A BAN on tenant evictions comes to an end tomorrow, meaning renters could be kicked out of their homes from Tuesday.
That means bailiffs will be able to repossess properties and landlords will no longer have to give six months’ notice before starting eviction proceedings.
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There are two important changes to the rules that renters need to be aware of.
The first is that bailiffs can be used to enforce evictions, however it’s worth noting that they can’t be asked if someone in the house has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.
The second is that a landlord only needs to give four months’ notice that they want to evict, instead of the longer six months that was required throughout the pandemic.
From August 1 2021, the notice period for cases where there are less than four months of unpaid rent, will further reduce to two months’ notice.
The ban was introduced in March 2020 as an emergency measure. It was only supposed to be a short-term measure, but has been extended several times to help renters survive the ongoing crisis.
Most recently, renters were given an additional two months after warnings that thousands of tenants could lose their homes.
But now, the lifted restrictions mean that any renters who are behind on payments could find themselves with nowhere to go.
Campaign group Generation Rent has warned that tenants face “a cliff edge” and may lose their homes because of debts built during lockdown restrictions.
Richard Lane, director of external affairs at StepChange debt charity, said: “Without targeted financial support, many renters are at risk of losing their homes.
“We need urgent action to prevent homelessness, housing insecurity and long-term problem debt from taking hold when the newly extended suspension is lifted.”
Here we explain what you need to know if you’re worried about losing your home, with the help of experts at Citizens Advice.
Reasons your landlord can evict you
A LANDLORD can end your tenancy early without a reason by serving you a Section 21 notice.
But there are other reasons that can cause you to be be evicted.
- You fall into rent arrears of eight weeks if you pay weekly, two months’ arrears if you pay monthly
- Antisocial behaviour and a nuisance to your neighbours
- Breach of your tenancy agreement
- Using your home for illegal purposes, such as drug dealing
- If your landlord thinks you’ve moved out
What happens if my landlord wants to evict me?
If you’re a private tenant, your landlord can ask you to move out using either a Section 21 or Section 8 notice.
A Section 21 notice is commonly referred to as a “no-fault eviction” as landlords don’t have to give a reason for wanting you to leave.
With a Section 8 notice, landlords must have grounds for kicking you out.
This includes falling behind on your rent, damage to the property or complaints from neighbours.
Find out where you are in the process
Citizens Advice says that the first step is to find out where you are in the eviction process.
If your landlord wants to evict you from a privately rented home, they have to go through three stages.
First, they’ll need to serve you with a notice. When this expires, they need to go to court to get a possession order, and finally apply for a bailiff visit to evict you.
Amy Hughes, housing expert at Citizens Advice said: “If your landlord has not yet given you a formal notice then you won’t be evicted for many months.
“If your landlord has already got a possession order and applied for a bailiff date, you might be evicted with 14 days notice.”
If you haven’t received notice yet but are worried about eviction
If you’re worried about a possible eviction, but haven’t yet been served a notice, the government says you must speak to your landlord as soon as possible.
Explain the effect that coronavirus has had on your household income and ask if they’ll accept reduced payments, or let you pay back arrears at a rate you can afford.
Ms Hughes said: “Both the government and the landlords’ body the NRLA have asked landlords to be sympathetic to tenants affected by the pandemic.
“You should also make sure you’re receiving all the benefits you might be entitled to.”
What to do if you can’t pay your rent
FOR private renters, speak to your landlord as soon as you can.
They may be able to defer your payment, or to allow you to pay a smaller amount – but they don’t have to do this.
Social renters should speak to their housing association or local council.
If you’ve tried speaking to your housing association or landlord and they aren’t being sympathetic, contact Shelter for advice and support. They’ll be able to guide you about what to do next.
If you’re finding it difficult to manage your payments because you’re in debt, here are some tips for you to curb it:
Check your bank balance on a regular basis – knowing your spending patterns is the first step to managing your money
Work out your budget – by writing down your income and taking away your essential bills such as food and transport
If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs
Pay off more than the minimum – If you’ve got credit card debts aim to pay off more than the minimum amount on your credit card each month to bring down your bill quicker
Pay your most expensive credit card sooner – If you have more than one credit card and can’t pay them off in full each month, prioritise the most expensive card (the one with the highest interest rate)
Prioritise your debts – If you’ve got several debts and you can’t afford to pay them all it’s important to prioritise them. Your rent, mortgage, council tax and energy bills should be paid first because the consequences can be more serious if you don’t pay
Get advice – If you’re struggling to pay your debts month after month it’s important you get advice as soon as possible, before they build up even further.
Groups like Citizens Advice, Money Advice Trust or StepChange can also help you prioritise and negotiate with your creditors to offer you more affordable repayment plans.
The amount you could get will depend on factors such as whether you rent privately or from the council, plus what income you’re on.
Use the Turn2us online benefit calculator to see what help you can get.
If you already claim Universal Credit or housing benefit, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment.
This is a system that allows rent payments to be paid directly to landlords.
You can apply online through your council – use the Gov.uk website to find details of your local authority.
If you’ve received a notice
The rules on the notice your landlord must give have changed, and it may now be up to six months depending on when it was served.
If you’re unsure, your local Citizens Advice will be able to help either in person or via email.
If your landlord hasn’t followed other rules during your tenancy this might also mean that the notice is invalid.
Ms Hughes added: “Your landlord can only make a claim to court after the notice ends.
“You don’t need to leave by this date, but going to court might mean costs are added to your debt if the notice is valid.”
If your notice is expiring and you’re due to go to court
Court hearings restarted last September, with the most serious cases getting priority.
If you’ve been given your court date and you want the court to either consider your evidence or allow you extra time in the property, you’ll need to return the defence form.
Make sure you supply evidence of information that you gave your landlord about the effect of coronavirus on your household and of any payments you’ve made.
Ms Hughes said: “The court will look at the information provided by you and the landlord and decide whether to make an order for possession.
“In some cases you might be able to stay if you can agree to affordable repayments, but the court has no discretion to allow you to stay if you’ve had a valid Section 21 notice – so-called ‘no fault eviction’.
“If the possession order is granted, it will usually ask you to leave within two to six weeks.”
If you’ve had a possession order and are facing eviction
If the court had already decided your case before the eviction ban started, you may be given 14 days notice that bailiffs will carry out an eviction.
If that’s the case, you should seek urgent advice – from Citizens Advice or another housing charity – about whether there’s any way to prevent or delay the eviction.
Alternatively, you may need help finding alternative accommodation.
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