Regaining Possession Responsibly

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The coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging time for renters and landlords and the reality is, the effects of this dreadful event will be with us for many more months to come.

It will leave many facing financial insecurity for the first time. Despite this challenge, it is important to stress that there is no reason why the landlord and renter relationship should not remain strong and constructive. 

Wherever possible, it is important that landlords and tenants work together to sustain their tenancies through the pandemic and avoid court action. Possession will take longer to achieve with the socially distanced courts and the new procedures for possession so wherever it can be avoided it should be avoided.

Regaining Possession : Ending tenancies responsibly

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government introduced a number of temporary measures affecting the private rented sector, in order to minimise movements during a health crisis and to ease the anxiety of tenants who might otherwise face homelessness as a result of changed financial circumstances as a result of the pandemic. This included temporarily suspending possession proceedings until 21 September 2020.

Now that the courts have reopened, it is important that they can cope with demand and clear any backlog caused by the Covid crisis. To ensure that this can be done, the NRLA, the Chartered Institute of Housing, The Property Redress Scheme, My Deposits, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and ARLA Propertymark have created this guide to responsible possession.

This downloadable guide contains information on the various changes to the court procedure as well as a pre-action checklist for you to work through.

By following this guide and the '9 golden rules' landlords can be confident they are acting fairly, meeting their legal requirements, and documenting their actions in a way the Court will accept and understand.

Pre-Action Plan: Managing arrears and avoiding possession claims

New rules have been brought in to protect tenants and landlords, and courts will consider the impact that the coronavirus may have had.

This guide contains '9 golden rules' setting out what the parties should do, before considering repossession when rent arrears are involved.

Where possession action cannot be avoided

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to avoid seeking possession and some landlords will still have to serve notices or apply to court once their notice expires.

If you are in this position then you need to be aware of the changes in force until the end of March 2021. 

Changes to notice periods

Until the end of March 2021, the usual notice periods for Section 8 and Section 21 have been changed. Most notices now require six months notice, though section 8 notices can be shorter if an anti-social behaviour ground is cited in England and Wales.

In England there are some other grounds that can potentially shorten the notice period, including rent arrears. The notices vary depending on the type of ground used and which grounds are combined together.

To help landlords navigate the more complex notice requirements in England, the NRLA has produced some guidance on this.

Reactivating Possession Proceedings

To manage the flow of possession cases, a new Practice Direction (55C) has been introduced, setting out new requirements for landlords and tenants. This includes needing to reactivate cases that were stayed during the pandemic.

The rules differ depending on whether your claim was started before 3 August 2020 but there are new requirements on all cases that landlords and tenants need to be aware of.

To help navigate these new requirements, the NRLA has produced guidance on reactivating possession proceedings, as well as starting a new claim in England and Wales.

Enforcing a possession order

Once you have a possession order you may need to enforce it through a bailiff or a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) if your tenant does not leave. 

As with other areas of possession landlords need to be aware that cases will need to be prioritised and bailiffs are likely to take longer to enforce than usual. 

In addition to this, some changes have occurred in the procedure for using HCEOs to enforce a possession order.

The NRLA has produced some guidance on this. This guidance is correct for both England and Wales.