Top 5 ‘Need-to-Knows’ for tenants – Citizens Advice

by Nick Thompson

8:56 AM, 18th September 2020
About a month ago

Top 5 ‘Need-to-Knows’ for tenants – Citizens Advice

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Top 5 ‘Need-to-Knows’ for tenants – Citizens Advice

Amy Hughes, Housing Expert at Citizens Advice, shares the top five ‘need-to-knows’ for renters in England worried about staying in their home.

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.”

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 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.”

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. Your local Citizens Advice is one place that can help, either in person or via email. 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.”

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 of 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.”

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 after 20th September 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.”

Even if people are able to follow this advice, Citizens Advice fears that many renters will struggle with arrears built up during the pandemic.

The charity, in a coalition that includes the landlord body the NRLA and housing charities, is calling for direct financial support for people behind on their rent because of Covid-19 – either through grants or government-backed interest-free loans. Citizens Advice is also calling for reforms that give judges more discretion to allow tenants to stay in their homes.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Neither renters nor landlords can afford to be saddled with long-term arrears as a result of coronavirus.

“The government must 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.”

  • The number of people seeking help from Citizens Advice about issues to do with private rented properties increased by 43% between summer (June to August) 2020 and the same period last year.

  • Over the same period, the number of visits to Citizens Advice’s webpage “Dealing with Rent Arrears” more than doubled year on year.

  • Previous research from the charity has suggested that over a million people have fallen behind on their rent due to Covid-19.


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Comments

Robert Mellors

10:42 AM, 18th September 2020
About a month ago

On the whole I think that most landlords are very sympathetic towards tenants who's rent arrears have accrued DUE TO the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, and will try to work with the tenant to set a repayment arrangement that is realistic.

However, there is perhaps far less sympathy for those tenants who's rent arrears accrued prior to the pandemic, and/or who have the money to pay the rent but are deliberately choosing not to do so. Likewise those tenants who would be able to claim benefits to help them pay the rent, but again choose not to do so.

There is of course even less sympathy for those tenants who choose not to pay the rent (when they could do so, either from earnings or from benefits), and are also causing damage to the property or committing anti-social behaviour.

Unfortunately the new rules on evictions can be used and abused by those tenants who are choosing not to pay, cause damage, commit anti-social behaviour, so the rules have the effect of causing prolonged distress to the victims of that behaviour, be that the landlord or the neighbours (or other tenants in the case of HMOs), and this is not fair, just, or reasonable.

The eviction ban also means that many landlords are exiting the market, or are tightening up the criteria for who they will let properties to, e.g. requiring rent in advance, deposits, rent and damage guarantors, and passing of affordability checks and referencing. While it is natural and sensible for landlords to do this to reduce their exposure to risk, this then has the knock on effect of making it even more difficult for tenants to meet those criteria, AND it excludes most tenants who are in receipt of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit (though of course landlords will consider every application on its own merits).

The "housing charities" fail to recognise these serious knock on effects that will make it more and more difficult for those on low incomes and benefits to find a home that is available for them to rent, and as such they are contributing to the increasing numbers of homeless households.

At the basic level, landlords want good tenants, and tenants want good landlords, so supporting bad tenants to abuse the system (evade or delay eviction), in the long run does not help anyone.

Luke P

12:48 PM, 18th September 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Robert Mellors at 18/09/2020 - 10:42
There will be very very few people that rent who have genuinely had their income affected to such an extent that they cannot pay their rent due to Covid. Very few.

WP

13:08 PM, 18th September 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Luke P at 18/09/2020 - 12:48
yup - the rest (the majority) will have blagged it/purposely not paid. Therein lies the problem, and the backlog wont be sorted overnight as we shall all see, essentially causing no difference to the huge numbers of VALID possession claims still to be enacted. Bloody frustrating!

WP

13:10 PM, 18th September 2020
About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Robert Mellors at 18/09/2020 - 10:42
as I have always maintained LL's just want to be paid in full and on time. The majority of LL's don't evict unless there is good reason full stop - even more so now as you have such a looooong wait till you even get to court.


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