Eviction ban extended again

The eviction ban has again been extended and is now set to last until May 31st for residential evictions.
During this time, evictions can only take place during the most serious circumstances and landlords are required to give six months’ notice to tenants. The extension aims to protect renters during turbulent times, although has faced criticism from landlords and housing campaigners for potentially just delaying a crisis.

What are the exceptions to the ban?

The stay on eviction proceedings aims to protect renters from homelessness during the pandemic; however there are still some situations where evictions are deemed to be acceptable.
An eviction notice can be served where rent arrears exceed the value of six months’ rent. Overdue rent payments accrued during the pandemic is included in this and where at least six months’ of rent is unpaid, a minimum four week notice period is required as opposed to the six month notice period for rent arrears of less than six months’ rent value.

Evictions can also take place is tenants are displaying antisocial behaviour or committing domestic violence in the property.

The courts continue to encourage parties to work together and where possible, make arrangements outside of the court such as payment plans or mediation.

Speak to an expert

The ban on commercial evictions has also been extended until June 30th. It is strongly advised that you seek specialist advice before taking any steps. Get in touch with our team today if you’d like any further information.

The stay on possession proceedings has been extended with an important change

Ministers have announced they are going to extend the ban on possession proceedings until at least 21st February, 2021. Legislation is in place to ensure eviction notices are not served except in serious circumstances to include substantial levels of rent arrears.

Important update: this ban was extended on February 14th until March 31st 2021.

It has been almost a year since the Coronavirus Act was passed, putting measures in place to limit the number of evictions taking place except in the most serious of circumstances. Although the eviction ban has once again been extended, landlords have been thrown a lifeline regarding the recovery of unpaid rent on their properties where substantial rent arrears remain outstanding.

Previous legislation defined substantial rent arears as equivalent to nine months’ rent and any arrears accrued during the first lockdown on 23 March 2020 was excluded from the total.

The term “substantial rent arrears” has now been re-defined. An eviction notice can now be served where rent arrears exceed the value of six months’ rent. Under the new legislation, overdue rent payments accrued during the pandemic can now be included. Furthermore, the amount of rent arrears that must have accumulated prior to issuing possession proceedings has been reduced from nine months down to six months.

Where at least six months’ of rent is unpaid, a minimum four week notice period is required as opposed to the six month notice period for rent arrears of less than six months’ rent value.

If a claim for possession was made before 3rd August 2020 a landlord must also advise the tenant and the court that they still intend to seek possession of the property. A reactivation form will then be needed to proceed.

The courts continue to encourage parties to work together and where possible, make arrangements outside of the court such as payment plans or mediation. New court rules mean landlords are asked to consider such requests prior to any hearings.

At SLC Solicitors, we have robust vulnerability procedures in place to offer our clients alternative options when dealing with vulnerable leaseholders and those adversely affected by the pandemic. We can offer legal advice on these matters as well as assistance to recover arrearage outstanding. Get in touch with info@slcsolicitors.com for more information.

Government extends ban on commercial evictions

The moratorium on the use of commercial rent arrears recovery and forfeiture of lease has been extended, for what is expected to be the final time, to the end of March 2021.

The ban was due to end at the end of 2020 but has been extended by an additional three months to support businesses that are struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly business such as bars and restaurants that have been forced to close for the majority of the year.  Tenants and landlords are strongly recommended to use this extension to work together on finding an agreement about any unpaid rent, however companies that are able to pay rent should be doing so.

Throughout this year, many landlords have made flexible arrangements with their tenants – such as rent holidays – but understandably, this announcement will cause for concern for landlords who have also suffered financially due to the unpaid rent during the pandemic.

Further guidance is expected to be published by the Government and the team at SLC will keep you updated on any further developments.

For any further information or to discuss the options available to landlords currently (both residential and commercial), please don’t hesitate to get in touch today: info@slcsolicitors.com

Coronavirus and evictions: the latest regulations

New regulations that came into force on November 17th 2020 prevent evictions from being enforced (including serving notices of eviction) until 11 January 2021.

There are some limited exceptions to this for the most serious circumstances.

These are:

The regulations also prohibit enforcement agents from taking control of goods inside residential
properties during the period when these regulations are in force. This measure does not prevent
enforcement agents from taking other steps to enforce debts, such as making contact by telephone,
visiting but not entering properties, taking control of goods located outside the home and
enforcement of business premises.

How will this affect your business?

Whilst you cannot enforce or serve any notice of eviction proceedings until 11 January (unless one of
the above exemptions apply), you can still begin the process of forfeiture proceedings, up to the
point of serving your notice.

The most notable exemption for our clients, is the exemption that evictions are permitted to
proceed, if the possession order was granted based on ‘substantial rent arrears’, this is where at
least 9 months worth of arrears were outstanding on the date on which the possession order was
made. Those arrears must have accrued prior to 23 March 2020.

One final point to note is that where proceedings have already been issued at Court, you should be
mindful of issuing any new invoices to tenants, as in doing so you could waive your right to forfeit
and we would always encourage you to take legal advice before doing so.

If you would like to discuss this in any greater detail or are looking for advice on how to take action,
please contact us.

Cornavirus eviction ban to be extended by four weeks

The ban on tenant evictions that was set to end today has been extended by a further four weeks to September 20th. Understandably, this will be unwelcome news to many struggling landlords.

This ban has offered a level of protection for tenants over the past five months and ‘mortgage holidays’ were introduced to help support landlords. However, while in a lot of cases tenants and landlords have been able to work together during this time; there are still many landlords who have been left to foot the bill with a serious loss of earnings.

It should be noted that in addition to the ban, the government has confirmed tenants must be given six months’ notice for evictions unless the eviction relates to serious cases of anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.

When the courts finally do open, there is also expected to be a huge backlog and increased waiting times. The most serious cases will be prioritised first – which will be the cases involving domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour and arrears of over a year.

Your options

Whether you’re considering flexible payment plans and temporary rent reductions for your tenants or you’re faced with anti-social behaviour and uncooperative tenants, it’s essential to seek legal advice to fully understand your position. While in some cases you may be severely limited in your options, your solicitor can help you explore all avenues and decide on the most appropriate plan of action.

At SLC solicitors, we can offer no-recovery no-fee for rent arrear collection, as well as fixed fees for section 8 and section 21 notices and court proceedings so you’re in the best possible position when the courts reopen. We understand how difficult this time may be, and can provide first class legal support while minimising any reputational risk.

The Coronavirus Act and The Impact on Payment of Service Charges & Ground Rent

You will have seen the announcement that private and social renters will be protected from eviction for three months under legislation given the Royal Assent on 25th March 2020, The Coronavirus Act 2020, as well as the offer of mortgage repayment holidays for mortgage borrowers.

These measures mean that residential tenancies are protected from eviction as new claims for forfeiture for missed payments of rent cannot be brought until at least the 30th June. This date could still be extended further.

Currently the Act does not include forfeiture of a long lease but enforcement of any possession order is unlikely to be in the interests of justice and recent guidance has advised that the courts will be suspending all ongoing housing possession action until at least the 30th June 2020, and again this could be extended further.

The government guidance on the legislation is that those in a position to make their rental payments continue to do so, while providing a few months grace to those that are struggling. This is not a rental holiday and as mentioned above, technically does not extend to breaches of lease, for example,  failure to pay service charge and insurance.  Where the breach complained of is as a direct result of these challenging times (i.e. financial) the courts are likely to offer relief to the Leaseholder wherever possible.

You will no doubt be faced with leaseholders who are unable to pay their service charges or ground rents, asking to delay payments. Leaseholders may be experiencing severely reduced incomes and the government are therefore encouraging Landlords to have a sympathetic approach  and to collaborate with tenants on devising flexible payment options, in place of the traditional quarterly rent.  The government has offered protection to property owners in the form of a Mortgage Holiday and  put in place a furlough scheme so workers who might otherwise have lost their jobs will be entitled to 80 % of their income which should reduce the financial impact of the crisis for many. SLC have a bespoke vulnerable leaseholder process to identify those financially negatively affected.

If you are a Property Manager, Service charge budgets and accounts and planned works should be reviewed to ensure that any temporary shortfalls can be accommodated, and payment plans can be offered to give tenants breathing space.

The precise terms of any deferment or reduction in costs will need to be decided between you and your clients but of course both discounts and payment holidays will mean lower income and therefore a reduction in services. Due to the directive on home working this is likely to be a time when you will have higher than average occupancy levels, so you will need to carefully decide which services to reduce or cut and how to communicate this to the residents. Fire safety and the supply of heat, light and water are likely to be considered priorities.

As you will appreciate, the situation continues to change on a daily basis and we will provide further guidance as it becomes available from government.

Update on Courts and Tribunals in light of COVID 19

In order to comply with social distancing the work of courts and tribunals will be consolidated into fewer buildings and the courts will be avoiding physical hearings unless absolutely necessary and using remote hearing wherever possible. This is at the discretion of the courts. Where the judiciary has decided it is appropriate for a hearing to take place via teleconference, all parties will receive a notice of hearing containing joining instructions.

There will be 157 priority court and tribunal buildings open for essential face-to-face hearings. In addition, a further 124 court and tribunal buildings will remain closed to the public but open to HM Courts and Tribunal (HMCTS) staff, the judiciary and those from other agencies. These ‘staffed courts’ will support video and telephone hearings, progress cases without hearings and ensure continued access to justice. All remaining courts and tribunals will close temporarily.

Where it is necessary for a physical hearing, social distancing measures will be in place, but if they cannot and a remote hearing is not possible they are adjourning.  Solicitors and advocates are expected to be proactive in this respect but the courts are taking a more flexible approach to applications and agreeing directions. The London First Tier Tribunal has now suspended all hearings until after 29th May 2020.

The Government has also advised that in these recent times that enforcement of any possession orders is unlikely to be in the interests of justice, whilst the Coronavirus Bill does not include forfeiture of a lease, recent guidance has advised that the courts will be suspending all ongoing housing possession action until at least the 30th June 2020, with the right for this to be extended further.

Further information including which courts will remain open and staffed can be found on daily operation summary of the HMCTS on the Government Website (link).

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update 3

The situation with Coronavirus is ever changing but I would like to reassure you that as a business we are doing everything we can to protect our clients, colleagues and communities without compromising on our service levels.

At this time our offices are closed and our employees are currently working from home. We have a robust contingency plan in place for the duration and all our staff can all access our IT systems remotely within a secure data environment. This will ensure “business as usual” and continued service and support to you during this time

We will liaise with the courts and continue to monitor government advice and guidance and keep you fully advised. At present some courts remain open but some hearings and directions are being postponed for 3 months. Hearings that are going ahead are being dealt with remotely by telephone where possible. If court staff or judges are required to self isolate this is likely to result in adjournments.

If you are an existing client, your main contact will continue to support you through your usual communication methods.

If you are a prospective client and require our support, please contact us at info@slcsolicitors.com

Coronavirus (COVID 19) Update 2

In line with new advice from the government  up to 90% of the SLC  team will be working from home as of today, 18th March 2020. We will do our best to maintain all services but response times may be longer than usual and we ask you to bear with us. We will have a skeleton team based in our office unless government advice changes. This arrangement will be reviewed on a weekly basis.

In the meantime, if you need anything please contact us by email rather than phone where possible.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update 1

The situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) is extremely dynamic and we continue to review the facts, science and government advice to make proactive decisions necessary to protect our clients, our colleagues and our communities.

Our offices are open and our teams are currently working as normal.

Our focus is about minimising the spread of the virus and making sure we continue to provide a service to our clients; whilst keeping our clients, our colleagues and our communities safe.

Our business continuity plan is focussed on three key priorities:

1) The health and welfare of all of our colleagues

2) The health and welfare of all of our clients and associates

3) The continued provision of service to our clients 

Our teams are monitoring developments constantly and we have put in place measures to ensure that we are well-prepared to manage any changes and we are able to continue to deliver our service to clients.

Keeping our clients safe

We recognise that many clients might want to minimise their travel and face-to-face appointments and therefore we are facilitating more appointments by telephone and follow up with email (if legally permitted).

We have advised our staff to avoid shaking hands with clients.

Any of our staff that are feeling unwell will be asked to stay at home. Our current policy is clear and states that staff that have flu-like symptoms should remain at home.

Equally, we are asking clients to call and cancel their appointment if they are feeling unwell and have any flu-like symptoms.

Communal and publicly accessed areas are cleaned regularly throughout the day.

Continued provision of service

We wanted to reassure you of our ability to continue to support our clients in all scenarios.

Our teams are able to access our IT systems remotely within a secure data environment, so can work from other offices or from home, if required.

Being a multi-site law firm, means that that we can temporarily relocate work to other sites across the UK if necessary. Phone calls can also be answered by these other UK offices.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is constantly evolving and we would like to reassure you that we are taking sensible precautions to minimise the potential impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on our clients, colleagues and operations while ensuring it is business as usual.

If you have any questions please reach out to your contact in the first instance, or email info@slcsolicitors.com  and stay safe.

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