Yet another extension to the ban on evictions will come as a blow to many buy to let landlords facing a significant loss of income. However, as Jeni Browne explains, there is a crucial difference in this extension's legislation, which may help those landlords facing substantial rent arrears.
The UK Government has now launched a further extension to the eviction ban, previously meant to end on Monday 11th January. The new extension means that the eviction ban will be in place until "at least 21st February 2021", with the option to extend it further should it be deemed necessary.
The Government has stated that the ban on evictions applies to "all but the most egregious cases". However, the measures will be continually reviewed.
A new mediation pilot to assist landlords and renters facing court procedures will launch in February. Designed primarily to help parties reach a mutual agreement, it will also allow courts to prioritise the backlog of cases.
The UK's Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, said that "extending the ban on bailiff evictions [would help] to protect the most vulnerable renters." While this news has generally been positively received, many landlords are calling on the Government for financial support in response to yet another extension. The reality is that many landlords rely on rental income, especially if they are in financial difficulty due to the pandemic themselves. Furthermore, the National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) state that "ministers were doing more harm than good" by "repeatedly banning repossessions" as it results in more significant debt for those tenants already in arrears.
However, there is a critical change included in this legislation extension. Previously, landlords whos tenants had "substantial" rent arrears (nine months or more) accrued prior to 23rd March 2020 could still proceed with evictions. Any tenants who fell into arrears after this date were protected.
Crucially, in this latest extension, tenants with six or more months of rent arrears, including debt accrued since the start of the pandemic, are no longer protected by the eviction ban. While this will come as a relief to some landlords, it is still recommended that you seek a mutual agreement with tenants who are in financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19 before starting an eviction process.
As a landlord myself, I understand that news of the eviction ban extension will come as a blow to many. However, it is reassuring that evictions can take place in severe cases where there are, for example, substantial rent arrears or reports of anti-social behaviour. On the other hand, with a significant backlog of cases to be heard in the courts, some landlords could still be waiting a long time, and therefore we would welcome further Government support.
If you or your tenants are in financial difficulty due to the pandemic and you're worried about keeping up with mortgage repayments, you can still apply for a Mortgage Payment Deferral until 31st March 2021. However, it is worth reading our blog on alternatives to a Mortgage Payment Deferral first.
If you'd like to try and reduce your monthly repayments, call our buy to let team for advice on 0345 345 6788 or email email@example.com.