A leading lettings sector trade body has set out reasons why the eviction ban should be lifted - which may help agents explaining to customers, too.
From next Monday the courts will begin to hear cases related to the repossession of properties. This will come following a five month suspensions of such cases due to COVID-19.
And the National Residential Landlords Association has set out facts and figures to debunk criticisms of the ban being lifted.
It says that its own independent and extensive research has shown that during the five months 94 per cent of landlords rent property as an individual and have unlimited liability should their businesses fail.
Many rely on their rental income for their livelihood: 44 per cent entered the market to contribute to their pension and 39 per cent report a gross non-rental income of less than £20,000 a year.
The association says: “It is vital that as the ban on repossessions is lifted, unnecessary scaremongering is avoided, and policy makers and others focus on the facts It is wrong to assume that every tenant that has built rent arrears because of COVID-19 will automatically be at risk of eviction.”
The NRLA also usefully summarises changes initiated by government to protect tenants despite the lifting of the ban.
When the courts start hearing claims for repossession again, a landlord with a claim already in progress will have to provide a ‘re-activation notice’ informing the court (and the tenant) in writing. If they don’t, the case will remain dormant.
Where these, or a new claim, include non-payment of rent, the landlord has to set out what knowledge they have about the tenant’s circumstances including the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on them and their dependants.
If this information is not forthcoming or is deemed inadequate by the courts, the judges will have powers to adjourn the case. Such a delay would mean that the landlord may continue to receive no rent from the tenant and so this will hit them in the pocket.
This will encourage landlords to engage with their tenants prior to court action including seeking ways to sustain tenancies using the NRLA's rent arrears management guidance.
The courts will prioritise cases involving extreme arrears built before the lockdown, anti-social behaviour and domestic violence. Those that are not a priority case will take longer, offering further time for alternative accommodation to be sought and providing further incentive for landlords to seek agreement outside of the courts.
Until September 30 landlords letting property in England have to give tenants a minimum of three months’ notice of their intention to seek possession giving more time for payment arrangements to be agreed. In Wales it is six months for all cases except those related to anti-social behaviour.
The association adds that side-effects of the ban have made life difficult for many, including some tenants.
During the ban landlords have been unable to take action against anti-social tenants who blight the lives of fellow tenants and neighbours, or end tenancies where it might help victims of domestic violence leave the perpetrator, or address the circumstances where they have faced months of rent arrears building before the pandemic and having nothing to do with COVID-19.
It’s estimated that between January and March, just before the ban was put in place, there were 24,320 claims made by private and social landlords to repossess property; 8,093 claims led to a repossession order being made and 1,336 led to a warrant being issued for repossession in England and Wales.