The Government’s debt respite scheme ‘Breathing Space’ launched on 4th May, helping those who are in problem debt by providing legal protections from their creditors for up to 60 days. The protections include freezing most penalty and interest charges on debts, and pausing enforcement action and contact from creditors. If tenants include rent arrears in their Breathing Space application, landlords will be informed by the Insolvency Service. Once a breathing space has started, a landlord (or anyone acting on their behalf) cannot serve an eviction notice – or take possession of a property – on the grounds of rent arrears.
Please note: Following the introduction of Breathing Spaces, landlords must use the updated section 21 and section 8 notice forms given on the Government website which include provisions relating to Breathing Space. See GOV.UK (external link) for the full guidance.
The current ban on bailiff-evictions is ending. After 31st May bailiff-evictions can go ahead, although bailiffs have been asked not to carry out an eviction if they have been made aware a household member has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating. 14 days’ notice is required before an eviction can take place.
Currently, the notice period given by a Notice to Quit or a Notice of Seeking Repossession (section 21 or section 8 notices) must be at least 6 months (bar some exceptions).
From 1st June the minimum notice period will reduce from 6 to 4 months. There are however exceptions where less than 4 months’ notice is allowed:
- Anti-social behaviour (immediate to 4 weeks’ notice required)
- Domestic abuse in the social sector (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
- False statement (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
- 4 months’ or more accumulated rent arrears (4 weeks’ notice)
- Breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (2 weeks’ notice)
- Death of a tenant (2 months’ notice).
From 1st June to 30th September, the period in which court proceedings can be issued after a section 21 notice will reduce from 10 months (from serving the s21) to 8 months: allowing for a 4-month window after the 4 months’ notice period.
From 1st August, notice periods for cases where there is less than 4 months’ of unpaid rent, will reduce again to 2 months’ notice.
From 1st October notice periods will return to pre-pandemic levels.
The furlough scheme and Universal Credit £20 per week uplift have both been extended to the end of September to help people meet their housing costs.
Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit) rates are also being maintained at their increased level in cash terms. See Wigan’s current LHA rates here.
Since February 2021, the new Housing Possession Mediation Service (HPMS) has been active. As part of the possession procedure through the courts, a case is listed for initial review before any substantive court hearing. If an agreement isn’t reached at review stage, and both the landlord and tenant agree, cases can be referred for mediation through the Housing Possession Mediation Service. If mediation is successful, the landlord and tenant sign a legally enforceable agreement explaining the actions each party must take. If mediation is unsuccessful, the case will continue to the substantive hearing.