Possession cases that began before lockdown – including proceedings against anti-social tenants – will be prioritised when the courts reopen next month.
Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher MP confirmed the news in response to a written question asking whether the current evictions ban will be extended.
The NRLA has been campaigning for cases which began before the pandemic to be given priority, after it was revealed some landlords and neighbours were trapped with abusive tenants, with the eviction ban preventing landlords repossessing the properties.
Other tenants had already built significant arrears pre-Covid, but the pandemic put a halt to proceedings, causing significant hardship to landlords.
Christopher Pincher MP said: “The current pause for possession cases in the courts will end on the 23 August. This is an important step towards transitioning out of emergency measures and allowing the market to operate, ensuring all people – landlords and tenants – have appropriate access to justice in cases that are not related to COVID-19, such as cases of anti-social behaviour and longstanding cases that pre-date lockdown measures being put in place.”
Mr Pincher was responding to a written question from Helen Hayes MP (Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood) about the eviction ban extension, and he reiterated that the pause on possession cases will end on 23rd August as planned.
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the NRLA said he was pleased the minister had listened to what the NRLA had to say.
He said: “The Minister’s comments give landlords much needed confidence, although we will await the final details of any new procedural arrangement with interest.
“We have been campaigning for cases to be prioritised when the Courts reopen, particularly to deal with those involving domestic abuse and anti-social behaviour.
“We are also calling for cases that have been in the system prior to the pandemic, such as those involving rent arrears that have nothing to do with Covid-19, to be heard as a priority.
“We continue to encourage landlords and tenants to sustain tenancies wherever possible. The reality is that it will take some time for the Courts to get back to pre-lockdown levels of operation.”
Mr Pincher said that once the courts do reopen landlords “must follow strict procedures if they want to gain possession of their property, depending on the type of tenancy agreement in place and the terms of it”.
He added: “The Government has also been working closely with the judiciary, legal representatives, the advice sector and housing sector stakeholders through a working group convened by the Master of the Rolls. This group is considering arrangements that will mean that courts are better able to address the need for appropriate protection of all parties in the current legislative framework once the suspension of proceedings ends.”
The NRLA is part of the judicial working group on possessions. The association has brought about significant changes for landlords and tenants during the coronavirus pandemic, and continues to campaign for further measures to help landlords and tenants. The association has a five-point plan to help support the private rented sector which you can read about here.
Of course ending a tenancy is always a last resort, and landlords will always want to priorities salvaging a troubled tenancy before making a potentially very expensive possession claim, which is likely to be disruptive and unpleasant for all concerned.
The NRLA has also produced a set of guidance, supported by a broad coalition of partners, aimed at helping landlords and tenants to find solutions to rent arrears accrued at this difficult time. This guidance can be downloaded here.