Landlord Action, one of the UK’s best-known eviction and housing law specialists, has seen a 43 percent rise in instructions from landlords and letting agents between 1 June 2021, when the eviction ban ended, and 1 September 2021, versus the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.
The company has also seen a 17 percent rise in enquiries to their landlord advice line during this time, receiving nearly 2,000 calls in just three months. With the period of notice landlords must serve to tenants brought back to pre-pandemic timescales from 1 October (two months for Section 21 and two weeks for Section 8), Landlord Action anticipates a continued surge in enquiries, but warns review hearings at county courts are still causing long delays to the eviction process.
According to Landlord Action, the majority of their enquiries (approximately 90 percent) are from landlords wanting clarification on the latest legislation, looking to evict tenants for non-payment of rent or expressing a desire to sell up and exit the buy to let market. “Many landlords who speak to us express their concerns over non-payment of rent and the continual changing of the process which is now costing them more than they bargained for. The change back to pre-pandemic notice periods cannot come soon enough but we are having to warn landlords about delays in gaining possession due to the requirement for review hearings and a backlog of cases” says Paul Shamplina, founder of Landlord Action.
Review hearings were introduced last year to help courts prioritise the most urgent eviction cases and determine which should proceed to a substantive hearing at a later date. Despite the additional administration, it was anticipated that in some cases a settlement might be reached at review hearing stage, which would prevent the case having to go to court. However, Landlord Action says of approximately 400 review hearings, they are only aware of one case that has received a possession order straight after a review hearing.
Commenting on recent examples, Paul Sowerbutts, head of legal for Landlord Action said: “We are dealing with a possession case involving £14,000 which was issued to Wandsworth County Court in May 2021 and the review hearing is only scheduled for October 2021, five months later. We expect it to progress to a substantive hearing which now will most likely not be until next year. These delays will just continue to add to the debt owed by the tenant.
“In another case, which was due to be heard on Monday 6 September at Medway County Court, we were informed on Friday 3 September that due to a lack of judicial time, the hearing could not go ahead and there was no availability to move the case to another judge. We were asked for dates to avoid in the next 12 months suggesting that is how long it could be delayed for.”
The changing legislation, which before 1 October 2021 required landlords to provide proof of significant rent arrears in order to avoid a lengthy wait to serve notice, means there has been a shift in the type of notice landlords serve. Landlord Action says since June, 65 per cent of notices served have been Section 8 (the vast majority relating to rent arrears) and 35 per cent have been Section 21, no fault.
“Historically, a Section 21 notice was the quickest way to gain possession. Even though in many cases, landlords forfeited their right to recoup lost rent (as this can only be achieved by using a Section 8 notice), most landlords accepted this was the quickest way to get their property back. Now we are seeing delays across the board, there is negativity by many landlords as to their future plans in the private rented sector” concludes Paul Shamplina.