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Government has released latest details of its plan to stop evictions during the pandemic, but campaigners have jumped on them as not being enough.
The government has now changed the law to increase notice periods to six months, meaning "renters now served notice can stay in their homes over winter", with time to find alternative support or accommodation.
As set out previously in the last announcement on evictions, exceptions to this are the most serious cases, including ASB or fraud.
Jenrick also confirmed that if an area is in a local lockdown that includes a restriction on gathering in homes, evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs.
From 21 September courts will start to hear possession hearings again. When cases are heard again these will be subject to new court processes and procedures which the Judiciary have developed. These include:
- The prioritisation of cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as extreme rent arrears where landlords would otherwise face unmanageable debts.
- No cases from before 3 August 2020 will immediately proceed to hearing, but will have to be ‘re-activated’ by the landlord and then subject to a new review hearing, at least four weeks before the substantive hearing.
- Landlords will also need to provide the courts and Judges with information on how tenants have been affected by the pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will be able to adjourn proceedings until the information is provided.
There will also be a ‘winter truce’ on the enforcement of evictions, with no evictions permitted in England and Wales in the run up to and over Christmas except in the most serious circumstances, such as cases involving anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse.
Government says this will ensure "vulnerable tenants are not forced from their homes at a time when public and local authorities may be dealing with the usual level of increased demand for services during this time."
To achieve this, guidance will be issued to bailiffs that they should not enforce possession orders in the weeks of Christmas.
Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, said: "We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for 6 months – the longest eviction ban in the UK. To further support renters we have increased notice periods to 6 months, an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter months.
"It’s right that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice. Our legislation means such cases will be subject to shorter notice periods and then prioritised through the judiciary’s new court processes."
Alicia Kennedy, Director at Generation Rent, said: “It is welcome that renters will not face eviction by bailiffs around Christmas or where there are lockdown measures. But outside that, thousands of renters who have had eviction notices during the pandemic still have no assurance from the government whether they can stay in their home.
"Those who have lost income will find it difficult to find a new home so face many months of uncertainty, getting deeper into debt. The government must offer them more support than a Discretionary Housing Payment pot that was set up before the pandemic hit.”