When it became apparent that the lockdown was going to have a huge impact on society, the Government brought in or proposed emergency legislation to cover a wide range of situations. One of the most significant was the ban on evictions.
Initially announced on the 18 March, the (complete) ban on evictions applied to England and Wales for three months but was extended to 23 August 2020 afterwards. Payment holidays were also extended to buy-to-let mortgages to ensure that overstretched landlords also had an outlet if they were struggling to meet payments.
But with the ban expiring in just a few weeks, what will happen next?
In practice, private landlords will be able to go to the courts to start eviction procedures from 24 August 2020. It’s not clear how many people will find themselves on the receiving end of such procedures, but support and advice agencies are reporting significant increases in rent concerns, threatened evictions and precarious mortgages. From the landlord perspective, some tenants have stopped paying rent over lockdown (breaking contracts) and that’s led to some properties potentially facing repossession.
The problem with renting before the coronavirus was the complexity of rules, lack of appeals processes and the fact that your landlord can just give you notice if they want to end the tenancy, even if you’ve done nothing wrong or missed a payment. The rules vary depending on your tenancy agreement. In short, you must be given notice by the landlord, though this period varies depending on what your agreement says. Your deposit must be protected according to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and the landlord must abide by the terms of the contract which must be fair and comply with the law.
How does eviction work?
It depends on whether you are a private or a council or housing association tenant. But in brief:
If your landlord gave an eviction notice before the lockdown then your situation is the most severe. You will need to get urgent legal advice as bailiffs can start operating from 24 August 2020, though your landlord must still give you two weeks’ notice before you are due to be evicted. Shelter has a great page full of legal advice and helplines.
How to complain
Firstly, make a formal complaint to the landlord setting out why you think you’ve been treated unfairly. Make it clear if it’s rent increases, eviction with or without breach of contract or health and safety objections. If that doesn’t resolve the matter, your local council may be able to mediate.
You will need to go through your local council to find out about the process but make sure you notify your landlord and the courts if an eviction notice has been served or sought. The problem is the fact that your landlord can evict you if your contract is up and there’s not much you can do about it if they follow the rules.
Keep everything in writing where you can and get the landlord to put their responses in writing too.
What can I do if I’m worried about being evicted?
If you’re in financial difficulties, speak to free debt charity StepChange for help with your creditors. They will work out what you can afford to pay and may help you free up some cash to stay afloat.
Resolver has lots of advice for people who need to free up some cash, find work or claim benefits but we’re also calling for an extension to eviction bans and the introduction of other measures to support tenants and landlords