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Housing

What should you do if you receive an eviction notice?

The impact of Covid has led to a surge in evictions. Here’s what to do if you receive an eviction notice and are left facing homelessness.

For many people whose lives have been transformed by the Covid-19 pandemic, an eviction notice dropping through the door is the last thing they need.

But Covid’s impact on livelihoods and household bills has seen a surge of people falling into rent or mortgage arrears or struggling to keep up with payments.

The Westminster government promised to scrap Section 21 evictions notices – also known as no-fault evictions as they allow a landlord to evict a tenant without giving a reason – back in April 2019. Ministers have said the evictions will be scrapped as part of the upcoming Renters’ Reform Bill.

However, in the three years since Theresa May announced the government would axe them, nearly 230,000 private renters have received a notice, according to housing charity Shelter and YouGov. That amounts to a renter receiving an eviction notice once every seven minutes.

The situation means scores of people are at risk of losing their home and falling into homelessness.

But don’t panic if you receive an eviction notice, there are things that you can do to keep your home.

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Can my landlord evict me during the pandemic?

Yes, evictions are currently legal.

In the early part of the pandemic, governments in England, Scotland and Wales introduced a total eviction ban to prevent people being forced out of their homes while the countries got to grips with the virus.

But as time has passed and the vaccination rollout has gained pace, restrictions have been reduced, with other protections such as a ban on bailiff-enforced evictions following.

Longer notice periods have also been introduced to allow tenants more time to find a new place to live. Six-month notice periods are still in use in Scotland and Wales.

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Can a landlord evict you for no reason?

Yes, a landlord can evict a tenant without giving a reason. This is known as a ‘no-fault eviction’ or a Section 21 eviction in England and Wales. 

A Section 21 notice legally starts the process to end an assured shorthold tenancy and can be issued at the end of a fixed term contract or earlier if there is a break clause or as a rolling periodic tenancy.

The landlord does not have to give a reason for issuing the notice but it can be because they are looking to evict a tenant due to antisocial behaviour. because they wish to sell the property or any other number of reasons.

If a tenant receives a Section 21 notice they will have two months’ notice to find somewhere else to live. If they find somewhere to live, they can agree to an earlier date to move out with the landlord.

But, in many cases, a tenant may wish to challenge the eviction notice in court. In this case they should remain in the property until they are evicted through the legal process.

This method of eviction is controversial and the Westminster government is set to replace it in a rental reform white paper later this year. However, there has been a long wait for ministers to axe Section 21 evictions – former prime minister Theresa May originally announced they would be replaced in April 2019.

Campaigners fighting for renters’ rights have been calling on the government to act. Dan Wilson Craw, deputy director of Generation Rent, said: “The longer renters wait for the government to abolish Section 21, the more people will have their lives uprooted at their landlord’s whim. Many more will continue living in squalid conditions, afraid that a complaint will only result in an eviction notice.”

What happens if I have rent arrears?

A tenant can also be evicted if they fall two months behind on rent. This is known as a Section 8 eviction.

A landlord will be able to apply for the courts for a Section 8 eviction once they have sent the tenant an eviction notice. After they will be able to contact the court to seek a possession order.

Following a court hearing, if the landlord is able to obtain a possession order, the tenant may have to leave the property within 14 days if an outright possession order is granted.

There are two other kinds of possession order, however. A suspended possession order could be granted that means the tenant is allowed to stay in the property if they keep up with their rent payments and pay back their arrears. A postponed possession order is similar, but will require the landlord to apply to the court for a possession date before seeking a warrant of eviction for bailiffs to evict tenants.

Do I have to pay rent after eviction notice?

Yes, tenants still have to continue paying rent until the end of their agreed tenancy agreement, even if they have already received an eviction notice.

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How long does it take to evict a tenant?

Tenants who are served a Section 21 eviction notice in England must be given two months’ notice. 

As for Scotland and Wales, six-month notice periods are still in effect during the Covid-19 pandemic.

If the tenant has not left the property by the date stated on the notice period, the landlord can take legal action to reclaim their property and evict the tenant.

Landlords have four months from the date stated on the notice period to signal their intention to take the matter to court. The time the court process can vary, with a backlog of Covid-19 eviction cases currently in the courts it could take months for the case to be heard.

If the landlord is granted a possession order they will be able to reclaim the property on the date stated by the order.

If they are not able to remove the tenant on that date, they may seek to evict tenants using bailiffs. High court bailiffs are required to give 14 days’ notice before coming to the property to evict tenants. During the pandemic, they are also not allowed to carry out an eviction while a tenant is self-isolating in the property after testing positive for the virus.

The important thing to remember is that the eviction process can take some time and receiving an eviction notice does not mean you will lose your home immediately.

What should I do if I receive an eviction notice?

Receiving an eviction notice can be extremely stressful but there are steps you can take to challenge the eviction and keep your home and plenty of advice and support you can turn to.

If you need free legal advice on housing problems, you can contact Citizens Advice or housing charity Shelter. You may be able to access legal aid to pay for legal support when you’re fighting an eviction or challenging a council’s homelessness decision, check if you’re eligible here.

If you’re struggling to keep up with your rent, the government has put in place several support schemes which you can apply for. Discretionary housing payments are available to help renters with housing costs. Meanwhile the Household Support Fund is also available this winter to help renters in arrears, following the impact of Covid-19. Contact your local council for support through these funds.

You should also contact the local authority for help if an eviction is likely to leave you homeless. Councils have a legal duty to provide advice to prevent homelessness and help you find new accommodation to avoid falling into homelessness.

And while it might seem like a lonely place to be, joining a rent union can help. Unions such as Acorn, London Renters Union or Living Rent help their members to resist an eviction, especially an eviction that is thought to be unfair.

Acorn’s Fredi Gentz told The Big Issue: “In terms of dealing with an eviction by yourself, you’re just not going to have much luck, because unless the landlord suddenly finds themselves overwhelmed with empathy, which is a rare occasion, they will evict you. 

“With the rise of evictions that we’re expecting we’re getting less and less council services and our communities are being torn apart, it’s the same across the country. And the only way that we can fight back against any of that is if we stick together.”

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