There are growing concerns that buy-to-let landlords could be banned from evicting private tenants beyond next month due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick faced questions from a Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee yesterday on how the government will continue to support tenants after the three-month moratorium on evictions is lifted on 25 June.
He said a decision will be made next month on whether to extend the ban, but urged landlords to act in good faith and investigate other solutions to overcome rent arrear issues before embarking eviction proceedings begin.
Jenrick told MPs: “This [pre-action protocol] will apply at the end of the moratorium on evictions, whether that’s in late June or later in the year.
“It will enable tenants to have an added degree of protection because instead of embarking upon the eviction proceedings immediately, there will be a duty upon their landlords to reach out to them, discuss their situation, and try to find an affordable repayment plan.
“This will enable tenants to remain in their homes, and to recover the rent they haven’t been able to pay because of their circumstances.”
The government has banned all evictions until the tail end of next month as part of a raft of measures to protect people facing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action, said: “Most court cases are currently suspended until 25th June. However, although a formal announcement on an extension to the ban on evictions is not due until June, which will be dependent on the passage of the virus and lockdown measures in place at that time, we have already received court orders which state they are suspended until the end of October, so I suspect that is a sign of things to come.
“This is obviously very worrying for landlords, particularly those with existing possession cases issued prior to Covid-19, as those landlords will be faced with many more months of rents arrears on top of those they already had.
“The government has been urging landlords and tenants to come to agreements and they are working to ensure pre-action protocol is in place, which will put the onus on tenants and landlords to negotiate and reach an agreement, rather than go to court. This means that there will be an emphasis on mediation, such as that recently launched by the Property Redress Scheme, or landlords working in good faith with tenants to agree a payment agreement.”