On 10 March 2021, the Government announced an extension of the moratorium on residential and commercial evictions which was due to end on 31 March 2021.
The Government has also launched a specific mediation scheme in relation to residential tenancies which is discussed further below.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 prohibited bailiff enforcement eviction and increased the notice period in which notice seeking possession of residential properties in England was to be given, from three to six months.
A further amendment to the Regulations will see residential tenants continue to be protected from bailiff enforced evictions (in all but the most serious circumstances) and the relevant period for which the increased notice periods are required, in place until at least 31 May 2021.
Launch of the Housing Possession Mediation Pilot Scheme
On 1 February 2021, the Government launched the Housing Possession Mediation Pilot Scheme which is being independently run by the Society of Mediators on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The service is being operated in response to Covid-19 and is intended to offer mediation services to engage with housing possession claims as they progress through court and where possible, facilitate settlement without a substantive hearing. The service aims to:
- promote compromise for the benefit of both landlords and tenants;
- sustain tenancies;
- manage capacity in the court system;
- enable early legal advice;
- offer specialist advice to prevent tenant evictions;
- increase likelihood of settlement;
- maintain confidence in the fairness of outcomes.
The Scheme offers a free and independent service and is expected to run for approximately six months, at which point it will be assessed to determine the next steps.
The service is staffed by seven clerks taking referrals from all over England and Wales, who will then select a mediator. All mediators are fully trained professionals who have undertaken additional training for the new service. Mediations will be conducted by telephone, WhatsApp or Zoom, and all parties will require email access.
On 9 March 2021, regulations were introduced which extended the protections from re-entry or forfeiture for non-payment of rent for commercial tenants.
The relevant period has been extended several times, and the most recent extension will see the Regulations continue to be in force until 30 June 2021.
The extensions to both these sets of regulations will bring relief to residential tenants who may have faced reduced income during the pandemic and commercial tenants, many of whom have been forced to close for prolonged periods of time over the past year. For commercial tenants, the Government aim is clearly to provide additional support for businesses as they gradually reopen in late spring/early summer however it has indicated that this is likely to be the final extension (although other support may be provided based on the situation at the time).
Whilst landlords are often bearing the financial brunt in relation to unpaid rent, it may be possible for them to access support via a payment break on their mortgage of up to six months (if applicable).
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.