The “Winter Truce” period in respect of evictions which was due to end today has been extended by The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 (“the Regulations”). As before, County Court Bailiffs cannot conduct evictions unless an exemption applies. The exemptions are as follows:
- Possession orders made against trespassers;
- Possession orders made wholly or partly on the basis of anti-social behaviour;
- Possession orders made wholly or partly on the basis of a false statement;
- Possession orders made wholly or partly on the basis of domestic violence;
- Where the property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant; and
- Where there are substantial rent arrears.
Under the previous Winter Truce regulations, “substantial rent arrears” was defined as 9 months’ worth of rent or more outstanding at the date on which the order for possession was granted, and any arrears accrued after 23 March 2020 could not be included in the calculation. The new Regulations have relaxed this requirement; evictions can now be conducted if six months’ worth of arrears or more are outstanding. There is no requirement for six months’ worth to have been outstanding at the date on which the possession order was made, nor for the arrears to have accrued before 23 March 2020. This means that possession orders can be enforced if there are at least six months’ worth of arrears, regardless of when the arrears accrued and regardless of the amount of arrears at the time the order was made. This is likely to be welcome news for landlords who have been unable to enforce orders made in respect of arrears which accrued during the lockdown period/s.
Landlords who are unable to rely on an exemption are not prevented from applying for a Bailiff appointment, but such appointments cannot take place until the restrictions end on 21 February 2021, subject to any further extension. Tenants must be given 14 days’ notice of an eviction, which means it is likely that 8 March 2021 is the earliest date upon which appointments will be arranged.