Thursday 19th November
As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column, this week we focus on renters worried about eviction.
I have fallen behind with my rent payments as my income has been severely reduced over the last 6 months and I am really worried about being evicted. What is the process?
The ban on evictions came to an end in September and there is evidence to suggest that concern is building amongst renters about the possibility of losing their home, with previous research suggesting that over a million people have fallen behind on their rent due to Covid-19. We are calling on the Government to urgently consider direct financial support to help renters clear their debts and stay in their homes, and so make good its promise that no renter will be evicted because of coronavirus
It is important that you consider the following the top five ‘need-to-knows’ for renters in England worried about staying in their home. Please note that this does not apply to lodgers.
1. Find out where you are in the process
If your landlord wants to evict you from your privately rented home there are three stages they’ll have to go through. First, they’ll need to serve you with a notice. When this expires, they need to go to court to get a possession order, and finally apply for a bailiff visit to evict you. It’s really important to know where you are in that process.
If your landlord has not yet given you a formal notice then you won’t be evicted for many months. If your landlord has already got a possession order and applied for a bailiff date, you might be evicted with 14 days notice.
2. If you haven’t received notice yet but are worried about eviction
If you haven’t yet been given notice, but are worried about the possibility, talk to your landlord. Explain the effect that coronavirus has had on your household and income. Ask if they’ll accept reduced payments, or let you pay back arrears at a rate you can afford.
Both the Government and the landlords’ body the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) have asked landlords to be sympathetic to tenants affected by the pandemic.
You should also make sure you’re receiving all the benefits you might be entitled to.
3. If you’ve received a notice
The rules on the notice your landlord must give have changed — it may now be up to six months depending on when the notice was served.
The notice must also be in a specific form, so make sure you have a copy and get it checked. If the landlord hasn’t followed other rules during your tenancy this might also mean that the notice is invalid.
Your landlord can only make a claim to court after the notice ends. You don’t need to leave by this date, but going to court might mean costs are added to your debt if the notice is valid.
4. If your notice is expiring and you’re due to go to court
After 20 September, courts will start hearings again. If your landlord started the claim after 3 August, you’ll be given a court date automatically, otherwise the landlord will need to serve a ‘reactivation notice’ to restart proceedings.
Return your defence form if you want the court to consider your evidence or allow you extra time in the property. Supply any evidence or information which you gave your landlord about the effect of Covid-19 on your household and of any payments you’ve made.
The court will look at the information provided by you and the landlord and decide whether to make an order for possession. In some cases you might be able to stay if you can agree to affordable repayments, but the court has no discretion to allow you to stay if you’ve had a valid Section 21 notice – so-called ‘no fault eviction’.
If the possession order is granted, it will usually ask you to leave within 2 to 6 weeks.
5. If you’ve had a possession order and are facing eviction
If the court had already decided your case before the eviction ban started (27 March 2020), you may be given 14 days notice that bailiffs will carry out an eviction.
You should seek urgent advice – from Citizens Advice or another housing charity – about whether there’s any way to prevent or delay the eviction, or about finding alternative accommodation.
For more information and advice visit: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Look out for our column next week when we focus on how to keep your energy costs down.
The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Exeter is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk