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Further extension of coronavirus restrictions affecting residential properties: Where are we now?

Last year, we reported on the changes introduced extending the notice periods to terminate certain residential tenancies from 29 August 2020. The extended notice periods were due to remain in force until 31 March 2021. However, the Government has announced that those restrictions will be extended until 31 May 2021. There remains a power for that date to be further extended. The extension will be implemented from and including 31 March 2021 by the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2021.

Section 21 Notices

A landlord must continue to give 6 months’ notice when serving a Section 21 Notice to terminate an assured shorthold tenancy (“AST”) for any notices served on or before 31 May 2021 and ensure that the prescribed form Section 21 Notice, introduced in September 2020, is used. In addition, possession proceedings must be brought within 10 months of the date of service of a Section 21 Notice, if a tenant fails to vacate at the expiry of a Section 21 Notice. This effectively gives landlords a four month window in which possession proceedings must be brought.

Section 8 Notices

Where a landlord serves a Section 8 Notice on a tenant of an AST or an assured tenancy, the landlord may seek possession on one of the statutory grounds, for example arrears of rent. The majority of the grounds require 6 months’ notice to be given but it depends upon the particular ground(s) relied upon. The most common scenario is for a landlord to serve a Section 8 Notice relying on grounds 8, 10 and/or 11 for arrears of rent. If over 6 months’ rent is outstanding, at least 4 weeks’ notice must be given. If less than 6 months’ rent is owed, then 6 months’ notice will be required. In order to rely on ground 8, if the rent is payable monthly, it remains necessary for there to be at least 2 months’ rent outstanding both at the date of the service of the Section 8 Notice and the date of the hearing in order for the Court to make a possession order.

Possession Proceedings

There are currently no restrictions on the issue of possession proceedings, however, temporary procedural changes remain. Practice Direction 55C of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 has been extended until 30 July 2021.  Where possession proceedings were stayed between March and September 2020, landlords now have until 30 April 2021 to reactivate possession proceedings failing which they will remain stayed and it will be necessary for an application lifting the stay to be made. For more see our expert insight: Lifting the stay on residential possession proceedings: where are we now?

Enforcement of possession orders

The Government has introduced a further extension to the ban on enforcement of possession orders from 31 March 2021 to 31 May 2021 in respect of residential dwellings in England. This change is made under The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 which come into force on 30 March 2021 (“the Regulations”).

The Regulations make no further changes to the limited circumstances in which enforcement of possession orders may proceed. The most common exemptions to the eviction ban are where there are over 6 months’ arrears and the premises are let under an AST or assured tenancy and a possession order is made wholly or partly on Grounds 1, 8, 10 or 11. In addition, a possession order may be enforced where it has been made against unknown trespassers (under CPR 55.6).

This is an area of fast-paced change so please visit our Essential Residential Hub and our timeline on the evolution of the private rented sector to keep up to date with developments.

Please do not hesitate to contact Lauren Fraser, Laura Bushaway or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys contact if you have any queries. This insight is not a substitute for legal advice on the specific circumstances of your case.

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