors represents social landlords in all types of possession proceedings. She feels that the ban on evictions wasn’t well thought out. Here are her thoughts…
“While it was probably right to put a stop to evictions on mandatory grounds, unless against an unlawful occupier, most possession cases are discretionary, which means judges could always prevent possession and subsequent evictions where the pandemic was clearly the cause of a tenant’s hardship.”
“During the ban we were unable to get evictions even where it would have benefited the tenant. For example, if they are no longer occupying the property but their liability for rent has continued.”
“Evictions against unlawful occupiers has also not been possible where they are not strictly ‘unknown’. Even when the ban on evictions was lifted in relation to anti-social behaviour, applications had to be made to the court, in addition to the usual request for the eviction. Sometimes court hearings have been unnecessarily listed to deal with these applications, leading to further delays.”
“I only secured 2 evictions during the ban, both where anti-social behaviour and substantial rent arrears were part of the case. Although our Anti-Social Behaviour Team will undoubtedly have secured more, it has still been extremely difficult. While outstanding evictions dates are now starting to trickle through, I have two due to go ahead this month, there are still a lot outstanding and it will take solicitors and the court some time to clear the backlog.”
“I have always been a strong advocate of mediation, which can be used for all manner of disputes that arise either between tenants or between landlords and tenants. Now, more than ever, the court will expect to see that mediation has at least been tried and with many tenants likely to take advantage of the breathing space initiative, eviction still might not be possible.”
Get more from mediation
Whatever issues you come across and however frequently they occur, we can help you find resolutions through mediation. We can help you and your tenants avoid lengthy, costly, and stressful court proceedings.
Consider mediation before jumping straight to legal action. Save yourself time and money whilst building stronger relationships with your tenants to prevent future issues.
To discuss a current case with one of our mediators and to see how we can help you, call us on 01772 954602. We’re also currently offering free 1-hour mediation consultations. See how you could get more from mediation and book your review today by emailing email@example.com.