Tenants in parts of England and Wales will be protected from eviction while they are living under tightened Coronavirus restrictions after an agreement was reached between the government and bailiffs.
The English government has asked bailiffs not to proceed with evictions in areas where the Covid-19 alert level is currently “high” or “very high”.
Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, wrote to the bailiffs’ trade associations this week.
He said: “We would request that your members should instruct the enforcement agents working under their authorisation not to enter properties that are classified as local alert level two (high) or three (very high) for the purposes of enforcement including taking control of goods and carrying out evictions.”
Buckland added that the situation was rapidly changing and would be kept under review.
The High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) has unanimously agreed to the request.
However, evictions can still be progressed through the courts during this period, so tenants could be asked to leave their homes once the alert level falls.
Christmas eviction ban
A grace period during which evictions will be on hold will also be imposed nationally in England and Wales over Christmas.
The HCEOA has agreed to a request from the government not to undertake any eviction activity in England or Wales between 11 December 2020 and 11 January 2021 to ensure no-one is evicted over the festive period.
What’s the background?
Earlier this year, the English government put a tenant eviction ban in place and put court hearings on hold.
The eviction ban ended in September, but the government has since suspended evictions between 11 December and 11 January and stipulated that landlords must give a six-month notice period before evicting tenants in all but the most serious cases.
Who does the new agreement affect?
This move by the government means people renting in London, Liverpool, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and other tier two and three regions in England cannot be evicted by bailiffs while Covid-19 restrictions are in place.
With the additional legislation concerning Christmas, it means that no tenants in tier two and tier three areas in England will be evicted before 12 January next year.
Wales does not follow the same three-tier system as England, but evictions are on hold throughout the national “firebreak lockdown” which started on Friday and ends on Monday 9 November.
This effectively means there will be a three week period from the end of the firebreak lockdown and before the Christmas grace period comes into effect on 11 December, during which evictions can take place.
This doesn’t affect Scotland because all tenants are currently protected from eviction under separate legislation.
In September, Nicola Sturgeon’s government extended its coronavirus-related eviction ban until March 2021.
Your rights as a tenant
It is illegal for a landlord to evict you without giving you written notice or obtaining a court order.
A landlord is also not allowed to harass you or lock you out of your home, even temporarily.
You cannot be issued with a section 21 notice during the first four months of your original contract.
Landlords can only issue a section 8 notice if they have legal grounds to end your tenancy, for example if you are in rent arrears. They must apply to a court for a possession order to evict you.
What should I do if I can’t pay my rent?
One in four private renters say they are worried about how they will pay their rent as a result of the pandemic.
Unless eviction proceedings are already active, it is important to talk to your landlord as soon as possible if you’re struggling to pay your rent.
If you can still afford to pay some of your rent, ask your landlord if they would accept a reduced payment for a period of time, particularly if you think you will be able to make up the shortfall once your finances have recovered.
It would also be worth checking to see if there are any government benefits available to you.
If you already claim Universal Credit or housing benefit, you may be able to get discretionary housing payment through your local council. This is a system that allows rent benefit payments to be paid directly to landlords.