In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Government has acted swiftly to ensure tenants cannot be evicted from their properties for at least a three-month period. In turn, landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties can take advantage of a 3-month mortgage payment holiday. It was also announced that bailiffs should stop providing any new eviction appointments and bailiff managers should review all upcoming evictions and use their judgment and discretion to decide whether the eviction should proceed. Given the unprecedented crisis, such emergency legislation has been widely welcomed.
However, for those landlords who rely on rent as their sole income and where the monthly rental income exceeds their monthly mortgage payments (for example as may be the case for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) landlords), the new laws could be problematic. This would be particularly so, where landlords have pre-existing problem tenants in their properties who have refused to pay their rent or are in breach of other terms of the tenancy long before the COVID-19 emergency. The all-important question landlords are asking is, when will they be able to get possession of their rented property?
Whilst it is difficult to answer this question with any precision, we believe that it may be 6-9 months before the evictions will re-emerge. This is because of the following reasons: –
The Government has announced that no proceedings can be commenced for at least three months. This suspension could be extended depending on how the COVID-19 crisis develops.
Once the suspension has been lifted, we understand from Government guidance that landlords will need to comply with a Pre-Action Protocol and establish an affordable repayment plan with tenants who are in rental arrears, taking into account the tenants’ individual circumstances before they commence proceedings.
Our lawyers have been in contact with at least two County Courts in London who have advised that they currently have a backlog of claims that either need to be issued or are awaiting further directions which has resulted in processing delay of approximately 40 days. When the suspension is lifted, there is likely to be a flood of new claims to be issued by the court which will inevitably result in a further delay.
The current waiting times to obtain an appointment with a bailiff to carry out an eviction is approximately 4 to 6 weeks. On the basis that bailiffs have been advised to refuse new eviction appointments, it is anticipated that when the suspension is lifted, there will be an increased waiting time to obtain an eviction appointment.
Should you need any further guidance on the COVID-19 Emergency provisions and how they may impact your landlord or tenant obligations, please do not hesitate to contact us for your free 30-minute consultation.
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