Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland has written to the High Court Enforcement Officers Association to confirm that during the current lockdown there will be no enforcement of possession orders except for the most serious cases, including extreme rent arrears.

County court bailiffs had already been requested to stop enforcing possession orders but until now High Court bailiffs had been able to progress evictions, if requested to do so.

Although this latest announcement blocks off one of the last remaining avenues for landlords who have tenants with ‘normal’ (i.e. not extreme) rent arrears and other non-priority cases seeking to evict; it at least gives landlords facing extreme financial hardship caused by non-paying tenants some hope.

Buckland says his ministry will bring forward exceptions to the High Court enforcement halt, the key one being cases related to extreme pre-Covid rent arrears but also illegal trespassing and squatting, and tenants engaged in anti-social behaviour, fraud or deception.

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Ben Beadle (left), Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, says: “The vast majority of landlords who have had tenants affected due to the pandemic have been working constructively to support them.

“We continue to encourage and support such action. But in a minority of cases renters have abused the protections afforded by the recent ban on repossessions, causing significant hardship.

“It is therefore important that the Government recognises that in the most serious cases enforcement action must continue.”

Paul Shamplina (left) of Landlord Action, says: “This narrows down which landlords can now progress possession orders to an eviction, but it is a chink of light in dark times for those with extreme rent arrears – which we believe to mean of 12 months or more, with cases that were in the courts PRE-COVID.

“But first we have to persuade the county court to transfer the landlord’s case to the High Court, if that can be done, with evidence showing severe arrears and hardship to the landlord.  

“It will depend on how quickly the judge will deal with the application, then there is a chance the eviction can take place before Mid-January by a High Court Enforcement Officer, rather then wait for the county courts bailiff to resume in mid-January, when the mass backlog restarts. This assumes there is not an extended lockdown.”

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