MHCLG Select Committee Report Discusses the Stays on Notices and Eviction

22nd April 2021 Commercial Litigation

As we approach the end of May we come close to the end of the eviction stay in England and Wales and the end of the longer notice periods for England for section 8 and 21 notices. Naturally, there could be further extensions to one or both of these. In fact, this is the nub of the problem as the government has extended these limits several times but has consistently done so at the very last minute. This of course leaves both landlords and tenants in a highly uncertain position as the deadline looms with landlords uncertain if they will be able to recover their properties while tenants do not know if they will leave their homes.

On the side of ending the stay is that some tenants are misusing the delays to remain in properties that they are just choosing not to pay for and for those who can no longer afford the property concerned a further delay simply increases their indebtedness. From the perspective of lengthening the stay, the fact is that the pandemic is still ongoing and it is harder to find replacement homes at this stage. There is also the ongoing fear of a “cliff edge” of evictions if the restrictions are loosened. Notably, in New Zealand, which also had an eviction stay and then ended it, there was no surge in possession claims and they have stayed slightly below the pre-Covid level.

The MHCLG select committee has now waded into this debate. They have published a report on homelessness and the Private Rented Sector. This is actually their second such report on these issues in the context of the Covid pandemic. Interestingly, their main comments on the issue of the PRS are:

  1. To highlight the inconsistent changes over time in the government’s approach to preventing evictions;
  2. To suggest that the government needs to set out a clear roadmap for how it is going to exit the various stays. This is of course what the government was eventually pushed into doing with regard to Covid restrictions more generally;
  3. That the government lacks a clear strategy for dealing with the rising arrears position. It should be a priority to create a targeted support package along the lines of those produced in Wales and Scotland.

The Committee was also sharply critical of some of the decision making by government along the way highlighting that some of their decisions had been made on the basis of adopted statistics which they had then extrapolated or just splitting the difference between different views.

These calls are ones that all parts of the private rented sector have been making for many months. It does not seem overly difficult for the government to at least set out the different options that it is considering for the end of May so that there can be a discussion of their pros and cons. The current process of decisions being made behind the scenes and then making them public just days (or less) before they go into effect is damaging to everyone. Better transparency and more discussion of the options is a far better, and more democratic, way to make good decisions on key issues which affect the livelihoods of a lot of people.

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David Smith is a Partner located in Londonin our Commercial Litigation department

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