Homelessness to increase as possession cases start again
One of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many people have had difficulties paying their rent and are facing the threat of eviction and homelessness this winter.
At the beginning of the pandemic the government introduced temporary measures to try and stop people from becoming homeless.
Eight months on, and as England nears the end of its second national lockdown, the housing circumstances of many remain the same.
Despite this, the legal protections introduced in March 2020 are now coming to an end, and possession claims that had been put on hold are being brought back to court via reactivation notices.
“The effect of Covid-19 on tenants must now be taken into account,” says Jasper Blumenthal in the housing law team at Miles & Partners in London. “If you are at risk of homelessness and have suffered hardship as a result of Covid then you may be entitled to legal aid to enable you to defend your case at court.”
Jasper goes on to outline the key changes in regard to possession claims:
Stay on proceedings
From 27 March 2020 to 20 September 2020, there was a stay on almost all possession claims. The effect of this was that any claim for eviction brought to court before 26 March 2020 could not proceed until after this period. Now that the stay has been lifted, landlords must adhere to the regime explained below.
Landlords who issued a claim before or during the stay period are entitled to apply to the court to resume their application for possession. They must complete a ‘Reactivation Notice’ and send this to the court and to their tenant.
Only if it does not relate to an appeal, a Reactivation Notice must set out what the landlord knows about the effect of Covid-19 on their tenant and their dependants. And if the case is based on rent arrears, the landlord must provide an updated rent account for the previous two years.
The landlord must then send this to the parties in the case:
- no less than 42 days before the hearing date (if a trial date had already been set); or
- before 4pm on 29 January 2021.
The court will then set a review hearing and at that hearing will decide how the case will proceed.
All landlords need to serve a notice on their tenant and wait for it to expire before they can issue a possession claim in court. Notice periods for possession claims have also been amended to give tenants a longer notice period during the Covid-19 pandemic. Any notice served on or after 26 March 2020 must comply with the new notice periods.
- Before 26 March 2020 – the standard notice periods were in place, which varied depending on the ground or reason for possession and the type of tenancy you had.
- Between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020 – at least three months’ notice was required for the majority of notices, regardless of the reason for possession
- On or after 29 August 2020 – at least six months’ notice is required in most cases, again regardless of the reason for possession
There are some exceptions to the current six month notice period:
Three months’ notice is required:
- if the tenant has died and there is no person entitled to succeed to that tenancy
Four weeks’ notice is required:
- if there are six or more months of rent arrears owing on the date of service of the notices and the landlord seeks to rely on the arrears to obtain a possession order;
- if the tenant has a secure tenancy and claim is brought on the basis of specified anti-social behaviour grounds, or a perpetrator of domestic violence or where it is alleged that the tenancy was induced by a false statement
Two weeks’ notice is required:
- if the tenant has an assured or assured shorthold tenancy and a claim is brought on the basis of specified anti-social behaviour grounds, or a perpetrator of domestic violence or where it is alleged that the tenancy was induced by a false statement
The measures have been introduced to protect tenants during the pandemic as many people have been left unable to pay their rent.
Despite the stay having been lifted in September 2020, many peoples’ circumstances have not improved since earlier in the year and many are still struggling to pay their rent.
How we can help
If you, or anyone you know, has been served with a reactivation notice, notice of a review hearing or a possession claim then you may be entitled to legal aid to defend your case at court.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.