In December 2020 the Government introduced a temporary ban on evictions which was subsequently extended to 31 May 2021. The eviction ban effectively stopped county court bailiffs from carrying out evictions in most cases. The Government created exceptions to this ban in certain circumstances such as where there were high rent arrears (nine months which was subsequently reduced to six months).
On 1 June 2021 the county court bailiffs will start making appointments to carry out evictions again. When a bailiff appointment is made, tenants and borrowers should receive notices of eviction from the court giving them at least 14 days’ notice before their eviction.
Jeinsen Lam, Housing team leader in Croydon, explains what you need to know if you are at risk of eviction.
I’ve received a notice of eviction – what should I do?
A notice of eviction is the final stage of the eviction process and is issued by the court. If you receive a notice of eviction from the court it is important that you seek advice as to whether the court has a power to stop your eviction. You should submit any application to stop your eviction before the bailiffs have carried out your eviction and you should attach any supporting documents. If you’re on a low income you might be entitled to legal aid to help you with making your application. You can find a legal aid adviser here and check your financial eligibility for legal aid here.
If you file an application at court to stop your eviction and you do not already have representation you should contact the court and find out details of whether there is a duty scheme available. The county court duty scheme may be able to provide free advice and representation if you are facing eviction. South West London Law Centres currently holds the county court duty schemes contracts at Croydon, Wandsworth and Kingston County Court. You can find more details about how to access the Law Centre’s housing advice here.
How does the eviction process work?
Evictions generally follows a three stage process:
- Serve a notice (for example a section 8 notice or a section 21 notice)
- Obtain a court order (‘Possession order’)
- Eviction via a bailiff appointment.
We would recommend that tenants refer to this information to check how much notice their landlords are required to give.
Legal aid is available to those on a low income where tenants have been served a notice seeking possession such as a section 8 or section 21 notice. You should get advice if you are served with a notice seeking possession as a legal aid adviser might be able to help identify a way to stop your eviction and deal with any court proceedings issued by your landlord.
I am behind on my rent/mortgage payments – is there any help available?
If you owe rent arrears or mortgage arrears or certain other debts such as utility bills/council tax/credit cards you might be entitled to a respite period known as ‘Breathing Space’ for up to 60 days.
You may also be able to obtain breathing space if you are suffering a mental health crisis and are receiving treatment from specialist mental health services in relation to a serious mental disorder. The mental health breathing space lasts so long as the person is getting specialist treatment plus an additional 30 days.
In order to be eligible for breathing space you generally need to fulfil the following criteria:
- Live in England or Wales
- Not be subject of debt relief order, bankruptcy or IVA
- Not had a breathing space period in the last 12 months
- Be unable to pay some or all of your debts as they fall due
The benefits of breathing space are:
- Lenders must not demand payment of arrears or charge interest
- Landlords must not serve a notice seeking possession based on rent arrears but can serve a section 21 notice or serve notices not related to rent arrears.
- Landlords and lenders should not issue claims for possession for mortgage or rent arrears
- If landlords or lenders have already started possession proceedings, they should inform the court. The court should not generally list for hearings or allow enforcement of court orders.
Breathing space can give you time to get more advice and take steps to increase you income. Breathing space is not a payment holiday and you need to pay your rent/mortgage as it falls due. Failing to make payments will potentially end the breathing space protection. You need to be referred for breathing space by a qualified debt adviser. You can contact our Money Advice team here for more information.
If you live in Wandsworth or Croydon, and have rent or mortgage arrears, you can also contact our Crisis Navigation team for help here.