18/03/2020

No new possession claims (for at least 3 months)

The Government has just announced emergency legislation to do the following:

  • Stop any new possession claims (social and private tenancies) being issued at court for the next three months (at least).
  • Introduce a new pre-action protocol for possession claims, to apply after the three months (or whenever) which will apply to private as well as social tenancies to strengthen its remit and to “support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.”

The three month mortgage payment holiday already announced for homeowners will be extended to buy to let mortgages. At the end of the three months (or however long) landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish repayment plans, taking into account tenant’s individual circumstances.

Oh and “The government will also issue guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible”, which I think we can probably treat as at best an exhortation to be nice, and we know how well such guidance has usually worked.

The Bill to enact this is not available yet (as at 6.30 pm on 18 March).

Some immediate questions and thoughts…

What about existing possession claims? (on which see a post to follow).

Will this extend to any possession claim, including against licensees, or limited to Rent Act/ Housing Act 1985/Housing Act 1988 only?

Will the new protocol apply to rent arrears claims only? Or would it even extend to section 21 claims?

Is the new protocol going to be a lasting thing, or time limited for a ‘post crisis’ period? It sounds like it would be a good thing as a permanent protocol.

And, what about some additional funding to local authorities to fund tenancy relations officers and enforcement? It seems likely that this will lead to a rise in attempted illegal evictions.

We will be looking at the legislation in detail when it is published, but it has to be said that in the current situation, this sounds like a good thing.

 

 

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.

14 Comments

  1. Julie

    I think this is a good thing.
    I am interested to see the legislation as well as the Protocol, as I feel the social landlord one is very effective.

    I know you will, but please do keep us updated

    Reply
  2. Bill

    A lot better result than the daft ’emergency measures- draft legislation’ in your last post.

    Reply
    • Giles Peaker

      Oh Bill, you really are a bear of little brain. It is much worse for landlords of your attitude. It apparently means that for the foreseeable future, landlords won’t be able to issue any possession claims at all. And even when they can again, private landlords will have to follow a pre-action protocol that they have never had to before. Failure to follow a pre-action protocol can be penalised by the courts.

      The mortgage holiday is not legislation, that is the Govt arm twisting the lenders.

      Reply
      • D Norton

        The government’s proposal actually seems to make things considerably more difficult for landlords, yes. If I’m reading it right, Giles’ version of legislation put a burden of proof on the tenant to demonstrate that any rent arrears were CV-related. Assuming the government follows through on what they’ve announced, their proposal just flat-out puts a stop to all new possession claims for the time being. The tenant doesn’t have to prove a thing.

        Reply
  3. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    Whilst applauding the general idea, operating as I do, solely in the Shadow Private Rented Sector, we’re already seeing the kickback. 2 illegal evictions this afternoon where the landlords, clued up on the suspension of claims, are goading us, saying effectively “What are you gong to do?”. Long term threats of legal action don’t make a dent.

    Imprecations (sorry is that a word?) to follow due process are laughable, as due process has been suspended. We have effectively been disarmed in many senses.

    Injunctions for re-entry? Colleagues appearing regularly in Stratford court have told me that its litigants only. Not even McKenzies.

    I wouldn’t oppose the suspension of possession clams for an instant but in rogue landlord world the shitbags (Legal term) are already building it into their business model

    Reply
  4. chief

    As you suggest, the position for existing claims is very unclear. There are a couple of a stray lines in the press release suggesting this would cover those too: “no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time” and “no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction”, but the vague descriptions of the proposed measures doesn’t make it seem as if it will cover them. And what of existing claims where orders have been made? Also, does this mean no new ASB cases either? No pressure for answers in the follow-up post … ;-)

    Reply
  5. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    With all due respect to Giles Chief, its a necessary sticking plaster solution for a mad crisis we didn’t see even a week ago. It can only be of limited measure and the untangling of it several months hence is going to keep everyone busy for years. Normally legislation is pored over in tiny detail but we aren’t in that position

    Reply
  6. William Hite

    The govt response is typically going at it from the wrong direction and building up innumerable problems for the next decade or so. The simple shortcut is a UBI (universal Basic Income) of say £300 per week per National Insurance number. Flat. No questions. Dead easy to administer. It counts in all regards as taxable income. If you need more for care home residence, disability or children etc that’s a UC application. Control inflation with properly calibrated highly progressive taxation.

    And before anyone asks – no the government doesn’t have to borrow the money. It just creates it, like the banks presently do.

    Reply
  7. Lucy

    Is there any clarity on how this will apply to licensees yet?

    Reply
  8. Bob

    Interesting to see what will happen to the estate agents promising ‘guaranteed rent’ – presumably if it was a contractual term some may claim force majeure?

    Reply
  9. Ben Reeve-Lewis

    Bob a senior industry insider has just told me that a major insurance provider is withdrawing the sale of Rent Guarantee insurance and excluding Corona virus from existing policies.

    Reply

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