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All ongoing housing possession action to be suspended from today

The Master of the Rolls has decided that from today (27 March) the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action.

The move, which was taken with the Lord Chancellor’s agreement, means that neither cases currently in the system or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.

This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.”

It will apply to both England and Wales.

The Ministry stressed that tenants were still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. “If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.”

From yesterday (26 March 2020) landlords have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession.

“This means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the three month notice period can be extended if needed,” the MHCLG said.

“This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After three months if the tenant has not moved a landlord needs to apply to court in order to proceed.”

The MHCLG said it had also put specific measures in place:

  • The Ministry is working with the Master of Rolls to strengthen the pre-action protocol requirement and also extend this to the private rented sector. “This will help landlords and tenants to agree reasonable repayment plans where rent arrears may have arisen.”
  • It had already made £500m available to fund households experiencing financial hardship.
  • As part of the workers’ support package, the Chancellor announced the government will pay up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per month, where workers are placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
  • Both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will increase and from April, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area.

The government has also agreed with lenders that they will ensure support is available where it is needed for landlords. Landlords will be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday where they have Buy to Let mortgages.

The Ministry stressed that landlords remained legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made.

Local authorities are being encouraged to take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to enforcement.

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