Government responds to petition for evictions after two weeks’ rent arrears

The government has responded to a petition calling for evictions after two weeks’ rent arrears, which has attracted almost 12,000 signatures.

Ranjan Bhattacharya

Property investor Ranjan Bhattacharya launched the petition in early October calling on the government to enable landlords to start evictions once a tenant falls more than two weeks behind in their rent.

The government has been under growing pressure to protect tenants from the threat of losing their homes during the coronavirus pandemic, following the end of the temporary ban on landlords evicting tenants, but Bhattacharya wants to see more done to help buy-to-let landlords.

BTL landlords could be facing up to two years without rent due to the government’s decision to introduce a six-month eviction ban, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) recently calculated.

Tenants across the UK are facing months of rent arrear payments as a consequence of the current pandemic.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Landlords can seek possession where tenants have 14 days rent arrears, given emergency legislation, landlords must give six months’ notice in such cases before starting formal possession proceedings.

“We recognise the important role that landlords play in providing homes to millions of people nationwide. Under Section 8 and Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988, private landlords can seek possession for rent arrears of any value.

“For arrears under two months, there are two grounds available – ground 10 applies where any level of rent arrears may have occurred and ground 11 covers persistent late payment of rent. These grounds are discretionary; the Judge will decide whether it is in the interests of all parties to award possession. For possession to be guaranteed, ground 8 allows for possession where there are at least two months/eight weeks of rent arrears. Prior to 26 March 2020, landlords were required to give tenants a minimum of two weeks’ notice before seeking possession under any of these rent arrears grounds.

“Landlords are also able to seek possession of property under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 for any reason after a fixed-term tenancy has ended, the court must award possession if technical and safety requirements have been met. Prior to 26 March 2020, landlords were required to give tenants a minimum of 2 months’ notice before seeking possession under Section 21.

“In order to protect public health given COVID-19, since 29 August 2020, landlords have been required to give tenants six months’ notice, except in the most egregious circumstances. The temporary measures the Government has implemented seek to support the most vulnerable renters and protect public health over winter, whilst ensuring that landlords can exercise their right to justice in the most serious cases.

“We understand that there are some cases that landlords should be able to progress more quickly, because of the pressure they place on landlords, other tenants and local communities. Therefore, notice periods for the most serious circumstances, including in instances of anti-social behaviour and where six months of rent is due, have been reduced to between two and four weeks. Landlords are still able to seek possession for all levels of rent arrears, but must provide six months’ notice if less than six months of rent is due.

“Given the ongoing pressures of the pandemic, the Government believes this approach strikes a fair balance of ensuring landlords can progress the most urgent cases whilst ensuring ongoing protections to tenants. To further protect against coronavirus transmission, the Government has temporarily changed the law to ensure bailiffs do not enforce evictions in England until 11 January 2021. The only exceptions to this are the most serious circumstances, which does not include 14 days rent arrears.

“The Government has been clear that tenants remain liable for paying their rent. An early conversation between landlord and tenant can help to agree a plan if tenants are struggling to pay their rent.

“To help tenants pay their rent, the Government has put in place an unprecedented financial support package. This includes support for business to pay staff salaries through the Job Retention Scheme, with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked until March 2021. We have also introduced substantial welfare support to help those who are facing financial disruption. This includes, in 2020/21, an extra £1 billion to increase Local Housing Allowance rates so that they cover the lowest 30% of market rents. As announced at the spending round for 2020/21 there is already £180 million for local authorities to distribute in Discretionary Housing Payments to support renters with housing costs.

“We are grateful to landlords for their forbearance during this difficult time and are conscious of the financial pressure on landlords. Where landlords find themselves in coronavirus-related hardship, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to six months, including for buy-to-let mortgages. This was further extended, with applications open to 31 March 2021 and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.

“Where possible and appropriate, including cases of rent arrears, we encourage landlords and tenants to consider alternative dispute resolution such as mediation to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute, without the matter needing to go to court.

“When parliamentary time allows, the Government is committed to introducing reforms to deliver a fairer and more effective rental market. This will be achieved by legislating to remove Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, to provide tenants with more security – but also strengthening the grounds for eviction to ensure that landlords have confidence that they can gain possession when it is fair to do so. This includes working closely with the Ministry of Justice to explore how we can simplify court processes and make them work more efficiently.”

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

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31 Comments

  1. Will2

    By the time any s21 notice has expired it is likely s21 will be stolen from landlords by the Conservative landlord bashing government. Although the petition was unlikely to change anything it does reflect the anger many feel about the Conservative’s landlord bashing policies.

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    1. AlwaysAnAgent

      A handful of signatures isn’t reflective of anything.

      The only thing this petition has achieved is to add fuel to fires of left-wing anti-landlord groups. The timing of this petition was appalling.

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    2. Happy Daze!

      It’s not a Tory thing…. Labour would be as bad if not worse!! They all have it in for the private landlord!!

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      1. CoastLet

        Totally agree….if you think it’s bad under the Tories; just wait and see what happens if Labour get in!!

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        1. Will2

          I totally agree Labour and the libs would be even worse. But that does not excuse the conservatives continually attacking landlords which has be going on for years now. As for the comment that 12000 signatures is a handful is an opinion. I guess you could argue that there are around 21000 firms of estate agents in the uk which includes Scotland so just a handful whose views should be ignored?  It is in my opinion significant where landlords are largely fragmented and many would not even be aware this petition was out there! I get the sentiment on timing but the left wing nutters will beat their chests come what may.

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          1. LVW4

            Many, many landlords were aware of this petition, and decided not to sign because they believed it would simply provide the likes of shelter and generation rent with ammunition to support their narrative around greedy private sector landlords, especially during the pandemic.

            The petition may have been frivolous, and if it helps raise the problem with the government, fine. But they already know, and don’t have an answer.

            We need a solution which could help landlords and government, yet still protect ‘vulnerable’ tenants.

            The existing court system is not fit for this purpose. The huge backlog will only get bigger, especially with the introduction of an additional review stage in the process. We need to somehow streamline the court system, but we have seen how the MoJ has been trying to do this for years and we need something which can be implemented quickly.

            What would people think about the idea of implementing a specialist court automation solution which can be quickly deployed in the cloud?

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            1. PossessionFriendUK39

               @LVW4  –   Its Not in the Govt’s interest to Streamline the process,  because that will only burden Local Govt in their Emergency Housing obligations.
              The PRS are being used, via ineffective Civil legal processes, to subsidise welfare Housing shortfalls by the state.

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        2. PossessionFriendUK39

          @ Coast Let,
          Agreed  Coast-Let, but that does not excuse the behaviour of what is supposed to be the party for business in the way they are treating ( predominantly Conservative  voters ? )  law-abiding Landlords.
          The fact that Labour would do  worse is no justification of itself,  merely the lesser of  ‘TWO’  evils.

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    3. Mothers Ruin

      When I responded to the original Government survey about this it made it clear that the abolition of the S21 would not apply to existing tenancies and so if this is the case then tenancies where a landlord has any concerns will go periodic and any new tenants will be scrutinised and probably discriminated against as a result of this change. That said the main reason we issue a S21 is because the landlord wishes to sell up and there may be more of those soon!

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      1. PossessionFriendUK39

        No ‘Mothers Ruin’ that’s not correct.   Whilst there have never been meaningful surveys of why Sec 21 is used, the landlord associations did carry some out and it showed that actually Rent arrears was a main reason, followed by ASB   ( Yes its true there have been more landlords selling up   in last couple of years )
        The reason landlords have been using Sec 21 instead of S8, is that albeit, slightly slower to get to court, providing your ever-increasing number of  ‘ Ducks are in a row ‘ – Possession is mandatory and Landlord doesn’t invariably have to prove anything with fewer Adjournments ( which equal more delay, lost rent and court – legal costs )

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  2. PossessionFriendUK39

    Sadly, I’ve heard much more criticism of this rare initiative in Support of landlords ( something we don’t get from  the member Associations )  such as its timing, or that it should be after 4 weeks arrears and not two.

    Just goes to show that the PRS is not cohesive and it we can’t come together to protect ourselves,  – no wonder we are being left to the wolves.  !

    Not heard any praise for the initiative of launching an attempt to raise the plight of Landlords ( and as for timing, Yes, especially during this pandemic when the Govt have ‘pegged us out to dry’ )

    I would like to know what proactive steps anybody criticising this petition has taken, –  no thought not.

    What would critics of this measure suggest to improve the public image of landlords ? – How about, say we all cut our rents in half  ?

    And if we did, do you think that would satisfy our enemies  –  only momentarily.

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  3. paulgbar666

    Mealy mouthed words from Govt.

     

    It knows that millions of tenants would have been booted out for rent defaulting if LL were given the ability to do so.

     

    Politically that would have been disastrous for Govt.

    It would have cost already struggling Councils billions in TA costs.

     

    Far better to ensure LL couldn’t evict and subsidise feckless tenants to the tunes of billions.

    LL every year lose about £9 billion per year to rent defaulting tenants.

    LL have effectively been forced to provide free housing.

    Govt knows it can do all this as it knows LL DON’T have any political support and can be abused by Govt as much as they like with electoral impunity.

    LL need to understand that they will be prevented from evicting for some time to come.

    Even where and when possible it will be made even more difficult.

    Govt will do EVERYTHING it can to prevent LL operating their business with the ultimate objective of Govt to eradicate small LL to be replaced by large corporates.

     

    Any LL who believes things are going to get better is deluded.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    1. LVW4

      Councils/Housing Associations have enough problem tenants of their own. They don’t want and won’t take tenants who have made themselves intentionally homeless through anti-social behaviour and avoidable rent arrears. And why should they? Which begs the question, where will those tenants find housing? For certain, shelter and GR won’t help!

      While I accept government finds it convenient to force landlords to house freeloading tenants for the [un]forseeable future, I truly believe there needs to be a catalyst which demonstrates to freeloading tenants just what happens to them when they are eventually evicted, and they will be… eventually. They will no longer be covered by the law; they won’t have safe, comfortable, high quality accommodation; they will be at the mercy of the very scumbag landlords shelter and GR believe we all are; and just maybe… others will start taking notice and start appreciating their housing.

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  4. Woodentop

    To reduce to two weeks for rent arrears you would have to change the paid monthly tenancy contract and Housing Law, that is not going to happen anytime soon. If anything with the pressure on Government by Labour who want 3 year protected tenancies …. non-starter. Labour have been pushing private members bills on protecting tenants for a decade or so its not just Torie policies.  
     
    Your tenancy contract is not in default until a pay period has elapsed.  
     
    The problem is the difficulty in getting a tenant out through a slow judicial system, that is often manipulated to delay and delay. That is where the reform is needed.

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    1. Will2

      The mood music that landlords want all tenants out is wrong but the public have been brain washed with this nonsense. Tenants are a landlord’s customer.  Tenants that don’t meet their obligations, those who cause anti social behaviour, those who abuse the property are the ones landlords generally don’t want. The PRS was never designed for social housing which is being pushed onto it due to Government failures yet again.  The vibe put out by Shelter and the likes are out to boost their own income making every landlord sound a crook whilst they (Shelter) house no one.  It could not be further from the truth that landlord want to evict everyone – but who wants to know the truth eh!  Thousands of landlords have and would have worked with their tenants thro the current problems. It is government that has not wish to meet its social security responibilities of adequate benefit payments. The current approach encourages illegal evictions, higher rents and reductions in supply – a perfect storm?. (Sorry Woodentop this was not specifically aimed at you!)

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      1. PossessionFriendUK39

        @Will2, –  Absolutely correct,  84% of tenants satisfied.  landlords only ever have a problem with the same 5% of Freeloading Rogue tenants.   As I’ve said – its not in the state’s interest to fix this,  because L.A’s don’t want to be looking after them either. 
        Much better from Central – local Govt point of view, for the dross to circulate with annonymity around the PRS.
        What Landlords could do with, is a Blockchain reference system for tenants  (  but couldn’t see that ever being allowed by the data Analists   ( and no, I didn’t mean analyst’s )

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      2. Woodentop

        I agree with you Will2, not a problem. When LA’s were legally obliged to house homeless and they couldn’t accommodate them (many come from them in any event!), is when things really took a turn for the worse. I have always championed PRS. SRS  tenants should not be in PRS but too many landlords jumped at the idea of state housing benefits being a reliable source of income, only to discover it doesn’t work that way. Blair was responsible for changing benefit rent paid to tenants and that is over due putting right.

         

        Noticeable imbalance is the go after the landlord by LA’s with a whole book of regulations, but zero action with tenants.

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    2. PossessionFriendUK39

      Re WoodenTop,  –  Sometimes, tenants only pay a part months rent, –  do you think Tesco’s will let you pay half your shopping bill ?

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      1. Woodentop

        I wonder if you lost the legal point of ‘contract’ I was referring to under current legislation, for this petition to go anywhere? You will need to change the Housing Act and tenancy agreement to fortnightly payments if they want to go down that route. I would be most suprised if any Govt listen to that idea (Labour keep pushing for the opposite direction), not forgetting many a tenant is paid monthly. A tenant may pay late but if still within the contracted payement period, they are not in default. This is why a Section 8 often fails at court and landlords prefer to use Section 21. If they bring the rent arrears to under two months of an AST by dropping a pound infront of the judge for example … Section 8 is out the window and have to revert to irregular payments and all the excuse the likes of Shelter come up with and courts discretion …. LA’s saying they have no accommodation and half a dozen crying kids in the background.
         
        I have championed that it should be easier to register defaulting tenants on a register, as some way to reduce landlords risks as these same tenants are not sleeping on park benches and are off looking for the next unsuspecting landlord to take advantage of. But ever time that idea is mentioned LA’s and pressure groups shoot it down, but they are more than happy to have a register on landlords !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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        1. LVW4

          LRS tried this some years ago and I did register a number of delinquent tenants, and hope it saved other unsuspecting landlords. Apparently it didn’t fall foul of the data protection laws, but for some reason, it is no more, just when landlords need it most.

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        2. paulgbar666

          You are totally incorrect there is NO requirement for two calendar months to elapse for S8 purposes. The default qualification occur the day after rent is due. So to issue a 14 day S8 notice may occur the day AFTER the 2nd month default. That means after 32 days. You are one of many who misinterprets S8 legislation to conclude that 2 calendar months need to elapse BEFORE a S8 notice may be issued.   Your contention is ONLY the case if rent is paid monthly in arrears. However S8 is a useless process as tenants can always reduce rent arrears to 1 month. This requires LL to repeatedly launch new legal proceedings when the tenant becomes 2 months in rent arrears again. Which is why LL use the S21 process.  
           
          You are also incorrect in your belief that by dropping a £1 onto the Judge’s desk they can avoid S8 proceedings.
          Again you are incorrect 1 month of rent arrears would need to be paid in total to leave just 1 month’s rent arrears.
          Partial payment of the 2nd month rent arrears still means 2 months of rent arrears even if the 2nd month is not the total month of arrears reduced by your £1.
           
          You really need to bone up on the S8 process.
          God help the PRS if S8 is used as it is.
          If it is it would literally take years to evict a rent defaulting tenant.
          Better off issuing a CCJ and then enforcing it with HCE including garnishee orders.

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          1. Woodentop

            I think you will find you are wrong in your interpretation of my comments. I never said anything about needing to give two months notice!  
             
            An order may only be made if the outstanding rent at the time of the possession order is two or more months in rent arrears for a mandatory possession order to be issued. You have to prove at the hearing that before the hearing two months rent was outsanding and the amount of two months rent is still outstanding when the judge makes the order.
             
            Tenants are allowed to make representation at any time, even the last minute and known to happen infront of the judge just before they put pen to paper. They are also allowed to counter claim with property defects and then the fun realy starts. 
             
            Section 8 is a breach of contract court action. This means that to win your case you need to prove that your tenant is in breach of the terms of your agreement. If you are successful you should obtain a possession order under one of 17 specific statutory grounds (Housing Act 1988, section 8, schedule 2), plus if there’s debt involved, a you can also obtain a money order (CCJ). However, it’s not always so straightforward.
             
            Once you commence a legal action there’s no turning back. You must see it through to its conclusion, or pay the other side’s legal costs to back out. If your tenant decides to defend the case or brings a counter claim against you, then you could be in for some serious costs, especially if your tenant has legal aide and legal assistance. If you lose the case all the costs could fall on you and the whole process can take up to 12 months. I know of a case where Shelter made use of a Barrister with counter claims, which frightend the Landlord with potentuial costs awarded againgst him if he lost (arguably as a ploy to backout) but they held their nerve and won. Took a year under Sec 8 and didn’t get a penny of the £14k rent arrears that accumalated.

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            1. paulgbar666

              Totally agree with your contentions.

               

              Tenants can game the system everytime by reducing arrears to 1 month when a court hearing occurs.

              Which of course could be many months.

              S8 as you cogently describe is just even more dysfunctional than the current S21 process.

               

              Personally I would still use the S21 process as long as it lasts.

              I would use the CCJ process in future.

              A tenant may not be paying rent but with a CCJ a garnishee order may be obtained.

              Made easier by the tenant remaining at the property.

               

              Tenants don’t expect a CCJ while still in occupation.

              But for the very small cost worth doing.

              It might cause the tenant to pay up or vacate.

              Either way they lose.

              That CCJ will follow them around for at least 6 years and even longer if applied as a charge to title deeds of any property they might have an interest in.

              Personally I would advise any rent defaulting tenant that as soon as they defaulted I would apply for a CCJ.

              I wouldn’t bother with S8 while S21 exists.

              But I would use CCJ while waiting for the S21 process to play out.

               

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              1. Woodentop

                Section 21 is and has always been the best move.

                 

                Government are under pressure from tenant lobbyists to scrap Section 21 and this is where skulduggery comes into play and it wouldn’t surprise me if most politicians (except lobbying MP’s), and landlords are fully aware of the facts. You can’t counter a Section 21 correctly served, as most landlords do.

                 

                Its the counter claims available to tenants that they are really about and waiting to use to full effect when Section 21 is no longer available. 95% or more of landlords and agents have no idea what is in store.

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            2. paulgbar666

              S8 for rent arrears is mandatory .

              Irrelevant what the property conditions are.

              CCJ goes with S8.

               

              Only court time delays things.

              No barrister can prevent S8 for rent arrears.

              It is not subjective unlike many of the S8 grounds.

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              1. PossessionFriendUK39

                I’m afraid the Property Condition is VERY Relevant. Disrepair is increasingly being used in recent years.
                Sometimes it takes a large chunk out of rent arrears, even with  just a small chunk a finding in some favour of Disrepair  for the Tenant will mean having to pay  several £ K in defendants legal costs.
                Its not been unknown that Landlords in excess of £10 K  Arrears have come out of a Sec 8 Court case ( adjourned ( and thereby further delayed )  Owing the tenant, and consequently not getting Possession. Believe me, I’ve seen these cases, – they’re not ‘ pretty ‘  !

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                1. paulgbar666

                  As far as I am aware property condition is a separate issue from rent arrears.

                   

                  That is for the tenant to sue for after they have been evicted and possibly paid the rent arrears.

                  I’m not aware of S8 legislation being changed.

                   

                  Or does S8 and S21 process get affected if a tenant cites disrepair.

                  If so any tenant can trash a property citing disrepair and prevent eviction.

                   

                  If this is the case then a LL could never evict if the tenant kept citing disrepair.

                   

                  Massively gaming the system.

                  Of course lenders DON’T care about disrepair they will just repossess very quickly once a LL defaults on two mortgage payments.

                  So the tenant won’t remain in the property very long.

                  Yes it means potential bankruptcy for the LL.

                  These potential circumstances make it pointless being a mortgaged LL with RGI on a tenant or their possible guarantor.

                   

                  Personally I’m not letting on AST anymore and will be selling up if I can.

                  Trouble is I need an EWS1 form.

                  That is looking extremely unlikely so I will be filing for bankruptcy if I am made to pay remediation costs.

                   

                  There are going to be lots of lenders severely out of pocket!!

                   

                  If I was a lender I would stop ALL lending on flats.

                  The EWS1 form checking have revealed a whole load of significant building defects making them effectively unsellable as no lenders will lend on flats.

                  This situation has the makings of the biggest disaster ever for the UK property market.

                  Millions of bankrupted flatowners and millions of homeless tenants with empty worthless flat blocks.

                  In many cases better off demolishing and rebuilding.

                  The Credit Crunch effects on the property market will be a minor issue compared to the cladding debacle.

                   

                  I’m already planning for bankruptcy.

                  I will have no traceable assets apart from 4 dud flats and a pension which can’t be touched.

                  Many flatowners will be better ofc resigning from jobs so they have little income that could be used to pay mortgage debt shortfalls.

                  Without an EWS1 form you are pretty much stuffed as a flatowner!

                   

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                  1. Woodentop

                    Sadly your knowledge of the Housing Act and court procedure is misinformed on the finer detail.

                     

                    You hit the nail no the head when you said … “any tenant can trash a property citing disrepair and prevent eviction”. Its not that simple but once the word gets out how to rig a property .. that is the nightmare that will unfold. Landlords and Agents need to be very careful with inspections and keeping exceptionally good records for court hearings.

                     

                    Tenants have always been able to counter a Sec 8 Rent Arrears, (Not Sec 21) as they are permitted o withhold rent for repairs that the landlord is in breach of the tenancy contract and challenge that is the reason why the landlord is not getting the rent. Trouble is tenants think they don’t have to pay the rent and spend it on themselves, when they have to pay it once the work has been done. No repairs done, your asking for trouble. As I said 95% of Landlords haven’t a clue what’s in store once Sec 21 disappears. Sec 8 will be the only route and have to be water tight with no counter claims to get the mandatory possession order. Defence will hike up potential costs to scare landlords off going to court. Meltdown.

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  5. CountryLass

    I think 2 weeks is too soon. I think we should be able to serve the paperwork at one months arrears, where there is a proven history of arrears, I’m not talking a couple of days that could be down to the rent being sue on a bank holiday or weekend or whatever, but persistently a week or so late. As the court process takes a couple of months, this would help ensure that the Landlords losses are minimised, whilst giving the tenants chance to significantly reduce the arrears.

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    1. PossessionFriendUK39

      @CountryLass,  I agree with you and a lot of what Will2 says,  but when I see a landlord sticking their head above the parapet with a petition,  my choices are to show solidarity, or not.   ( especially when you tend to only get a part of what you seek anyway )
      I choose solidarity with landlords.

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  6. paulgbar666

    When the AST is abolished it should be perfectly possible to change housing law to facilitate 14 day eviction periods for rent default with no court action required.

     

    No bailiffs either.

     

    Just Police assistance for the LL if the tenants refuse to vacate taking ALL their items

     

    LL should be able to dump any tenant items remaining on the street; no Tort law to intervene.

    However most future tenancy contracts will have a monthly element.

     

    There it makes logistical sense for 46 days to elapse when a tenant msy be removed by the LL with no Court process required and where Police will assist if the tenant refuses to vacate.

     

    That 46 day period will include 2 months missed FULL CONTRACTUAL RENT payments and 14 day notice period.

    There would be no need for any official notice.

    It would be in the TA that 14 days after 2 months rent default the LL could remove the tenant.

    The most a LL would be required to do is confirm with the tenant the day before of the LL intention to remove the tenant the following day.

     

    There would be NO requirement of proof of this but it would merely be advisory.

    The tenant should presume if no contact they would be removed on the 14th day.

    Only where rent is paid in arrears would the LL need to add another 31 days to the 46

    So a quite simple eviction process for any rent defaulting tenant.

     

    It would save millions of court hours and save billions for LL who could then relet to rent paying tenants generating taxable revenue.

     

    How much tax would be generated from an additional £9 billion in rental income!?

     

    Of course Govt saves having to pay out £9 billion in TA costs by ensuring the eviction process is made as dysfunctional as is possible.

    It knows that the vast majority of evictions are fault based for rent default.

     

    It clearly doesn’t wish to pick up the £9 billion tab it would cost to house rent defaulting tenants.

     

    In fact it would be many more billions!

     

    Far better to make the LL pay for a long time saving the Govt fortunes.

    The tax loss whilst significant pales into insignificance compared to TA costs and that is even if it would be available.

    It is clearly politically and financially expedient to force LL to pay for rent defaulting tenants.

    That position will NOT change.

     

    LL should be aware of these eviction difficulties.

     

    If not they shouldn’t bother being LL.

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