In mid-January, the government announced a further six-week extension of the bailiff eviction ban in England and Wales. This came as a relief to the thousands of renters who have fallen in arrears with their rents due to loss of earnings, caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The extension means that eviction notices that were due to be served after Monday 11 January 2021, following the six week ban over the Christmas period, now cannot be served until after 21 February in England. Whilst this is good news to renters, many feel that the government is not doing enough to help them financially in these difficult times.
Evictions were first banned at the beginning of the first lockdown in late March 2020 and the period of notice required of landlords to give their tenants, was increased from three to six months. In September 2020, the courts were able to hear some eviction cases but these were ones involving serious problems such as fraud, domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour.
The government originally brought in the Coronavirus Act 2020 in August last year and this made it impossible for landlords to start eviction proceedings against their tenants who had fallen behind in their rental payments because of loss of income - caused by the pandemic.
There was an extension made to cover the Christmas period that was nick-named ‘the Christmas truce’ and due to expire on Monday 11 January 2021. Landlords across England were preparing to start eviction proceedings against tenants who had accrued debts with them of six months of rental payments, or more.
Just 72 hours before the Christmas extension was due to expire, a second extension was introduced as England and Wales went into a third period of lockdown. Housing is a devolved department in the UK, so the current extension will end at various times.
The extension ends on 21 February 2021 in England and the end of March in Wales. A similar extension has been announced in Scotland and this too will now end at the end of March, in all areas with level three or level four restrictions. You can find out more information HERE.
The BBC quoted an unnamed Welsh minister who described the current situation as; “an extremely difficult time for many people and renters should not be forced out of their homes”
In London, Robert Jenrick the Housing Minister, also announced that councils would be given $10 million ‘to redouble their efforts’ to find accommodation for people sleeping rough on the streets.
In a recent report, the National Residents Landlords Association (NRLA) suggests that 7% of private renters are in arrears with their rental payments because of the pandemic. Citizens Advice has stated that more than half a million renters are currently behind in their rental payments.
The charity also stated that more than 60% of these renters were not in arrears at the beginning of the pandemic but many have since lost their jobs. The charity also states that the average amount owed by a renter to their landlord is £730. Citizens Advice has joined with several other charities asking the government to give much-needed financial support to renters.
Certainly it has not been an easy time for renters and in a recent survey conducted by Mortgage Introducer regional variations became evident too.
In Northern Ireland, 67% of tenants stated they are worse off as a result of the current pandemic, with tenants in the West Midlands (50%), East Midlands (48%) and Greater London (47%) also struggling more than most.
The research revealed that 18% of tenants stated that they have struggled or failed to pay the rent during the pandemic although this increases to 28% of tenants in Wales, 27% in Northern Ireland and 21% in Scotland and the West Midlands.
Likewise many landlord groups have had a difficult time and are also asking the government for help. Landlords are quick to point out that many of them do not have portfolios of properties, but own a single rental property and they rely on the rent money to meet their own financial commitments.
New Mediation Scheme Announced
A new pilot scheme will begin in February to try and resolve many of the eviction cases that are expected once the current extension ends. The scheme is a mediation platform between landlord and tenant to be used once eviction proceedings have begun. The two parties will be helped to find a mutual agreement that will avoid the tenant from being evicted.
Just as there were renters who are not covered by the ‘legal protection from eviction’ some renters will not be able to access the new mediation platform. These are renters in ‘exceptional circumstances’- which include cases concerning fraud, illegal occupation and anti-social behaviour.
Demands for English Loan Scheme
In Scotland and Wales, new tenant loan schemes have been introduced that are helping struggling tenants to pay their rents. In England, no such scheme exists as yet, so the financial loss is being borne by landlords who are effectively propping up the rental market.
It also means that renters are continuing to rack up rental debts and they will reach a point when they will never be able to pay off the amount they owe. It is at this point that they will still have to leave the property.
Many belief that the government should act quickly to implement a similar scheme for renters that would enable them to pay their debts and would help sustain their tenancy in the long term.
Talk to You Landlord
Tenants are being urged to face up to the fact that they are struggling to pay their rent each month and to be proactive in discussions with their landlord about the situation. This is important as it will help to avoid eviction proceedings in court which will have a long term negative impact on their credit rating. Landlords if you're struggling to keep up with mortgage payments due to delayed rent, consider selling a tenanted property to House Buy Fast - we regularly buy property from landlords who want to sell quickly and hassle free.