Throughout the pandemic, the government have made it increasingly difficult for landlords to gain possession of their properties, by increasing the periods of notice required for s21 notices and for the majority of s8 notices and by instigating new procedures such as reactivation notices and review hearings. We have provided details of this in our previous blogs, “Recovering possession of rented property” and “How COVID-19 restrictions have affected notices seeking possession of residential property“. Whilst this has protected tenants at a difficult time, it has left many landlords with few means of gaining possession of their properties, even if they have received no rent for many months.

It has also been difficult to enforce evictions even when a possession order has been made. The stay on evictions put into place before Christmas was due to expire on 11 January 2021. Under the stay, evictions could only take place in a very limited number of circumstances, such as when the order was made on the grounds of anti-social behaviour (ground 14) or false statements (ground 17), or where 9 months of rent arrears had accrued prior to March 23 2020, that is to say before the first lockdown, meaning that arrears accrued since lockdown could not be taken into account.
Today has brought into force an update to the stay with the new Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021, extending the general stay now until 21 February 2021 so the majority of evictions will still not take place. However, some landlords may be able to benefit from an unheralded change from the previous stay – possession orders that were granted on the basis of 6 months’ rent arrears may now be enforced, and these arrears do not have to have been accrued prior to lockdown. This opens the door to recovering possession for a number of landlords who have been unable to evict their tenants previously despite having already obtained a possession order. It is also possible to commence new proceedings on the basis of 6 months’ rental arrears through the service of a s8 notice giving 4 weeks’ notice, and if an order is obtained, to have this enforced without further delay.

This article relates to the law in England only. If this may apply to you and you require any assistance in regaining possession of your property, please get in touch with our property litigation team who will be pleased to assist.