On Sunday 14 February the government announced that the ban on evictions most to be extended yet again. The ban was to have come to an end on 22 February, just a week away. It has now been extended until the end of March. The regulations to bring this into effect have just been published almost a week later.
Frustratingly, this is yet another short extension, in exactly the same way as the eviction ban was extended in January when it was originally supposed to end. In principle, if nothing changes, this will mean the longer notice periods on Housing Act 1988 tenancies ending at the same time as the eviction stay. The new court working procedures, however, are now in place until late July, which would seem to indicate that, ultimately, longer notice periods and the eviction stay (or, probably, both) are going to be extended until somewhere in the same time frame.
There were a range of exceptions to the eviction stay previously. Most obviously, it was still possible to evict in cases of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and where the rent arrears exceeded six months. These exceptions have been carried over unchanged into the latest eviction regulations.
However, as I have said before, the exceptions do not make a lot of sense. The six month rent arrears exception only applies where the landlord sought possession under a Section 8 notice and not where they have sought possession under a section 21 notice. There seems little reason to differentiate other than the fact that it is relatively easy to legislate for. The same point applies to eviction for ASB, which again only engages the exception if it occurred through a Section 8 notice. Further, the protection of the stay is limited for AST tenants whereas residential tenancies to companies or where the rent is over £100,000 (both falling outside the Housing Act 1988) have no exceptions and so these tenancies cannot be terminated at all. It is unclear why very wealthy tenants who are in arrears should be granted more protection than the average residential tenant.
All of this is particularly apposite as the High Court last week refused a landlord who was seeking to have the eviction stay regulations read in such a way as to allow eviction of a tenant who had a possession order made against them under a section 21 notice. The tenant in that case has arrears of over £70,000, equating to 21 month’s rent. The High Court declined to read the regulations in a way that would allow for eviction and made clear that this would only be possible if a possession order was granted based on a section 8 notice citing the appropriate statutory grounds. This is a far from isolated case and I, along with many others, can produce many similar examples. This landlord may well be seeking to appeal and it may be that the Court of Appeal will do what the government will apparrently not and at least make the eviction stay operate in a manner which is consistent across the sector.
I doubt this stay will satisfy anyone. The sad reality is the government is continuing to shuffle at the edges of the PRS while the centre burns merrily away.