The Coronavirus Act – details on evictions

This article summarises the impact that the Coronavirus Act and the suspension of court hearings will have on evictions.

The court service has announced that from Friday 27 March 2020 all housing possession actions will be suspended. This applies to actions already in progress as well as to new ones. It covers all forms of housing possession action, whether or not related to the coronavirus – it therefore extends to actions based on factors such as anti-social behaviour or domestic violence as well as to the use of section 21 against assured shorthold tenants.

The suspension will last in the first instance for 90 days – that is, until 25 June 2020 – however, it can be extended if necessary.

For practical purposes this largely supersedes the restrictions in evictions in the Coronavirus Act, which received the Royal Assent on 25 March and entered into effect immediately. The relevant provisions of the Act are noted below.

  • Possession notices can still be served but for notices served after the passage of the Act and before 30 September 2020, the earliest date on which legal proceedings can commence will be three months after the date of the notice.
  • The three-month rule also applies to possession notices relating to antisocial behaviour.
  • Therefore, it is a delay on evictions, rather than an outright ban.
  • MHCLG has taken power to extend the three-month period, up to a maximum of six months. It can also provide that the three-month delay will still apply to possession notices served after 30 September 2020, although this is subject to the limitation that the Act as a whole will cease to have effect two years after it is passed (unless Parliament sets an earlier date).

For further information, visit the government’s website.

For residents with excluded licences rather than tenancies – for example those in short-term accommodation – there is currently no legal protection from eviction. This new legislation does not change this. Where it is no longer safe for a resident to stay in a supported housing scheme (for example due to extreme violence towards other residents) then the landlord can tell the resident to leave. Housing associations recognise the difficulty in excluding people during this crisis and the need to prevent people moving around and will only seek to use this provision in extreme and rare circumstances. They will work with local authorities to find suitable alternative housing.

Courts will continue to sit for other purposes, although probably on a severely restricted basis. ASBOs and injunctions against anti-social behaviour will therefore still be available, in principle, although the limited nature of court functions may make them more difficult to obtain in practice.

Regardless of the details of the legislation, no one should be evicted because of the coronavirus. We are confident that no housing association will do this, and want any housing association resident affected by the outbreak to be reassured they will not be evicted.

If you have any questions, please contact our team.