26/03/2020

All housing possession claims suspended from 27 March – Coronavirus update.

(Update 27 March. For the details of the stay, see here on the new Practice Direction 51Z  )

Well now, this is big (and also finally, it would seem, some clarity). According to this MHCLG press release from this evening:

From tomorrow (27 March 2020) following a decision by the Master of the Rolls with the Lord Chancellors (sic) agreement the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales

So, the judiciary has suspended all current possession proceedings for 90 days. We really need to know the detail of this – for example, are all current warrants and High Court writs of possession suspended? But this is big. It goes well beyond the Govt’s limited extension of the required notice period for some types of tenancy.

This will apparently include:

  • Mortgage possession claims against homeowners
  • All tenancies, including contractual tenancies, and ‘non-secure’ council tenancies of temporary accommodation
  • Licences that are not excluded from the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 – this includes property guardians, those in s.193 HA 1996 temporary accommodation under a licence, and some employment related accommodation.

What this doesn’t do.

Let us be clear, this is effectively an administrative decision by the senior judiciary. It is just a suspension, for a period of time. Everything will restart, in the same position (and possibly a worse position) as soon as the suspension is lifted,

It does not cover those whose occupation is excluded from statutory protection or the Protection from Eviction Act. So, for example, lodgers, homeless applicants housed under licence under s.188 Housing Act 1996, and some people where accommodation is part of their employment.

But (needing detail aside, and this is an MHCLG press release, not from the Master of the Rolls, after all), this sounds like the immediate relief and temporary protection that was so badly needed, and which the Govt had not delivered, despite ‘misleading statements’ to the contrary.

The huge issue, of coronavirus-caused rent arrears, remains to resolved. Unless that is somehow dealt with, there will be a flood of evictions awaiting the lifting of suspensions. Landlords – quite rightly – get a 3 month (and maybe more) mortgage suspension, and can’t then face possession or receivers from the lender at the end of that three months if they don’t pay up immediately. Why is there no equivalent provision on coronavirus-related rent arrears?

 

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

13 Comments

  1. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    I totally get why govt are doing this but watch the floodgates open on illegal evictions

    Reply
  2. BJ

    The ironic thing is that some people are waiting on the eviction to be housed by local authorities. Whether its overcrowding, unsuitable conditions, anti social behaviour or something else, this throws a spanner in the works for those desperate to move on.

    Reply
    • Daniel N

      I daresay a quarantine has thrown a spanner in works of *a lot* of people’s plans, housing problems or no.

      Reply
  3. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    Omelettes and eggs folks

    Reply
  4. Bri

    ‘…this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.’

    I know you have said that clarity is required, but is your reading of this (at the moment) that claims can still be issued and may progress to an Order being made (but not enforced for three months)? Similarly claims that are currently working through the system can still progress to an Order being made? I’m also wondering if defendants might be confused by this and believe that they don’t need to take any action because everything has been postponed…. Any thoughts?

    Reply
  5. speyejoe2

    From a rented housing / rehousing perspective the proverbial WILL hit the fan at end of June beginning of July and the backlog and then all accrued cases of eviction from the 3-month period will see all ‘ordinarily expected’ eviction cases see the duration between beginning and ending increase by months and likely remain at the higher duration level.

    Then the significantly reduced rented housing moves in an average 3 month period of circa 75,000 in English social housing and 1.12 million in English PRS housing will systemic create more homelessness as a high percentage of the ‘entry’ to rented housing will be reduced. The old supported housing maxim of “if you can’t move ’em out then you can’t move ’em in” – and add to the systemic homeless problem we already have.

    I’ve seen (but have no factual source) that 1.1 million self-employed rent in England. We are told (some of) them will get some ‘grant’ but not until June at the earliest which flippantly but validly coins a new verb for self-employed HA tenants of to ‘groundate’ …

    In total agreement with Ben Reeve-Lewis when he says expect a much higher number of unlawful evictions too …

    Then we have the same business reality that the proposed banning of s21s will give that will see the PRS inevitably refuse to accommodate the perceived ‘riskier’ tenant as they cannot get rid and when you factor in that of the circa 140k single homeless that England creates each year just 13k are rehoused by the social rented sector and 90% by the private landlord the sh*tstorm that will hit single homelessness (hostels and the one-third of refuge residents who are single) …

    Interesting and some very nice monetary returns for some ahead…

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      I think we made that point (albeit more with more brevity) in our posts.

      Reply
  6. John Broom

    I have a warrant order for possession dated the 03 March 2020 and now the bailiff will not be able to carry out the eviction for 3 months. The tenant was having his rent paid for by Universal Credit which he was not paying to me the Landlord. If he stays for 3 moths he could get a nice income by staying in my fat.

    Reply
    • Wendy Wilson

      Apply to the DWP for a managed payment?

      Reply

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