A ban on landlords evicting tenants has now lifted.
The ban was introduced in March as part of emergency legislation to help people whose finances had been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation covered tenants in both private and social rental homes.
The ban was originally due to last until 25 June but was later extended until late September amid warnings that thousands of tenants could lose their homes.
A recent survey by homelessness charity Shelter suggests 322,000 private tenants in England have fallen into arrears since the pandemic started, and more than 170,000 private tenants had been threatened with eviction by their landlord or letting agent.
So where does this leave renters? Here are six things to know.
You may have six months before you have to vacate your home
The new guidance means that in the majority of cases renters will now have a six-month notice period if your landlord wants to evict you.
The six-month notice period will be in place until at least 31 March 2021, with the government having stated its intention to “support renters over winter”.
In England, if your landlord serves you an eviction notice on or after 29 August 2020 they must provide you with at least six months’ notice — unless they have legitimate grounds to get you out sooner (for more on which see point 2).
If your landlord gave you notice from the 26 March to 28 August 2020, the required notice period was three-months.
In Wales, if your landlord gave you notice from the 26 March to 23 July, the notice period must be at least three-months for all types of notice.
If your landlord served you notice on or after 24 July 2020, the notice period must be at least six-months, other than for grounds relating to anti-social behaviour which remain at three-months.
In most cases landlords in Scotland need to give tenants six months’ notice.
However, they may end a tenancy earlier in cases of antisocial and criminal behaviour and where the landlord or their family need to move into the property. Depending on the circumstances, the landlord may serve notice of either three-months or 28 days.
Reasons for which the six-month clause won’t apply
In both England, Wales and Scotland, the six-month notice period won’t apply if there are serious issues with your tenancy.
Six-months of rent arrears
Evidence of antisocial behaviour
Being a nuisance to your neighbours
Breach of your tenancy agreement
Using your home for illegal purposes, such as drug dealing
Read more for full details of the exemptions in England and Wales and Scotland.
What happens if my landlord wants to evict me?
If you are in an assured shorthold tenancy, the most common type of tenancy, your landlord can start the eviction procedure by serving you either a section 21 or section 8 notice.
A section 21 notice is commonly referred to as a “no-fault eviction” as it means landlords can evict tenants who have come to the end of their fixed-term contract even if they have done nothing wrong. However, in such cases the six-month clause will apply.
A section 8 notice means a landlord has to have other grounds for evicting you. This might include falling behind on your rent, damage to the property or complaints from neighbours. In such cases the six-month clause may not apply.
Either notice will specify a date by which you are being asked to leave your home.
What happens if I don’t leave?
If you don’t leave the property by the date of your eviction notice, your landlord can issue a claim for possession in the county court.
However, new legislation brought in by the government in June means landlords must submit evidence about how their tenants’ circumstances may have been affected by coronavirus.
You will be sent a copy of the landlord’s claim documents and will also receive information on where to obtain legal advice to help you with your case.
As a tenant, you have the right to file a defence against a notice given under section 8 and to challenge the validity of the notice whichever process has been used. You might also provide a statement about how you have been affected by the pandemic if this is relevant.
If you are likely to suffer extreme hardship as a result of having to leave your home, you can ask the court to postpone possession for up to a maximum of six weeks.
If after a hearing, your landlord is granted a possession order and you continue to stay in the property, your landlord can apply for a warrant of possession, which enables a county court bailiff to evict you. You will receive 14 days’ notice of the eviction.
In some circumstances, you can apply to suspend the warrant. However, if you do not make an application or if the court does not agree to suspend the warrant, a county court bailiff will enforce the warrant and evict you from your home.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said that evictions would not be enforced by bailiffs if a local area was in a lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.
Bailiffs have also been told by the government not to enforce possession orders over Christmas, other than in “the most serious circumstances.”
Your rights as a tenant
It is illegal for a landlord to evict you without giving you written notice or obtaining a court order.
A landlord is also not allowed to harass you or lock you out of your home, even temporarily.
You cannot be issued with a section 21 notice during the first four months of your original contract.
Landlords can only issue a section 8 notice if they have legal grounds to end your tenancy, for example if you are in rent arrears. They must apply to a court for a possession order to evict you.
For more on your rights as a renter, read our guide here.
What should I do if I can’t pay my rent?
One in four private renters say they are worried about how they will pay their rent as a result of the pandemic.
Unless eviction proceedings are already active, it is important to talk to your landlord as soon as possible if you’re struggling to pay your rent.
If you can still afford to pay some of your rent, ask your landlord if they would accept a reduced payment for a period of time, particularly if you think you will be able to make up the shortfall once your finances have recovered.
It would also be worth checking to see if there are any government benefits available to you.
If you already claim Universal Credit or housing benefit, you may be able to get discretionary housing payment through your local council. This is a system that allows rent benefit payments to be paid directly to landlords.