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Further extension to evictions of residential tenants

Posted: 22/01/2021


On 11 January 2021, the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 (the 2021 Regulations) came into force. These added yet another layer of legislation to further protect tenants from being evicted in certain circumstances and create additional hurdles for a landlord to overcome to secure possession of a property.

An evolving landscape

Although it is only ten months since the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force, the legislation and court rules around residential repossessions have already changed quite significantly. The following timeline highlights the changes and effects the legislation has had during the pandemic:

  • 26 March 2020 – following the introduction of the Coronavirus Act 2020, the length of notice a landlord must give was amended to three months regardless of the type of tenancy and/or whether there was a breach of the tenancy, initially to be in place until 30 September 2020;
  • 27 March 2020 – HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) issued Practice Direction 51Z staying all possession proceedings and warrants for 90 days until 25 June 2020;
  • 18 April 2020 – HMCTS amended PD51Z to clarify that the stay did not apply to trespassers and that IPO claims could also still be brought and case management directions could be made if agreed by all parties;
  • 25 June 2020 – HMCTS introduced CPR 55.29 extending the stay on proceedings and enforcements (subject to the exemptions allowed on 18 April 2020) until 23 August 2020;
  • 28 August 2020 – the Government issued the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 which:
    • extends the stay on proceedings until 20 September 2020;
    • amends the length of notice a landlord must give - in most cases this is extended to six months, subject to some exemptions where the length of notice period is reduced; and
    • puts it in place until 31 March 2021.
  • 21 September 2020 – HMCTS re-opened for possession proceedings and enforcement actions, subject to landlords filing court re-activation notices;
  • 17 November 2020 - the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force prohibiting landlords from enforcing orders for possession, except under certain exemptions;
  • 11 January 2021 – the 2021 Regulations came into force, extending the prohibition on enforcing orders for possession save for certain exemptions until 21 February 2021 and further amending the exemption on applying for a warrant or writ based wholly or partly on rent arrears.

The 2021 Regulations

The main changes brought in by the 2021 Regulations are:

  • the prohibition on landlords on enforcing most warrants and writs of possession except in limited circumstances is extended until 21 February 2021; and
  • the level of arrears that need to have accrued in order to allow a landlord to rely on the excessive rent arrears exemption when applying for a warrant or writ for possession:
    • on possession orders based wholly or partly on rent arrears made until 11 January 2021:
      • on the date the possession order was granted, the rent arrears were equal or greater than nine months’ worth of rent; and
      • any rent arrears that accrued after 23 March 2020 cannot be taken into account.
    • on possession orders based wholly or partly on rent arrears after 11 January 2021:
      • on the date the warrant or writ for possession is applied for, arrears are equal to or greater than six months’ rent; and
      • any amount accrued prior to the application for the warrant or writ can be included.

Notice periods, possession proceedings and evictions

Here is a quick guide for the length of notice a landlord had to give for most notices whenever the legislation was amended:

Date Notice period Proceedings possible? Enforcement of repossession warrants possible?
Before 26 March 2020 2 months Yes Yes
Between 26 March 2020 and 17 April 2020 3 months No, stayed in all circumstances No
Between 18 April 2020 and 28 August 2020 3 months No for the majority of proceedings save for trespasser and IPO claims. Case management directions possible if agreed by all parties No, except for trespasser and IPO proceedings
Between 29 August 2020 and 20 September 2020 6 months (but less, in certain cases*) No for the majority of proceedings save for trespasser and IPO claims.  Case management directions possible if agreed by all parties No, except for trespasser and IPO proceedings
Between 21 September 2020 and 16 November 2020 6 months (but less, in certain cases*) Yes Yes
Between 17 November 2020 and 10 January 2021 6 months (but less, in certain cases*) Yes Yes, but in limited circumstances including trespassers, ASB and some rent arrears claims dependent on the level of arrears
Between 11 January 2021 and 21 February 2021 6 months (but less, in certain cases*) Yes Yes, but in limited circumstances including trespassers, ASB and some rent arrears claims.  Will depend on the level of rent arrears at date of order of possession

Work together

It should be noted that there is nothing to stop landlords from applying for warrants or writs for possession even where one of the exemptions does not apply. However, the court will not be able to set a date for enforcement until the end of the stay and the earliest that enforcement is likely to be able to take place will be 8 March 2021.

As these historically difficult times continue, landlords and tenants should continue to cooperate as much as possible.

*For a more comprehensive guide setting out how much notice a landlord must give, depending on which grounds for possession they are relying on, please see the Government guidance which sets this out in more detail.


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