Evictions: Coronavirus

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 2nd November 2020.

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Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what steps the Government has taken to support small landlords in disputes with tenants who had refused to pay rent before the covid-19 outbreak and who are now unable to evict those tenants as a result of measures put in place to support renters in genuine need during the outbreak.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The best way to support landlords is by helping tenants to pay their rent. The Government has brought forward a significant economic response, including support for business to pay staff salaries through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Job Support Scheme. We have also introduced over £9 billion of measures in 2020/21 that benefit those facing financial disruption due to the current situation. These measures include increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,040 a year for the next 12 months, and a significant investment in the Local Housing Allowance of nearly £1 billion, lifting rates to the 30th percentile from April this year. Discretionary Housing Payments can also be paid to those entitled to Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit who face a shortfall in their housing costs.

Where landlords have found themselves in coronavirus-related hardship, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to three months, including for buy-to-let mortgages. On 2 June, the Financial Conduct Authority confirmed that borrowers can apply for an extension to any holiday already taken while extending the window for new applications to 31 October.

As we move forward, we have taken steps to ensure that landlords can recover their properties in the most serious circumstances whilst still protecting tenants.

Courts restarted possession proceedings on Monday 21 September 2020. The listing of the cases is a matter for the judiciary but they will be prioritising the most serious cases, including extreme rent arrears.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 means landlords must now provide six months’ notice of their intention to seek possession. However, for the most serious cases notice periods have been lowered to give landlords the ability to regain possession more quickly. This includes only requiring 4 weeks’ notice when arrears are equivalent to at least six months’ rent. This supports landlords with tenants in pre-COVID arrears to pursue repossession more quickly.

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