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Substantial’ Rent Arrears In New Eviction Ban Regulations

New regulations came into force on 17 November that means possession cases in England related to rent arrears can be enforced where the arrears amount to nine or more months of rent built before 23 March.

It is a step forward for landlords, as tenants with significant rent arrears will not be exempt from the ban on evictions and bailiffs and High Court Enforcement Officers can move to enforce warrants and complete evictions, according to Property Reporter.

Paul Shamplina, the founder of Landlord Action, said it was welcome news for landlords whose tenants had halted rent payments due to the pandemic and had been allowed to continue living rent-free.

“However, there are concerns about how long it will take those landlords, whose arrears cases fall short of the Government’s definition of ‘substantial’, i.e. nine months, to regain possession,” she added.

Currently, Landlord Action is acting on behalf of dozens of landlords who have severe pre-COVID possession cases. Vanessa Thorn, a landlord whose tenant has not paid rent since November 2018, sought Landlord Action’s help.

After a long battle to get to bailiff stage, a date was finally set down for April 2020, but it was then cancelled as a result of court closures during lockdown. She is now out of pocket by £25,000 in rent plus her legal fees.

Vanessa said: “The case has been mentally exhausting. It took until the end of 2019 to get a court order for repossession because the tenant filed a defence of disrepair. We then had to go through the whole process of proving otherwise and then wait a further four months to get a bailiff date, only to have it cancelled.”

She said that it has now been a further eight months, and the Camden-based tenant has been living rent-free. She added that if the UK courts cannot be relied upon to uphold tenancy agreements, then she wasn’t sure how landlords could continue to operate in the UK.

Despite Landlord Action seeing this announcement as welcome news, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) argues that the new regulations are a missed opportunity to help those tenants in financial difficulty due to COVID-19.

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