16 Sep 2020

Ministers will ask bailiffs to agree to a “Christmas truce” on evictions in England and Wales this year to prevent renters from being turfed out of their homes over the festive period.

The government has also announced that evictions will not be enforced in areas subject to local lockdowns as the pandemic continues.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the measures will ensure renters continue to be supported over autumn and winter.

Evictions are due to resume on 21 September following a six-month ban imposed in March as part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The ban was extended at the 11th hour for four weeks amid fears of a potential surge in homelessness.

Legislation extending the notice period on evictions to six months in most cases – except those involving anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse or where renters are more than six months in arrears – was announced in late August and has now come into force.

As part of the changes announced today, guidance will be issued to bailiffs that says they should not enforce possession orders “in the weeks of Christmas” other than in “the most serious circumstances”, the government said. The government has yet to give definitive dates on the period this covers.

The move is intended to ease pressure on public authorities and councils which often face higher demand for their services over winter.

Once courts reopen to eviction hearings, cases involving anti-social behaviour and rent arrears deemed extreme will be prioritised.

Landlords will need to “reactivate” cases from before 3 August with a review hearing before they can be considered and must provide information on how their tenants have been affected by the pandemic.

The government has also issued a reminder that the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) budget for this year is £180m – £40m more than in 2018/19.

DHPs are top-up sums handed out by councils to supplement the income of poor renting households.

Mr Jenrick said: “We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for six months – the longest eviction ban in the UK.

“To further support renters, we have increased notice periods to six 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.”

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