Lawyers have called for early provision of legal advice and warned of increasing cases of homelessness as the pandemic stay on evictions is lifted.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) ended its ban on evictions on 31 May, and will ease emergency measures this month. On 1 June, notice periods reduced from six to four months for most tenants. On 1 August, notice periods for cases where there is four or more months of unpaid rent will reduce to two months. Landlords are required to give 14 days’ notice before an eviction can take place.
However, research suggests at least 350,000 households who rent privately may find themselves in trouble. A November 2020 Citizens Advice survey, ‘Citizens Advice coronavirus data report’ (bit.ly/3fIHOsR) of 6,000 adults in the UK, including 1,300 who rented in the private sector, found nine per cent of those renting privately were currently in arrears (compared to three per cent in the year 2019-2020, in a government survey).
Law Society president I Stephanie Boyce said: ‘Legal advice must be available to all tenants facing eviction from their homes, no matter the circumstances surrounding the eviction, particularly when homelessness is a likely outcome.’
As part of its response to COVID-19, the government introduced a housing possession mediation pilot scheme on 1 February 2021, providing free, independent mediation between landlords and tenants.
Boyce said: ‘The earlier the advice can be received the better.
‘While all efforts should be made to keep tenants and landlords talking and to ensure court litigation is undertaken as a last resort, caution should continue to be exercised around replacing legal advice with mediation. While the cases of COVID-19 have significantly reduced, the economic impacts of the pandemic continue.
‘A balancing of tenant and landlord rights, therefore, needs to continue to be undertaken.’