man contemplates eviction

Ban on Tenant Evictions to End in March 2021. Here’s how to navigate these changes.

A Covid-19 relief measure placing a ban on tenant evictions, helping a minority of hard-hit private renters, is set to end in March 2021.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has enforced a ban on bailiffs enforcing court orders that enable landlords to evict tenants in England. This ban – rolled out last year as part of a significant tenant support package – is set to cease at the end of this month under the new proposed legislation.

Key Date

31st March 2021 – Ban on Section 21 tenant evictions ends

What is a Section 21 tenant eviction and why were they paused?

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the government announced a ban on Section 21 tenant evictions in England to protect private renters who have fallen behind on rent as a result of the pandemic.

After a brief lift in the ban in September 2020, the government announced an extension to the ban on 11th January 2021 after introducing the latest national lockdown.

But what does this mean? A Section 21 eviction – the process by which a landlord can take possession of a property let on an assured short-hold tenancy – usually progresses through three stages:

1.     Eviction Notice – most tenants are entitled to 6 months’ notice of court action

2.     Court action – most landlords need a court order to evict tenants

3.     Eviction by bailiffs – only bailiffs can enforce the court order after giving two weeks’ notice of the eviction date

Only the last stage – eviction by bailiffs – has been paused over the past 12 months, making it a ban on bailiffs’ evictions in England. Exceptions to the rule have remained in place throughout including for illegal occupation, anti-social behaviour and perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Has government legislation only affected stage three of a Section 21 eviction?

Previous legislation in November 2020 also carried a provision that eviction notices (stage one of a section 21 eviction) could only be served for arrears where the amount owed to the landlord totalled “equivalent to nine months’ rent” and that “any unpaid rent arrears accrued after 23 March 2020 must be disregarded”.

However, in January 2021, there was a tweak to this provision. The government removed this protection for tenants with six months’ rent arrears since the pandemic began and removes references to disregarding debt built up during the pandemic.

This means that since January 2021, landlords have been able to give notice of court action for eviction if the tenant has totalled at least 6 months’ rent arrears.  

How has this affected the residential property sector?

Research by lettings and estate agents, Barrows and Forrester, published this January shows that the majority of tenants have seen little impact on their ability to pay rent during the pandemic. 1,144 current UK tenants were surveyed as part of the research, with just 18% stating they have struggled or failed to pay their rent. 992 current UK landlords were also surveyed, with 12% stating that they had been blocked from evicting a tenant during the pandemic. This research suggests that the vast majority of tenants should be safe from court action and subsequent enforcement of eviction from the end of March. 

This is sadly not the case for all tenants. In a joint statement by relevant organisations, including the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), concerns for the “at least half a million private renters…in arrears due to the economic impact of Covid-19” was raised. Their statement ends by calling for action to protect this hard-hit minority.

We will continue to keep you updated on this story as it develops.

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