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Social Housing Speed Read – An update on possession proceedings

The suspension on possession proceedings – which was due to be lifted on 23 August 2020 – has been pushed back an additional 4 weeks to 20 September 2020. The news was announced by Robert Jenrick on 21 August 2020, alongside proposals to implement 6-month notice periods until the end of March 2021.

The measures are in place to protect tenants suffering from financial hardship induced by coronavirus, and as a means of protecting those at risk of homelessness as we move towards the winter months. All tenants are covered however, with only exceptional exemptions permitted.

The rules are under constant review and are guided by the  latest public health advice, therefore it is certainly possible that the deadline could be pushed back even further in a bid to protect both private and social renters. The Government has explicitly stated that it will take action where necessary to further protect households. Social landlords should note, however, that cases of anti-social behaviour and domestic violence will be exempted from the new 6-month notice rule.

It has also been highlighted that when courts do resume eviction hearings, matters will not be heard in chronological order; cases will be prioritised in order of seriousness. This includes cases involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes, as well as proceedings affecting landlords facing unmanageable debt where rent has not been received for 12-months prior. We await further information regarding the specific categories.

The short notice given to all those affected by the new rules demonstrates just how quickly the landscape can shift at any time. Although a new deadline for the eviction ban has been set, it seems far from impossible that the ban will be extended even further as the Government continues to balance public health against the interests of justice. In the meantime, landlords should continue to update their forms of notice in accordance with Government guidance and regulations (to ensure minimal delay once possession proceedings are allowed to resume) and consider the use of other interim measures such as injunctions to deal with breaches of tenancy that simply cannot wait.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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