Following our update earlier in the week regarding the extension to the ‘winter freeze’ on evictions during lockdown, there is now further clarification on an important change to the ban. This is the exemption for cases where there have been significant rent arrears.
Before the new regulations, evictions could only take place if there was more than 9 months of rental arrears, and if those arrears had accrued before March 2020. The new regulations allow evictions where there has been 6 months of rent arrears, regardless of when they were accrued. This means that many more landlords will still be able to gain possession of their properties on the grounds of significant rent arrears under this definition. However, it does not apply to rent arrears of less than 6 months.
Other exceptions to the eviction ban remain extremely limited. For private residential landlords, the other key exemptions are where a possession order is made due to anti-social behaviour, due to trespass, or on the death of a tenant where the property is unoccupied. The eviction ban remains in place for possession orders granted on any other grounds, including following a Section 21 notice.
The government has stated that these changes have been introduced to ensure that landlords are not disproportionately negatively affected by the ongoing situation, while at the same time protecting the majority of tenants at a time when the risk of virus transmission is very high.
The court will now need to record whether one of the limited exemptions applies when making a possession order. If a possession order has already been made which does not record an exemption, an application should be made to the court to determine if one of the exceptions applies.
If you need any advice, or have questions, on landlord and tenant matters, please email Fiona Hannaford on call her on 01803 403403.
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