The Covid-19 pandemic has made things tough for lots of people who have rent or mortgages to pay.

Many are struggling, having lost their job or taken a pay cut.

The Government put additional rules in place at the beginning of the lockdown to make sure people were not made homeless as a result of the pandemic.

Between 23 March and 20 September 2020, no one could be evicted from their home – even if they couldn't pay their rent or mortgage.

People with mortgages, including buy-to-let property owners, could also apply for a payment holiday.

But, starting 20 September, eviction proceedings can progress through the courts.

If you're worried about eviction, or if you're a landlord wondering where you stand or you're having difficulty paying your mortgage, here are some useful things to know.

Rules on eviction in England and Wales

Landlords do not have to give a reason for evicting their tenants. But landlords must follow certain rules.

It's a crime for a landlord to harass tenants or force them out of a property without following the correct procedures.

Harassment can be anything that makes tenants feel unsafe or forces them to leave. It includes

  1. turning off gas or electricity
  2. withholding keys
  3. refusing to carry out repairs
  4. deliberate anti-social behaviour by a landlord or someone on their behalf
  5. threats or physical violence.

A landlord can be guilty of illegal eviction if they

  1. don't give correct notice
  2. change the locks
  3. evict without a court order.

Typically, landlords can end a tenancy and evict tenants in one of two ways: with a Section 21 Notice or with a Section 8 Notice.

Section 21 Notices

To end a tenancy without giving a reason, a landlord can use a Section 21 Notice.

A Section 21 Notice can't be used in all cases – it can only be used if the tenant has an assured shorthold tenancy.

Find out more about Section 21 Notices from Citizens Advice

Section 8 Notices

Landlords use Section 8 Notices to evict tenants who are in breach of their tenancy agreement. For example, a Section 8 Notice can be used in situations where

  1. there are rent arrears
  2. the tenant has damaged the property
  3. the tenant is causing a nuisance to neighbours.

The amount of notice a tenant might receive depends on what grounds of possession have been used. Normally, tenants will receive at least 14 days' notice.

However, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has temporarily changed the law around evictions. The length of notice landlords must give now depends on the type of tenancy a tenant has and when they were asked to leave. 

Find out more about Section 8 Notices from Citizens Advice

If you are having trouble paying your rent or are about to go into arrears, talk to your landlord. You might be able to agree to pay lower rent for a while, although your landlord does not have to accept this.

Help for tenants facing eviction

If you are a tenant threatened with eviction and need help finding somewhere else to live, contact your local council, which can

  1. check if the Section 21 or Section 8 Notice is valid
  2. find out what the landlord intends to do next
  3. put you in touch with other organisations who will be able to help or advise you.

Mortgage payment holidays

People struggling to pay their mortgage can take payment holidays until the end of October 2020.

Landlords with buy-to-let mortgages might be struggling. They can also do take a payment holiday. It means they have the same protection as tenants during these tough times.

Speak to your lender

If you're struggling to pay your mortgage, speak to your lender. Try to find ways that will help you both. Suggest paying a lower mortgage for a time or having an extended payment holiday. New agreements should be in writing.

It will be better if you can come to an arrangement where you can stay in your home. If you can't agree, court proceedings might be the only option.

Court proceedings

The Financial Conduct Authority (which regulates lenders) has ordered lenders not to start or continue court proceedings for unpaid mortgage payments until 31 October. If your case goes to court, there will be a possession hearing. Your lender may be granted a possession order by the court which will tell you the date by which you must leave your property.

Find out more from the Financial Conduct Authority

Fighting your case

If you think you should be allowed to stay in your home, you can fight your case. But challenging it might be expensive. Make sure you have a good case and get good advice.

Contact Citizens Advice or a regulated legal adviser for help.

Bailiffs

If you don't leave the property by the date given, your landlord or lender can apply for bailiffs to visit you.

Only court bailiffs can evict you from your home. They will be either County Court bailiffs or High Court enforcement officers.

The bailiffs must give you at least seven days' notice before their first visit.

There are rules bailiffs must follow. This includes the times of day they can visit, and what happens if children are in the home when they visit.

They can only take your belongings to gather the debt. They can't take anything that belongs to someone else.

They can't take anything you need to live, such as a fridge or cooker.

Find out more about your rights when bailiffs call from GOV.UK

More help

The law around evictions in England and Wales has changed a lot during the last six months.

For help visit Shelter, Citizens Advice or the Money Advice Service.

Find out about your rights at GOV.UK.

For legal advice in these difficult situations, always think about contacting a regulated legal adviser.

The governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have published information for tenants about eviction during the pandemic:

Good to know

Legal Choices is a free website run by legal services regulators in England and Wales.

The information here is independent and just the facts. We're not trying to sell you anything.

We just tell you about things that are good to know to help you make better choices about legal issues and lawyers.

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