The government has finally laid its updated lockdown regulations in front of parliament to clarify when landlords with existing possession orders can move to evict, revealing that one of the exemptions will be ‘substantial’ rent arrears, now to be classed as those over nine months.

As expected these regulations, which will come into force tomorrow and only relate to England, enable bailiffs to attend properties to execute a warrant of possession if it concerns trespassers, the death of a tenant, an unoccupied property and tenants involved in anti-social behaviour or, crucially, those who have built up substantial rent arrears.

It is this last point that many landlords and solicitors have been waiting for clarification on; how long can a tenant have not paid their rent before an existing possession order can proceed during the lockdown.

18 months’ wait

This may seem trivial when the lockdown is only a month long, but the way the law has been framed, landlords given the go-ahead to evict will now have been waiting at least 17/18 months before being able to deal with a tenant with substantial rent arrears.

This is because the eviction ban exemption only kicks in after nine or more months of unpaid rent, but any arrears accrued after March 23th are ignored – so another eight months on top of non-payment before an existing possession order can then proceed.

Today’s new regulations follow a sustained campaign by the industry to seek clarification, as well as efforts by leading PRS lawyer David Smith (pictured) who says his effort to point out that the the government ‘requesting’ bailiffs do not enforce legal evictions was in itself likely to be unlawful.

“This is a matter for Parliament and who gets evicted should not be at the whim of the Lord Chancellor,” he says.

Unfair

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Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, says: “In trying to arrive at a compromise the Government has failed to help those in genuine need whilst rewarding those whose arrears have nothing to do with the pandemic, and in some cases are wilfully not paying their rent.

“This is doing nothing to help those tenants who are trying to do the right thing and seeking to pay off their debts.

“Instead of prolonging the problem with short-term fixes, the Government needs to urgently bring in a financial package to enable tenants to pay off rent arrears.”

Read the new regulation in full.



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