The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 [SI 2021/15] (“Regulations”) came into force on 11 January 2021, and extend the restrictions on residential evictions until at least 21 February 2021.

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The Regulations, which replace the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 (“old Regulations”), continue to provide protection from eviction to residential tenants during the present national lockdown.

Until 21 February 2021, attendance at a residential property for the purpose of delivering a notice of eviction or executing a writ or warrant of possession is, save for certain specific circumstances, prohibited.

One of the exemptions to the prohibition is where the court is satisfied that the notice, writ or warrant relates to the enforcement of an order for possession made in respect of rent arrears where those arrears are equivalent to at least 6 months’ rent.

As a matter of good practice, whilst the Regulations remain in force a landlord seeking an order for possession based on rent arrears should therefore ask the court to record in the order that the exemption applies so that, in the event of enforcement action becoming necessary, the notice of eviction can be delivered, and the writ or warrant of possession executed, so as not to contravene the Regulations.

Importantly from a landlord’s perspective, the 6 months’ arrears can now have accrued at any time, whereas under the old Regulations it was a requirement that the arrears had to be equivalent to at least 9 months’ rent, and must have accrued before 23 March 2020 (the date the UK went into the first period of lockdown).

The Regulations are accompanied by an explanatory memorandum which explains that the purpose of the widening of the rent arrears exemption is to strike a balance between the impact on landlords of the extension brought about by the Regulations and the need for tenants to continue to be protected from eviction during the present lockdown (and possibly beyond).

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