Covid and Rent Arrears

The English Housing Survey have been undertaking a Housing Resilience Study during the Covid-19 pandemic and have published statistics from the second wave of the study showing that 11% of social housing tenants are currently in rent arrears.

But what can Registered Social Landlords and Local Authorities do about this with the Government restrictions which are currently in place? The Coronavirus Act 2000 provides protection to tenants by delaying when landlords can take possession. The legislation increased the required notice period when seeking possession.

The current legislation increases the length of notice that must be given in a claim for possession based on rent arrears to six months. The exception to this is if the tenant has accrued more than six months’ rent arrears.

There is no longer a stay on possession proceedings and once the relevant notice has expired proceedings can be issued and they will progress through the court with some amendments to the usual process.

The main changes to the process are as follows:

  1. A Coronavirus Notice must be attached to the proceedings at issue stating as to how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the tenant or tenants’ dependents.
  2. The claim will be listed for a review hearing. This will not be an attended hearing, but the parties should be available should the judge need to discuss the claim when undertaking the review. The new mediation service may be offered at the review.
  3. At least 14 days prior to the review hearing contact details should be provided to the court along with an electronic bundle of the relevant documents. These should also be provided to the tenant which must be confirmed to the court.
  4. Following the review hearing a substantive hearing will be listed. At the substantive hearing two copies of a Pre-action Protocol and Coronavirus Notice should be brought to court and a copy of the Notice served on the tenant 14 days before the hearing.

Even when a possession order has been obtained there is still currently a stay on enforcement. If the tenant is in arrears of more than six months, it would be an exemption from the stay on evictions and an application could be made to enforce the possession order by way of a warrant. The current stay on evictions is in force until 31st May 2021.

If the level of arrears does not fall within the exemptions a warrant could still be applied for in the usual way on form N325, but an eviction notice will not be served until after 31st May. Tenants will also be given at least 14 days’ notice of the eviction.

If the exemption applies and it is noted in the possession order that it is exempt from the stay in evictions a warrant can be applied for in the usual way using form N325.

If the exemption applies but it is not stated on the possession order an application must be made on form N244. The application must be served on the tenant and the application will be listed for a hearing.

If you have any questions about dealing with rent arrears during Covid-19, please contact Amy Tagoe.

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