Evictions: What are the eviction options available right now?

A client once asked what the first stage in divorce proceedings is and that being my umpteenth case, I honestly responded, “The wedding”.This analogy holds equally true for eviction proceedings. When entering into the tenancy matrimony as it were, it is crucial to be mindful of the much-despised but real possibility of an eviction in the long term. Failure to do so could prove costly if and when the dreaded day of reckoning comes because, by that time, your options could be compromised. The purpose of this article is to walk you through the essentials of the eviction process with specific regards to Assured Shorthold Tenancy.

AVAILABLE EVICTION OPTIONS

Eviction of AST tenants is primarily governed by the Housing Act (the Act). There are two salient sections of the Act that govern eviction, namely s8 and s21 of the Act. At this point it is sufficient to note that an s8 notice requires grounds for eviction whereas an s21 notice is a free pass which allows a landlord to evict without furnishing grounds. We will reveal more on these options as the article unfolds.

THE FIRST STAGE – PRE-EVICTION COMPLIANCE

The time of inception of the AST is crucial for every landlord. There are certain onerous pre-requisites which if ignored at the beginning would deprive the landlord of the option of a section 21 eviction. 

The law deprives a landlord the option of a section 21 notice:

  1. during the first four months of the tenancy (but where the tenancy is a replacement tenancy, the four-month-period is calculated by reference to the start of the original tenancy and not the start of the replacement tenancy – see section 21(4B) of the Housing Act 1988);
  2. where the landlord is prevented from retaliatory eviction under section 33 of the Deregulation Act 2015;
  3. where the landlord has not provided the tenant with both current copies of an energy performance certificate and gas safety certificate;
  4. where the landlord has not provided the tenant with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s publication “How to rent: the checklist for renting in England”; 
  5. where the landlord has not complied with the tenancy deposit protection legislation namely ensuring the tenant’s deposit:
    • is not more than 5 weeks’ rent;
    • is protected in a scheme
    • was protected not more than thirty days after inception of the most recent contract. 
  6. where a property requires a licence but is unlicensed in relation to Houses in Multiple Occupation (“HMO”) or
  7. where the landlord is prevented under section 17 of the Tenant Fees Act 2019. (NB No section 21 notice may be given in relation to a tenancy where a landlord has breached section 1(1) or Schedule 2 of that Act so long as all or part of the prohibited payment or holding deposit has not been repaid to the relevant person or applied to the rent or deposit with the consent of the relevant person.)

Resultantly, to retain the prerogative of evicting a tenant for no fault of their own, it is key to comply with the above pre-requisites at time of entering of the contract or such other time as may be prescribed.

THE LATTER STAGE – EVICTION NOTICE SERVICE

The other crucial time in respect of evicting a tenant is the time at which the landlord would want to evict the tenant. The decision as to which notice to adopt is dependent primarily on whether there are grounds for the intended eviction, and if so, what the grounds are?

Section 21

As aforementioned a section 21 notice is appropriate where the landlord does not have particular grounds for eviction. Suffice it to say, the landlord, in that case, should check for their compliance with the aforementioned checklist.

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, a landlord had to give a tenant 2 months’ notice to evacuate before instigating legal action to achieve the same. However, due to the current COVID-19 virus, the timeframe for a section 21 notice has been fluctuating throughout different periods of the year. This is encapsulated as follows:

Time of YearMinimum Notice Period
Before 26 March 20202 Months
Between 26 March and 28 August 20203 Months
On or after 29 August 20206 Months

HM Land Registry electronic signatures accepted – Signed, Sealed, Delivered

HM Land Registry to accept electronic signature

Great news for PROPERTY PEOPLE.  Finally, HM Land Registry is now accepting electronic signatures on property documentation. This includes deeds for transfers of ownership of property, leases, lease options, lease option agreements, mortgages and other property dealings.

It removes the requirement to print and sign a paper document: a welcome step making it faster and simpler for people to complete transactions. It also makes life easier for those working from home. A link to the complete guide is available here: practice guidance for conveyancers

Creativelegals.com is a specialist property law firm helping you to things FASTER, SMARTER, BETTER. Contact us today for all your lease option agreement and eviction matters: www.creativelegals.com

Coronavirus: 9 step guide for landlords and letting agents

1. What must I do if my tenant can’t pay rent?

Tenants have been urged to pay rent and stick to the terms of their tenancy agreements to the best of their ability. Where tenants find themselves unable to pay rent due to a job cut they are encouraged to seek financial assistance from coronavirus related financial aid schemes. If the tenant still cannot afford to pay rent, the landlord and tenant may have to enter into an agreement.

2. Does landlord insurance cover coronavirus?

Some insurers are accepting claims, whilst a big majority is dodging liability, stating that coronavirus is not a covered peril. We advise that you hear from you broker directly or get a professional interpretation of your policy.

3. Can I still evict my tenants now?

You may give your tenants notice, but you can’t make them leave your property. Landlords must now give three months’ notice to tenants they want to evict. There is a possibility that this period may be extended. On the expiry of the three months, the landlord can make an application for the eviction of the tenant. It is illegal to harass or lockout tenants out of their homes.

4. What if I had given notice to my tenant before 25 March 2020?

Well, your notice may still be valid, but you won’t be able to get an eviction order from the court since all eviction matters have been suspended.

5. Does force majeure mean that I can now end the tenancy?

It is highly unlikely that most tenancy agreements have a force majeure clause. If you have the clause in your tenancy agreement you may have to review the wording and see to what extent it applies to the COVID-19 situation. While COVID-19 may be a force majeure event it has to be ascertained whether it has an effect on the tenant’s occupation of the premise which may trigger its application. Covid-19 does not cause material or physical damage to buildings.

6. Can I still make a demand for unpaid rentals, or have to wait for the three month period to pass?

You may continue to make demands for rental arrears. What has been suspended is repossession and applications for repossession. Tenants are still liable to pay their rentals and where they struggle, support is available. Tenants should continue to abide by the terms of their tenancy where possible

7. What can I do about my mortgage repayment?

If you facing coronavirus related hardships, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer a holiday break for payments for up to three months. Please note that the sum owing remains payable and can even continue accruing interest.

8. How does the Coronavirus Act 2020 interact with the courts’ housing possession claims?

Firstly, cases that have already been issued for possession claims have been postponed for 3 months (reviewable) from the 26th of the month. Secondly, a landlord that wants to give notice must now give 3 months’ notice (subject to review) upon expiry of the period, they may then proceed with an application for possession.

9. Am I still expected to carry out repairs?

The government has urged landlord to abide by the terms of their agreements, by all means, possible Coronavirus does not alter the obligations of landlords. The tenant still has the right to stay in clean and decent homes. Landlords must still make efforts to keep the terms of the lease

Is the Coronavirus Act 2020 a blessing for tenants and doom for landlords?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 has been welcomed by most tenants as “an Act from heaven”. Under the Act, landlords will not be able to commence possession proceedings in court unless they have given their tenant a three-month notice (subject to review). All court action for eviction is on hold since the 25th of March 2020, bailiff won’t execute eviction orders, courts won’t hear eviction cases until at least the end of June nor will they issue eviction orders for matters already on the roll. Landlords, on the other hand, are worried that they may lose rental income and spend lots of money on legal fees chasing rental arrears triggered by the Coronavirus Act.

What is the best step for landlords to take now?

It is of paramount importance for landlords to note that evictions have not been stopped completely, the have been temporarily suspended only. Landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together, but eviction notices can still be sent. If a landlord wishes to institute eviction claims, we advise them to send the relevant notices now, so that when courts resume processing eviction claims, your notice will have matured. Serving a notice now speeds up the process and gives the landlord enough time to comply with the law. Landlords should also take notice that the government has added a new type of form to be used for eviction notices up until the 30th of September 2020, or until further notice is given. You can find the form here. We will help you try and make sure that your eviction notice is valid. If you issue a notice that is non-compliant with all the requisite details, the court may not consider it. This, in practice, means starting serving the notice all over again and starting over the notice period. This may not make economic sense to you especially if you have a troublesome tenant. We are advising landlords who wish to evict tenants, to issue the mandatory notices now, so that the notice time runs early.

What happens to possession proceedings that had already commenced?

These proceedings have been put on hold until the expiry of the three month period regardless of the stage they had reached. We advise landlords to review notices that they had already sent out, to ascertain whether or not they comply with all statutory requirements. It would be unenviable to realise that the notice you sent is invalid and have to send a new one all over again. 

What has been of the eviction orders that had already been granted but not yet executed?

Well, execution has literally been paused until the expiry of the 3 month period. Bailiffs are not allowed to enforce eviction orders up until the end of June, at least for now.

Conclusively, landlords have not been doomed by the Coronavirus Act of 2020. Their rights still are still recognised and respected. It is only evictions that have been temporarily suspended. Landlords are still expected to act in terms of agreements as far as other matters in the agreement are concerned, the same is also expected of tenants. 

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The British government launched the Bounce Back Loan Scheme to help businesses adversely affected with 100% government-backed loans in a bid to help businesses amid the coronavirus epidemic. Under the scheme, applicants can make applications for 2,000 – 50 000 Pounds. Creative Legal Solutions Solicitors as a firm committed to helping small to medium-sized businesses has been answering its client’s questions regarding the Bounce Back Loans. We have taken it upon ourselves to compile a list of the question and answers we have been frequently asked since the launch of the Scheme. If you feel you still are not answered from our compilation below, feel free to get in touch with us for a FREE consultation in this regard.

Question 1

Who qualifies for the loan?

Answer

Any business bases in the Uk that has been negatively affected by coronavirus, which is not a bank, insurer, reinsurer, public sector body or state-funded school. Companies of any size can apply but the scheme is aimed particularly for small businesses with less than 10 employees and sole traders. Companies that apply must have been trading on 1 March and must have been an “undertaking in difficulty” as of 31 December 2019. The business must not be in liquidation, bankrupt or undergoing debt restructuring.

Question 2

How much can be borrowed under the Bounce Back Loan?

Answer

Applications can be made of up to 25% of your turnover in the 2019 calendar year, up to a maximum of 50, 000 Pounds. The interest rate is fixed at 2.5 %. No setup or application fees apply. The government will cover interest and fees for the first year. 

Question 3

What is I have already made an application under a different coronavirus lending product but have not heard back from the Lenders, Can I still apply for the bounce back loan?

Answer

Yes, you can still qualify. There is an alternative of converting existing and future coronavirus business interruption loans of 50 000 Ponds or less to bounce back loans.

Question 4

What if I don’t have anything to offer as security?

Answer 

Fortunately, the bounce-back scheme is 100% government-backed. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan. You do not need to offer security or personal guarantees nor do applicants have to stick with their existing lenders. 

Question 5 

How long will it take for me to get the money?

Answer

If you are applying via your existing lenders should expect to get the money within days. However, if you are applying via a new lender, it will be longer, but banks have promises to process as quickly as possible.

Question 6

How do I apply for the loan?

Answer

The fastest way will by filling an online simple application form which will ask for basic details like your annual turnover, the amount of credit you are seeking and whether your business has been negatively affected by coronavirus amongst other general questions

Question 7

How long is the term of the Loan?

Answer

The loan term is 6 years but you can pay back sooner with no early repayment fees. There is no principal repayment required within the first twelve months.

Business Interruption Insurance and Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, businesses have been focusing mainly on the wellbeing of their employees and that of their clients. The need to protect the general public has resulted in governments across the world calling for citizens who are not in the essential services industry to stay at home. The move has been hailed by the World Health Organisation as the most practical solution to the Pandemic. Staying at home does not only slow down the spread of the virus, but it also has unprecedented negative business interruption effects. The pandemic comes as a threat even to enhanced and resilient business structures. Covid-19 has naturally opened floodgates of Business Interruption Insurance claims across the world.

Should businesses resort to Business Interruption Insurance?

We recommend that you contact your insurer or broker directly, but we are going to give general information we have received from our clients. Most of our clients who are insured under various policies have not received any payouts from their insurers with most of them being told that Covid-19 is not covered under their policies. The wording in contracts can be confusing and tricky. Various insurers who provide standard business interruption cover have resorted to dismissing claims on the basis that the policy does not cover forced closure by the government but physical damage to the business which results in the business being unable to trade, such as a fire or floods. Have you reviewed the terms of your policy? Does your policy cover Coronavirus? Would you need help in interpreting the terms of your policy?

Coronavirus has been classified as a notifiable disease in the UK, what does that mean?

This comes as good news to businesses with insurance policies that cover notifiable diseases, but this does not mean automatic cover as the wording of policies differ. Some policies list the diseases covered under ‘notifiable diseases ‘. It would all depend on whether or not Covid-19 is specifically covered. Notifiable disease covers loss that is linked to an interruption or interference caused by a disease which the authorities have stipulated to be notified to them. Most insures clearly outline diseases, period and amount covered? The scale of losses of a pandemic such as Covid-19 is insurmountable for insurers to even think of underwriting everyone affected. Such pandemics require huge financial packages from strong players like the government. The Bounce Back Loan Scheme is an example of the government playing the ultimate insurer!

How we can help?

Please use this platform to ask us any questions you may have on the subject matter free of charge and without any obligation. If possible, please attach a copy of the insurance policy. We will review your policy and help you make a claim.

Would you leave your loved ones to a game of chance?

Keeping It In The Family Can Be Complex Without Wills

The term ‘blended family’ has become part of everyday language over the past few decades, in reference to family units where one or both of the parents have been married before, may have children together, and one or both has children from previous marriages or relationships. In such cases, which there are hundreds of thousands of, professional will packages are available.

It is imperatively important for both of you to make a will as soon as you possibly can if your family is blended, to ensure you leave nothing to chance in the event of your death. And make no mistake. You may well be unintentionally leaving your loved ones to a game of chance if one of you should, for example, become fatally ill with coronavirus, and pass away intestate. With no ‘instructions’ left.

To illustrate the importance of contacting CreativeLegals.com to make a quick will to save time, let’s imagine that you’re Anna. You have been married and divorced in the past. Your second husband is Brendan. Charlotte is the daughter you and Brendan have had together. You also have David from your previous marriage, and Brendan has Emma from his previous marriage. You tragically become a victim of coronavirus before getting round to making the online will you had intended to. So, what next?

Assuming Brendan is still living, he automatically inherits everything from you as your next of kin.

If Charlotte, David, and Emma outlive Brendan, and he also dies intestate without leaving a will, his next of kin and legal heirs are Charlotte and Emma, his children. Your son David is entitled to nothing unless he had been legally adopted by Brendan. David’s only hope of securing anything from Brendan’s estate would be based on the goodwill of Charlotte and Emma. Or a costly and traumatic legal battle with them.

A similar situation in reverse would arise if Brendan has already passed away before you. Charlotte and David are entitled to everything. Emma doesn’t have any entitlement to anything at all without any provision having been made by yourself and Brendan.

Whilst none of us especially wants to turn our attention to wills, it’s far from unusual that you find yourself taking a closer look at fast will options, now more than ever, with the very real threat of coronavirus hanging over us all. If your family unit is a blended family unit, the prospect of you and/or your spouse or civil partner dying intestate can cause unimaginable problems for your children after your passing. Problems that can particularly impact children that either or both of you had from previous marriages or relationships.

But help is at hand from CreativeLegals.com. Highly affordable, fast, professional online will making services are available, which you and your ‘Brendan’ can go through together to achieve an end result that won’t leave anybody out in a variety of worst-case scenarios. Don’t leave your children’s future to a game of chance. Have YOUR WILL, YOUR WAY. Contact us today and have a say in your children’s future.

Your “other half” is unlikely to get the other half of your inheritance?

If you are living together in a committed relationship, but not married or in a civil partnership, your lack of a will could have the most serious outcomes in the event of your death for the person you may consider to be your next of kin. The issue is that, in the eyes of the law, they are far from being your next of kin. Even quite distant relatives are legally perceived as closer to you. More eligible ‘bona fide’ heirs to whatever you leave behind.

You might have been together for years, through thick and thin. But, should you pass away without leaving a watertight set of instructions, your partner could wind up with less than nothing. To the extent of losing their home. This is the harsh reality if you don’t have a joint mortgage or rental agreement.

You might not be a jet setter with lavish homes and millions in the bank to bequeath to your partner and family members in your will. But you surely want your wishes to be respected and upheld when you are no longer around to dictate who is entitled to what. That’s exactly what a will is and does. It equates to the ways you are saying things must be done when you are no longer alive to have the conversation in person.

If you’ve not laid down the law on paper, the law will do it for you, in its own way. Which may not be yours in terms of lack of recognition of your common-law partner, no matter how long you have been two halves of a couple together. This is the order of inheritance in the eyes of the law –

  • Your husband, wife or civil partner
  • Your children (if your spouse is not still living)
  • Your parents (if your spouse and children are not still living)
  • Your siblings (if your spouse, children and parents are not still living)
  • Your grandparents (if your spouse, children, parents and siblings are not still living)
  • Your aunts, uncles and then cousins (if your spouse, children, parents, siblings and grandparents are not still living)

No mention of your ‘other half’. Even if you have children together, they would be your automatic heirs, whilst potentially leaving the other parent, your partner, homeless and penniless. Even your cousin in Australia you’ve not seen for 25 years is legally more of your next of kin that your common-law partner.

It’s prudent not to leave it too long before taking a look at the fast will options on offer at CreativeLegals.com. They offer FASTER, SMARTER and BETTER solutions to help you both online and offline.

Online will-writing services are currently in exceptionally high demand due to the coronavirus crisis. It’s acting as a serious deterrent against the prospect of dying intestate. One of the bands of the UK population reacting in volume, are co-habiting or common-law couples, whichever term you use. According to the Office for National Statistics, there are somewhere in the realms of five million pairs of you across the country, to put it into perspective.

Approachable and professional, the team at CreativeLegals.com has all the know-how at their disposal to soon have you, your partner, and your assets, shielded with a befitting cheap will package just for you. Contact us today to ensure you have YOUR WILL, YOUR WAY.

Can’t Pay vs Won’t Pay: Dealing with Rental Arrears

If a tenant can’t pay rent due to being laid off in the COVID-19 pandemic, the landlord may be left with a headache and potentially out of pocket. So, what actions could – or should – a landlord take in these unsure times?

The first aspect is understanding the financial situation of the property. If there is a mortgage against it, then the landlord can apply for a mortgage holiday of up to three-months and put off any payments that they have to make, thereby simply shifting the need to collect rent by that time period. After that, hopefully, the emergency will have subsided and the tenant will be back in work and paying their rent. If there is no mortgage on the property, then the landlord should wait until the tenant has received any universal credit that they have applied for, with which arrears should be paid.

If a tenant is not able to pay their rent and is not in a position where they will be receiving Universal Credit, then the tenant should explain the situation to their landlord straight away and may find that they might be given more time to pay, or could receive an agreement to reduce the rent for a specified period of time. If the landlord is unwilling to suspend or reduce rental payments, then the tenant should seek advice from bodies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, or the local council. 

If a tenant finds themselves in this situation and the landlord doesn’t offer to be flexible with rent payments, it’s a good idea for the tenant to pay as much as they can afford and keep a record of what was discussed with the landlord. This will show the tenant in a good light should possession proceedings start. However, that will not be for at least three months.

During the COVID-29 pandemic, new, emergency rules regarding possession have been put in place. The Master of the Rolls, with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor, has announced the suspension of housing possession cases in the courts during this period. This affects new or existing claims for possession for a ninety-day period from 27th March 2020. This effectively prohibits any court action to remove tenants from a rented property for a three-month period, meaning that even if a tenant refuses to pay rent, the landlord cannot even start a court action to have them removed while the possession case lull is being operated.  

If a landlord has a tenant who refuses to pay, it becomes a case of having to sit the situation out. The rules regarding housing possession claims apply in this case too, and even if the sitting tenant refuses to pay their rent, a new action to remove them cannot be started. But the same situation regarding mortgages on the property still applies. If the landlord is not getting rent paid, then they should apply for a three-month mortgage holiday so that they are not having to pay for a property that they are not receiving income on. Once the COVID-19 crisis is over, the landlord will be able to commence a repossession claim, and if there is evidence that the tenant has simply refused to pay, is likely to win it quickly.

The actions taken by the Government have been designed to ensure that people are not made homeless unnecessarily and that a landlord does not end up out of pocket through non-payment of rent.

If you are worried about your situation and need legal advice, come and speak to us at CreativeLegals.com and see how we can help you.