Like most Let Only landlords, managing your property and dealing with maintenance issues is something you’ll be used to. But what happens – and who do you turn to – if a tenant doesn’t pay their rent? The process for evicting non-paying tenants has become more difficult since COVID-19 and lockdown – our guide tells you everything you need to know.
Earlier this year, when coronavirus swept the UK and the country was put into lockdown, the Government put a ban on tenant evictions for an initial period of three months. The idea behind the ban was protecting tenants from homelessness if they paying their rent became a struggle as a result of lost income due to the pandemic.
However, as coronavirus swept the UK and lockdown was extended, the ban on evictions was also extended to 23 August 2020. Just days before it was due to be lifted, it was extended again by a further four weeks to 20 September 2020.
New eviction legislation for landlords
Following the Government’s announcement, at this stage our understanding is that if a tenant was served (i.e. received) notice on or before the 28 August 2020, then it is likely to remain at three-months. However, if they received the notice from Saturday 29 August 2020, a six-month period is likely to apply.
At present, 21 September 2020 is the first date at which landlords can present their eviction cases at court. However, as of 29 August 2020 landlords are now required to give tenants a six-month notice period if they want them to leave. This means that unless the tenants fall into one of the circumstances listed below, a landlord cannot regain possession of their property until at least 31 March 2021.
If the eviction of your tenant falls within one of these scenarios, you may be able to regain possession of your property sooner:
- Where notice is served as a result of rent arrears or misleading information, six months’ notice is required. If the arrears exceed six months’ rental payments, the notice period reduces to four weeks, however.
- In cases of domestic abuse or riot, two weeks’ notice is sufficient.
- Where landlords are seeking possession as a result of antisocial behaviour, four weeks’ notice is sufficient.
- Where tenants are required to vacate property as a result of failed follow up Right to Rent checks, 12 weeks’ notice is required.
When courts do begin hearing eviction cases again, they are set to prioritise the claims of landlords who have suffered extreme loss of rental income or those who wish to evict tenants on the basis of anti-social/criminal behaviour and/or domestic abuse cases.
The eviction process for landlords
When a tenant rents a property with scottfraser, it’s not often that we have to ask them to leave. Most tenants move out as and when they wish. This is due, in part, to scottfraser’ comprehensive referencing service, which ensures the tenant can afford the rent and property running costs before we draw up the rental agreement. It’s also thanks to the care our Property Managers take when working with landlords to ensure their property is well maintained, and problems are resolved as quickly as possible.
On the rare occasion when scottfraser does have to work with a landlord to ask a tenant to leave, it’s generally because of rent arrears, anti-social behaviour or damage caused to the property.
Before the pandemic, there were 2 ways to evict a tenant if they didn’t leave of their own accord:
- With a Section 21 notice – Landlords do not have to give a reason for evicting tenants (though the Government plans to prioritise banning no-fault evictions post-pandemic), but must give the tenants two months’ notice to leave.
- With a Section 8 notice – Most often used in cases of rent arrears, pre-pandemic landlords apply to the courts when a tenant was two months in arrears and, give them 14 days’ notice to leave the property. The notice period was extended during the pandemic, and from 29 August 2020 has become a six month notice period (unless the reason for eviction is included in the list of circumstances above).
Tenant eviction help for self-managed landlords
It’s expected that the old system of preparing a case to evict a tenant will not be reinstated, and it’s important to bear in mind if you don’t adhere to the new rules, your case could be thrown out before it even starts.
Therefore it may be wise to work with a legal expert to evict a tenant. Remember too, that when a tenant moves in, you are legally obliged to give them prescribed information so that you may later evict them, should that become necessary.
During these unprecedented times, rest assured that scottfraser is still supporting all of its landlords and tenants wherever and however possible. We know that managing your own property can be a minefield, especially with the new legislation around evictions.
We have a Customer Care team in place to align with Government advice for any tenants who have financial trouble, and are helping them apply for available support. This has helped us retain continuity of rental payments for our Fully Managed landlords.
If you are a self-managed landlord and would like any additional help, please do let us know and we can move you onto our Fully Managed or Rent Collection service. This will enable us to give you – and your tenants – the same level of support that we are currently giving many of our landlords.
Switching BTL mortgage could help with costs
Although legal and Government constraints around evictions look set to remain in place until March 2021, one positive note for the rental market is the wider availability of buy-to-let mortgages now. More products are available and there has also been a drop in interest rates, giving landlords much greater choice and access to funds.
To cut interest costs, landlords should get a current valuation on their rental property – contact your local branch to arrange this. Lenders can then recalculate the LTV of your property – a lower LTV typically means you’ll get a better interest rate and have access to a larger selection of lenders, and therefore could reduce your monthly mortgage payments.
If you want to find out which buy-to-let deals are available to you, contact our mortgage advice team, who will be happy to discuss your options.