It’s no secret that the housing market is stocked in favour of landlords and investors. The Coronavirus crisis has highlighted the true extent of their powerful lobby and its ability to influence government action. The housing crisis we are facing, particularly the longstanding battle against Section 21 no fault evictions, has only been exacerbated by the current pandemic. With minimal government action being taken to protect the health and security of renters, the need for collective action and unionisation is in the spotlight, with the support of our neighbours, friends and community members we can ensure we are equipped with the tools necessary to fight this battle together.
On March 26th, in response to the pressure of tenants unions and renters rights groups, the government laid out their plans for a renters and tenants support package. This included an extension on all Section 21 eviction notices to 90 days - from the usual 30. Whilst this was somewhat welcomed, as a step in the right direction, we are now counting down the days to the end of the extension period as we rapidly approach the end of June.
The eviction process can be mentally and physically exhausting, particularly facing such uncertainty over a period which can be around 5 - 6 months. Knowing the process and knowing your rights at this stage is paramount. Your landlord must follow a specific legal process involving the courts in order to evict you. Throughout this process, outlined below, it is important to buy time; landlords can make the smallest mistake throughout this process and in doing so, will allow you breathing space to challenge the eviction. The first step will be to check what kind of tenancy you have, we recommend using Shelter's tool to do this.
It is important to note that you will still be liable to pay rent up until the end of your notice, even if you decide to vacate the property. Below, we have outlined the steps an eviction process will follow, with links to our tips and tricks on how to challenge your Section 21 notice.
Step 1. The Notice
It is crucial that the notice is served on a document named form 6A and follows specific criteria to ensure the notice is valid. We have outlined the steps to checking if your notice is potentially not valid here.
It is also important to note that with a Section 21, your landlord does not have to give a reason why they want you to leave.
Step 2. Court
If you decide to stay past the date outlined on the notice served by your landlord, they will then take the next steps to apply to the court for a possession order - this must be done within 6 months of serving you the notice. Due to the current Coronavirus suspension period however, your landlord cannot apply for a court possession order until courts open again at the end of June.
After your landlord applies to court, you will receive court papers including a defence form. The defence form should be filled in and returned if you decide to challenge the eviction or ask for more time to stay in the property. The papers will outline which proceedings your landlord has decided to follow.
A court hearing isn’t automatically issued, dependent upon the route your landlord used to apply. The court will decide whether or not there will be a hearing having read through the papers that have been submitted. They may decide to make a decision based on the papers if there is no hearing, or similarly if your landlord has used standard possession proceedings you will be called to a hearing, even if you didn’t send back your defense form.
The court can then decide to dismiss the case if the notice is not deemed valid, in which case your landlord must repeat the eviction process again if they still want you to leave - buying you more time. This is why it is particularly important to check your notice for possible mistakes that will deem it invalid. If the court decides that you are to leave the property they will usually give you between two to six weeks to leave and may also ask you to pay your landlords court costs.
Step 3. Bailiffs
If you don't leave by the date set out in the possession order made by the court, your landlord can apply to the court for bailiffs to evict you.
You get notice of the time and date of the eviction on a court document called Form N54. The bailiffs post this or deliver it by hand.
It is important throughout the process to buy time as best you can by looking for potential mistakes in your notice. During this period of crisis, we are already experiencing extreme uncertainty, which can in turn raise anxiety levels, particularly amongst tenants and renters. Solidarity is important now more than ever. Whilst we are fast approaching the cliff edge, we need to work together to do all we can to ensure that renters and tenants can remain safe and well.
Join Tenants Union UK and begin your journey to becoming part of a powerful network of renters and tenants who will effectively challenge decision makers for a fair and more just housing system.