Private sector tenants and evictions: The end of the temporary eviction ban
By Tom Togher, Chief Officer, Salford Citizens Advice Bureau
First the advice!
The special rules protecting private sector tenants – most of whom are Assured Shorthold tenants, during the Covid pandemic, ended at the beginning of this month. Over the last months the courts have not been granting permission for bailiffs to make evictions. This is changing:
• A section 21 notice must give at least 6 months’ notice at the moment.
• From 1 June, a section 21 notice must give at least 4 months’ notice.
• A landlord can only apply to court after the notice period ends.
• Bailiffs can carry out section 21 evictions from 1 June. Tenants will get at least 2 weeks’ notice of eviction from the bailiffs.
There is a backlog of cases and the eviction process takes time. A section 21 notice starts the legal process to end an assured shorthold tenancy. Most private renters have this type of tenancy. If the landlord tries to evict a tenant without going to court first, it could be an illegal eviction. Seek advice! (Where people live with a landlord then they are probably a lodger, and this does not apply.) The section 21 notice must be on Form 6A.
The landlord doesn’t need to give a reason for wanting a tenant to leave. But they must follow certain rules if they want to give a section 21 notice. For example, protect the tenant’s deposit and give a gas safety certificate. Notice periods have been temporarily extended because of coronavirus. Section 21 notices received before 26 March 2020 are no longer valid unless the landlord started court action within 4 months of the date on the notice.
Court Action: A landlord can apply for a possession order if the tenant stays past the date on the notice. They could also apply to restart a case that has been put on hold during coronavirus. The tenant will get a ‘reactivation notice’ if this happens. There may not be a hearing if the landlord uses the ‘accelerated procedure’ so it’s important to return the defence form. A judge decides if a hearing is needed by looking at the information, they have from both the tenant and the landlord. The court can only stop an eviction if there’s a problem with the section 21 notice.
If you need advice about a threatened eviction, and live in Salford, then call us on 0808 27 87 802. Our specialist private sector housing adviser will be able to check whether the notice has been drafted properly, or to give advice about an illegal eviction. We can also give you advice about what your rights are if you are evicted. For help in other parts of Greater Manchester check out our website or call or text the Citizens Advice Greater Manchester Out of Hours Service on 0161 850 5053.
Now the campaigning:
We at Citizens Advice have been campaigning for the abolition on ‘no fault evictions’ (Section 21 evictions) for many years. The system of Section 21 evictions mean that private tenants have virtually no security of tenure. When the government held a consultation on reform of this system in 2019, we at Citizens Advice Salford called for indefinite security of tenure to be created, as is the case in other countries. We believe this to be a major reform to a highly dysfunctional private sector housing market. Section 21 evictions are one of the highest reasons for people becoming homeless, and we believe it to be a major contributor to housing poverty over the longer term. You can see what we said in this consultation on our website.
There is a glimmer of hope contained in the Queen’s Speech at the beginning of May, when the government announced a plan to ‘help more people to own their own home whilst enhancing the rights of those who rent’. The Citizens Advice movement has joined the Renters Reform Coalition, where you can find out more about what you can do to support private sector renting reform and keep up to date with the campaign for change.