All change for evictions notices

The government just announced more changes to evictions

As we blogged last week, following the extension to the evictions ban, landlords now have to give six months’ notice before they can evict a tenant. Now the landscape has shifted again. Last week, following increasing pressure to consider the problems being faced by landlords as a result of the newly extended ban, the government announced more changes to notice periods.

The new rules – which have taken immediate effect, – mean a range of different notice periods depending on the reason why landlords are seeking to evict someone.

The revised notice periods for landlords and letting agents are now as follows:

  • anti-social behaviour (now 4 weeks’ notice)
  • domestic abuse (now 2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • false statement (now 2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • over 6 months’ accumulated rent arrears (now 4 weeks’ notice)
  • breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (now 3 months’ notice)

This means landlords can now start the ball rolling to evict tenants who were already in arrears pre-lockdown. However, if they want to reclaim possession of their property in order to live in it themselves, they will still need to give their tenant six months’ notice.

Forms 3 and 6a have been updated and were published over the weekend and ARLA Propertymark told the press on Friday that it understands that notices will now be valid for 10 months. This means they won’t expire before action can be taken against the tenants in question.

So some good news for landlords. But as the National Residential Landlords Association says, the changes won’t make much difference unless property owners get a “cast iron guarantee” that the courts will re-open as planned on September 20. 

New court rules have also been agreed, coming into force on 20 September, that  mean landlords will need to set out in their claim any relevant information about a tenant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings.

So the best that landlords can do now is to follow the law to the letter and ensure that, if they wish to evict a tenant once the courts are up and running, that they have served the correct notice and have all their paperwork in order. There will inevitably be a huge backlog and being well prepared in advance will mean the least possible opportunity for further delay.

Our advice remains the same. Talk to tenants who are having financia problems and try to agree a payment plan that suits both parties. And if you are actively seeking new tenants for your property, make sure you carry out all the relevant referencing. With furlough coming to an end in October, many people could find themselves on the receiving end of a redundancy notice, so nothing is certain in these Covid times. But vetting tenants carefuly is a must. Our automated lettings platform PlanetRent could help, so check it out today.

Will the eviction ban end on Sunday?

Will the eviction ban be lifted or could we see another Government U-turn?

The eviction ban, brought in to protect renters during the Covid-19 outbreak, ends this weekend. The government is now under pressure from opposition parties and renters action groups to keep the ban in place beyond 23 August, with the London Renters Union planning a day of action demanding the government acts to protect tenants.

However, as we have said in this blog before, many landlords rely on rental income for their livelihood. New figures from the National Residential Landlords Association prove the point. Just-published independent research shows that 44% of those who let rental property entered the market to contribute to their pension and 39% report a gross non-rental income of less than £20,000 a year. In addition 94% of landlords are individuals not large lettings companies and they have unlimited liability should their businesses fail. 

The NRLA told Landlord Today, that it is wrong to assume that every tenant that has built up rent arrears because of COVID-19 will automatically be at risk of eviction. We agree – and we also support the NLA’s call to avoid what they describe as “unnecessary scaremongering”.

In order to soften the blow for renters, in July new rules around possessions came into force which landlords need to be aware of. Here’s a reminder.

  • Until September 30 a minimum of three months’ notice must be given to tenants if landlords wish to seek possession. This is to give more time for payment arrangements to be agreed.
  • Once the ban is lifted, anyone with a possession claim that was already in progress must provide a written ‘re-activation notice’ to the court and the tenant – otherwise the case will remain dormant.
  • For claims involving non-payment of rent, landlords are obliged to provide information on the tenant’s circumstances, including how they have been impacted by the pandemic. If this is not forthcoming, the case could be adjourned.
  • Priority will be given by the courts to possession cases based on serious pre-lockdown arrears and those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic violence.

To read the new rules on possession, click here.

Finally, don’t forget that we always advise landlords who are facing problems to engage with their tenants at the earliest possible stage and try and find ways to help them deal with rent arrears. Do contact us for help if this is proving difficult as we have extensive experience in the rentals market and may be able to offer some useful advice.

So with only a few days left until the ban is lifted, the big question remains whether or not Westminster gives in to demands to extend it further in England. In Scotland the moratorium is expected to be left in place until March 2021 and in Wales ministers have announced a six-month notice period for evictions. Following the U-turn on exams earlier this week, anything could happen, so both landlords and tenants will just have to wait and see. Watch this space!

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How PlanetRent makes rent collection easier

Help your tenants pay their rent on time with PlanetRent

The evictions ban was extended earlier this month until 23 August. Great news for renters facing financial hardship but, as we blogged last week, not so good for landlords with no other income to fall back on.

The National Residential Landlords Association is rightly highlighting the problems being faced by landlords whose tenants were already in significant rent arrears before the Coronavirus lockdown. They now have two more months without rent, plus the time it will take to repossess their properties once the ban is lifted. This could be financially devastating for landlords whose rental homes provide the entirety of their income and who have no savings to fall back on. Given that a third of Brits have less than £600 in savings, the outlook for many landlords following the extension of the ban is pretty bleak.

In response the NRLA is calling for:

  • a clear statement from the Government urging tenants who can pay their rent to do so;
  • support for tenants in the form of a boost to the Local Housing Allowance, developing interest-free hardship loans for tenants;
  • providing compensation to landlords who have existing possession orders from the courts but can’t evict tenants until the ban is lifted;
  • ensuring the courts process legitimate possession claims quickly once they open again; and
  • giving priority to possession cases that that began before the lockdown, to those related to pre-pandemic rent arrears, and cases of tenants committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence.

Our new automated lettings platform PlanetRent is designed to help landlords reduce the likelihood of rent arrears. Here’s how it works. PlanetRent collects rent from joint tenants individually – which improves the collection rate – and then jointly from other tenants if one should default.

Landlords can turn on Collect my rent by direct debit, allowing PlanetRent to sort out the paperwork and send tenants a direct debit mandate when they e-sign their tenancy agreement. Not only do direct debit payments mean that landlords can collect the rent straight from the tenant’s bank account but they have the advantage of apportioning payments to a regular date. Some tenants may worry that their landlord can take money out of their account whenever they want. But in fact, customers who pay by direct debit are fully protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee.

PlanetRent automates and simplifies rent collection, There’s no subscription and we have a great pricing model. Our new platform is pay-as-you-go, so why not check it out today and help your tenants pay their rent quickly, easily – and on time!

Why not READ our Property Blog too:

Evictions ban extended until August

Tenants with rent arrears will be relieved that the evictions ban has been extended – but is it fair to landlords?

The evictions ban has been extended to 23 August. The government made the announcement on Friday, as it came under increasing pressure to rollout further emergency measures to help renters beyond the original 29 June deadline.

This is great news for tenants facing financial hardship and we welcome the move to give renters certainty and security. But allowing them more time to repay arrears directly impacts landlords who may themselves be struggling to pay the bills.

Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley and creator of automated lettings platform PlanetRent, comments: “With all the uncertainty going on at the moment, tenants deserve to be protected by the government from evictions if they have not been furloughed or risk losing their job through no fault of their own. However, we believe there must be genuine fairness in the government’s approach and this initiative must be balanced by proving that tenants’ income has gone down.

“One concern is that many landlords are retired. According to the English Private Landlord survey retired people account for 33% of landlords. They may not have a mortgage to claim a repayment holiday on, relying on their property for income – and without rent or furlough monies coming in, they may struggle to make ends meet. So it is vital that tenants do not use the extended eviction ban as an excuse to mistreat the property they live in or to withhold rent if they are not in a genuinely financially difficult situation,” says Mary-Anne.

At Ringley, we continue to press the point to our clients that tenants and landlords should be working together in what is a difficult time for all of us. Recent research by the National Residential Landlords Association points to the fact that this is already largely the case, with the majority of landlords trying to work with their tenants to resolve issues such as rent arrears.

Longer-term, we think the government may need to consider other ways of financially supporting households post-crisis. For example, through higher housing benefit payments. Clearly, the high cost of the furlough scheme means it cannot last indefinitely. Some renters may need extended financial assistance from the government but cancelling rents or getting the government to pay would ultimately be hugely damaging. What do you think?

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