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What does the ban on tenant evictions during the coronavirus outbreak mean for landlords?

2-minute read

Mollie Millman

30 March 2020

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Parliament has passed emergency legislation banning evictions to protect tenants during the coronavirus outbreak.

But there’s confusion as to what the ban truly means, due to the exact definition of an eviction.

Tenants and landlords may have believed that the government’s ban on evictions was a ban on serving notices, such as a Section 21 notice, which asks a tenant to surrender possession of a property.

This isn’t the case, though, because the term ‘eviction’ only applies to ‘forcibly removing a tenant from a property’ – something that involves court proceedings.

A ban on starting court proceedings

Such court proceedings would begin, for example, after a tenant has been issued with a Section 21 notice and refused to surrender the property at the end of a notice period (typically two months).

When the government says it’s banning evictions, what it really means is that it’s banning starting any court proceedings. To achieve this the government is extending the notice period on Section 21 notices from two months to three months. It means no tenant can be forcibly evicted during this period.

Can a landlord still serve notices?

So the difference between serving a notice and starting court proceedings at the end of that notice period is key to understanding the current ban.

While starting court proceedings has been banned, a landlord can still serve what are known as Section 21 and Section 8 notices during the coronavirus pandemic.

A Section 21 notice allows a landlord to evict tenants from their homes for whatever reason they like, but can't be used during the first six months of the tenancy.

A Section 8 notice allows landlords to evict their tenant inside the fixed term of their tenancy, but can only be used if the tenant has breached their tenancy agreement and where certain conditions are met.

Power to extend the notice period ‘if necessary’

Suggestions that the government was rowing back on its promise to protect renters from eviction during the coronavirus crisis were refuted by a Ministry of Housing spokesman.

He said: “We want to be clear that emergency legislation being brought forward means there can be no evictions as a result of coronavirus for three months.

“The claim that we are rowing back on it is absolute nonsense.

“As soon as legislation is passed, no new possession proceedings will begin – in either the social sector or the private rented sector – for at least the next three months.

“We have the power to extend this notice period if necessary.

“At the same time, this government is supporting renters through guaranteeing to pay 80 per cent of employee's wages, if their employer cannot afford to pay them while they are on temporary leave, and increased housing benefit.

“We have been clear we will do whatever is needed to support people at this difficult time.”

What do you think about the ban on tenant evictions? Let us know in the comments below.

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