Landlords will face a ban on evictions in local areas that get locked down during the winter, the government has revealed.
It said that if an area is in a local lockdown, which includes a restriction on gathering in homes, evictions in that same zone cannot be enforced by bailiffs.
This latest announcement is part of wider measures affecting landlords and tenants, which the government have introduced during the global pandemic.
It has already changed the law to increase notice periods to six months, meaning tenants who are now served notice cannot be evicted during the winter.
There are exceptions to this, including where tenants have been anti-social or have committed fraud.
While the notice period has been extended, courts will be able to hear possession hearings again from 21 September.
If a case does proceed to court, landlords face new requirements. These include having to provide courts with information about how their tenants have been affected by the pandemic.
If this information is not provided, a judge will be able to adjourn proceedings.
The government’s measures also include what it’s calling a ‘winter truce’ on the eviction enforcement.
No evictions will be permitted in England and Wales in the run up to (and over) Christmas except in the most serious circumstances, such as those involving anti-social behavior or domestic abuse.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for six months - the longest eviction ban in the UK.
“To further support renters we have increased notice periods to six months, an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter months.
“It’s right that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice. Our legislation means such cases will be subject to shorter notice periods and then prioritised through the judiciary’s new court processes.”
Experts have accused the government of ‘moving the goal posts’ for landlords and are calling for additional support.
Timothy Douglas, policy and campaigns manager at ARLA Propertymark, said: “During the past few weeks, the Government has drip fed updates about evictions to the sector making it impossible for agents to respond and plan for the difficult months ahead.
“The UK Government is moving the goal posts, introducing measures that will be difficult for many to implement, including staying on top of rapidly changing local lockdowns.
“While it looks like there will be no further delays on the resumption of possession hearings, agents have profound concerns about investment in housing and this announcement offers no further support for the sector.
"The Government must now look at additional measures to provide direct finance to landlords and tenants to cover Covid-related arrears and help boost confidence in the sector as we head into the winter.”
The Welsh and Scottish Governments have already launched specific loan schemes to help tenants to pay-off Covid-related rent arrears – and the UK government is being called upon to follow suit for tenants in England.
Chris Norris, policy director at the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “We call on the UK Government to introduce similar help for tenants in England. The best way to prevent repossessions is to tackle the root cause by ensuring tenants are able to pay their rent.”
What do you think about the ban on evictions for areas in local lockdown? Let us know in the comments below.
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