Government announces a 'winter truce' for renters
Unless the Government is persuaded to make another extension to the evictions ban, the courts will start to deal with possession hearings again from 21 September. But to make life easier for tenants who find themselves with financial problems as a second wave of Covid-19 cases looks increasingly likely and the furlough scheme draws to a close, a ‘winter truce’ has been announced. This is good news for renters. No evictions will be permitted in England and Wales over Christmas, although this won’t include the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.
The aim is to ensure that tenants with nowhere else to go are not forced from their homes at a time when local authorities and crisis centres may be closed, operating on a skeleton staff, or already dealing with high seasonal demand. To ensure the truce is upheld, the Government will issue guidance to bailiffs that they should not enforce possession orders “in the weeks of Christmas”. No specific dates have been announced we expect them to be made clear during the autumn.
According to independent research, 87% of tenants have continued to pay their rent in full since the start of the pandemic and a further 8% are thought to have entered into agreements with their landlords over payments. But with furlough coming to an end and a spike in coronavirus cases on the cards, the number of tenants to whom the new Christmas arrangements will apply could grow in the next few months.
In recent weeks there have been increasing calls for the Government to be even-handed and consider the very real problems now facing landlords. No possession cases have been heard since March - including where the tenant has broken the law. So landlords must be able to access the courts again. When cases do resume they will be subject to new court processes and procedures which all landlords – even those with only one property - must abide by and should be aware of.
- No cases from before 3 August 2020 will immediately proceed. Instead they will have to be ‘re-activated’ by the landlord and then subject to a new review hearing, at least four weeks before the full hearing.
- Landlords will also need to provide the courts with information on how tenants have been affected by the pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will be able to adjourn proceedings until the information is provided.
The overwhelming majority of landlords have treated their tenants fairly during the pandemic and many have made generous arrangements to help renters through what continues to be a difficult time for all of us. The Government must now resist pressure to extend the evictions ban further and allow cases to once more be heard where possession really is justified.
Author : Maryanne Bowring