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Coronavirus Bill

The Bill has been laid before Parliament to enact a whole host of amendments to legislation proposed by the government in response to the world-wide pandemic.

The bill is currently before the House of Lords and in that version schedule 29 makes some changes to Section 21 and 8 notices. The Housing Act 1988 has been amended to state that these notices will now need to be for at least 3 months to be valid. The 3 months and indeed the bill could be amended by ministers however, this is the only change applicable to assured shorthold tenancies.

Readers may recall that last week we posted about the eviction moratorium that the prime minster announced at a televised coronavirus update. The moratorium would have meant that landlords were prevented from issuing possession proceedings against tenants for at least 3 months. However, this moratorium has not been mentioned in the bill and is unlikely to appear at this stage.

This leaves many landlords in an uncertain position. We have heard that courts are cancelling hearings and bailiffs are cancelling eviction appointments. We are not clear whether this is in response to the prime minister’s announcement about the moratorium or whether it is in response to the social distancing recommendations.

Whatever the reasons may be, if the bill is passed as drafted it does not prevent landlords from continuing with proceedings already issued, commencing proceedings on an expired notice or applying for a bailiff. Unfortunately, whether the courts will hear these cases and whether bailiffs will now proceed with evictions in light of this bill is unclear. Contacting the courts is currently quite difficult no doubt due to staff shortages and the advice to those that work that they should only go to work if absolutely necessary.

What this means is that in reality courts are unlikely to hear possession cases and landlords are likely to be left to wait for the courts and bailiffs to begin listing hearings and evictions for some months to come.

Published 25 March 2020

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