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Eviction orders jump 43 per cent since end of pandemic protection

Eviction orders from landlords and letting agents have jumped 43 per cent rise between the end of the eviction ban on 1 June and 1 September, according to new data.

With the period of notice landlords must serve to tenants brought back to pre-pandemic timescales from 1 October, two months for Section 21 and two weeks for Section 8, a continued surge in enquiries is expected, said eviction and housing law specialist Landlord Action, which compiled the data.

The majority of enquiries, approximately 90 per cent, are from landlords wanting clarification on the latest legislation, looking to evict tenants for non-payment of rent or expressing a desire to sell up and exit the buy to let market.

“Many landlords express their concerns over non-payment of rent and the continual changing of the process which is
now costing them more than they bargained for,” commented Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action.

“The change back to pre-pandemic notice periods cannot come soon enough but we are having to warn landlords about delays in gaining possession due to the requirement for review hearings and a backlog of cases,” Shamplina added.

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Review hearings

Review hearings were introduced last year to help courts prioritise the most urgent eviction cases and determine which should proceed to a substantive hearing at a later date.

Despite the additional administration, it was anticipated that in some cases a settlement might be reached at review hearing stage, which would prevent the case having to go to court.

However, Landlord Action said that, of approximately 400 review hearings, they are only aware of one case that has received a possession order straight after a review hearing.

“We are dealing with a possession case involving £14,000 which was issued to Wandsworth County Court in
May 2021 and the review hearing is only scheduled for October 2021, five months later,” sighed Paul Sowerbutts, head of legal for Landlord Action.

In another case, which was due to be heard on Monday 6 September at Medway County Court, Sowerbutts was informed on Friday 3 September that due to a lack of judicial time, the hearing could not go ahead and there was no availability to move the case to another judge.

“We were asked for dates to avoid in the next 12 months suggesting that is how long it could be delayed for,” he said.

The changing legislation, which before 1 October of this year required landlords to provide proof of significant rent arrears in order to avoid a lengthy wait to serve notice, means there has been a shift in the type of notice landlords serve.

“Historically, a Section 21 notice was the quickest way to gain possession. Even though, in many cases, landlords forfeited their right to recoup lost rent, as this can only be achieved by using a Section 8 notice, most landlords accepted this was the quickest way to get their property back,” Sowerbutts said.

“Now we are seeing delays across the board, there is negativity by many landlords as to their future plans in the private rented sector,” he concluded.

By Michiel Willems

Source: City AM

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UK Regulator To Extend Ban On Home Repossessions To April

The UK Financial Conduct Authority on Wednesday said it is planning on extending its current ban on home repossessions to April 1 from January 31.

But consumer credit firms may be able to repossess goods and vehicles from January 31.

“This approach takes account of the worsening coronavirus situation and the government’s tighter coronavirus-related restrictions which mean that consumers could experience significant harm if forced to move home at this time as a result of repossession proceedings,” the regulator said.

It continued: “We recognise that there are also government bans on evictions in some nations, which could also prevent firms from enforcing home repossessions.”

The FCA’s current credit guidance means that before January 31, 2021 firms should not terminate a agreement or repossess goods or vehicles under the agreement that the customer needs, except in exceptional circumstances.

It is now proposing changing this so that consumer credit firms will be able to repossess goods and vehicles from January 31, 2021.

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It added: “However, this should only be as a last resort, and subject to complying with relevant government public health guidelines and regulations, for example on social distancing and shielding. Importantly, firms will also be expected to consider the impact on customers who may be vulnerable, including because of the pandemic, when deciding whether repossession of goods or vehicles is appropriate.”

The watchdog said this approach reflects the different risks and harms that customers with goods or vehicles on credit are likely to face compared to those who are at risk of losing their home.

The FCA said customers repossessing goods and vehicles under consumer credit agreements may be in the interest of the customer in the long term.

“The shorter terms and higher interest rates on these agreements, combined with the depreciating value of the goods or vehicles, means that they could end up owing more in the long term if repossessions are prevented,” the watchdog explained.

The FCA added: “Our approach, therefore, takes appropriate account of the risks to customers of further asset depreciation, whilst providing appropriate protections by ensuring that firms repossess only as a last resort and also consider the impact of repossession action on those who are vulnerable, as well as following relevant government public health guidelines and regulations when undertaking repossession action.”

By Paul McGowan

Source: Morningstar

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Tenants face evictions as repossession claims lodged

Weymouth and Portland’s county court saw seven property repossession claims lodged by landlords or mortgage lenders during the coronavirus lockdown despite the evictions ban, figures show.

Housing campaigners ACORN called for the ban on new evictions from social and private housing to be extended, warning thousands across England and Wales will be at risk of homelessness when it is lifted.

Though bailiff and eviction activities were paused as part of the ban, claimants have still been able to lodge property possession claims ahead of court eviction cases resuming.

Ministry of Justice data shows seven claims were submitted to the Weymouth County Court between April and June.

All claims were from private and social landlords, with none from mortgage lenders.

There were significantly fewer claims made this year than during the same period in 2019, when there were 73.

This reflected the trend across England and Wales, where the number of possession claims made between April and June fell to 3,183 – a drop of 90%.

Campaign group ACORN is calling on the Government to urgently extend protections for all, including those behind on their mortgage payments.

Mortgage payment holidays, first introduced in March, are also set to end on October 31.

Tom Renhard, ACORN national chair, said: “One person at risk of homelessness is still one too many and the latest figures show thousands of people at risk.

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“This is likely to spike as the furlough scheme comes to an end and many more people may struggle to pay their bills.

“We are in the middle of a public health emergency and people being made homeless could increase the risk of Covid-19 cases.”

Landlords in England must also give tenants six months’ notice before they evict them, a new protection which will last until March 2021.

But tenants involved in the most serious cases, such as anti-social behaviour or those with over six months’ accumulated rent arrears, can be given just four weeks’ notice.

Homeless charity Crisis said the figures confirm banning evictions and extending the notice period was the right thing to do.

Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive, said: “As jobs cuts are coming in thick and fast, we know that tens of thousands of people may struggle to find somewhere cheaper to live even with six months’ notice.

“The Government still has time to intervene and protect people from being swept into homelessness. We urgently need renters who are struggling to afford their rent and in arrears given financial support from Government.”

Total county court claims across England and Wales between April and June fell by 75% year-on-year to 118,000, which the MoJ said was linked to measures taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

In Weymouth and Portland, claims fell from 104 in 2019 to 20 this year.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “We’ve taken unprecedented action to support renters, preventing people getting into financial hardship and helping businesses to pay salaries – meaning no tenants have been forced from their home.

“These measures strike a fair balance – supporting landlords to act in the most serious cases while keeping the public safe.”

By Ellie Maslin

Source: Dorset Echo

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