Ahead of the evictions ban being lifted on Sunday, ARLA Propertymark has written to Housing Minister Robert Jenrick, setting out a range of points on behalf of letting agents.
The letter, penned by ARLA’s policy and campaigns manager Timothy Douglas, urges the government to stick to its timetable for courts reopening to hear evictions cases from September 21.
It is vital that courts hear cases as soon as possible so that those who choose not to pay or are guilty of unacceptable behaviour face justice, reads the letter.
The trade body, which represents almost 10,000 agents across the UK, says tenant arrears built up prior to the Covid-19 pandemic are unrelated and should be treated as a separate matter.
It argues that last-minute announcements delaying the courts from reopening and extending notice periods have had serious implications for agencies which manage multiple tenancies.
Throughout the pandemic, ARLA Propertymark has encouraged its members to work with landlords and tenants to be flexible and do all they can to avoid tenants being evicted because of the pandemic.
Last week, the government revealed it was introducing a commitment not to have evictions over Christmas and no enforcement action in areas under local lockdown.
Notice periods have also been increased to six months, with the aim of preventing tenants being evicted over winter. There will be exceptions with shorter notices for the most ‘egregious’ cases of anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse or fraud.
The letter, which you can read in full here, goes on to argue that when the ban on evictions was announced in March, thousands of cases which were not related to Covid-19 became stuck in the court system.
“For example, there is a case in North London of a woman who incurred £22,000 in rent arrears prior to Covid-19 and was due to appear in court w/c 30 March 2020 just as evictions were banned,” reads the letter.
“This meant that she no longer had to face court and now owes arrears close to £30,000, which has caused the landlord extreme financial hardship.”
Douglas says it is vital that cases such as these are prioritised when courts reopen on Monday.
The letter also raises concern that the government does not have a plan in place to deal with a huge backlog of eviction cases. It says the plan for ten new ‘Nightingale Courts’ to deal with extra cases is not enough to manage an estimated 62,000 possession claims.
ARLA Propertymark calculates that any landlord who issued a claim on the day the evictions ban started has on average lost a total of £8,549, equivalent to a nationwide total of £530 million.
“Every week a landlord must wait to regain possession of their property is a week of lost income, particularly affecting private landlords and agents who may be relying on rental income to pay their own mortgages and bills,” says the letter.
The letter concludes by saying that if plans in the Renters’ Reform Bill to remove Section 21 from the Housing Act are enacted, Section 8 must be reformed, and a new specialist housing tribunal created.
This post has originally been featured in Letting Agent Today.