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Tenancy evictions process due to Covid-19

In light of the changes to the tenancy evictions process due to Covid-19, we have prepared below some important information for you.

Now more than ever, it is essential for all tenancy documents to be in order. Some requirements may seem pedantic, but time spent getting paperwork right the first time can save a huge amount of time and money further down the line. We understand that at these difficult times, more than ever you are looking to retain your existing landlords, we therefore recommend that paperwork is in order before submitting a claim, to avoid conflict and potential loss of a customer if there are issues with a claim, not to mention a costs order against the landlord, which could result in a charge being put on the property until costs are settled, for the sake of providing accurate tenancy documents.

The courts recently announced that there will be a 2 stage hearing process and that they will be providing free legal advice for ALL tenant’s prior to the possession hearing and also at the possession hearing itself. This free advice will not be means tested, making it readily available for every single tenant brought to court. Given that most, if not all, tenants will therefore have solicitors casting their eyes over claim forms, tenancy documents and possession claims, it is imperative that nothing is submitted to court unless all i’s are dotted and all t’s crossed.

Below we have highlighted some common areas where issues occur, this list isn’t exhaustive but may help with avoiding common mistakes.

Names

Whether it be tenant, landlord or a company name it must be stated in full, without abbreviations and must include title for example “J Smith” is not acceptable, it must be Mr John Smith.

Addresses

These must be in full and with the correct postcode. Do not shorten or abbreviate or omit the postcode. Make sure you verify the postcode on postcode finder, and if it is a flat, ensure you include the building name if it has one, together with street/road name.

Tenancy Agreements

Ensure that these are dated and have a commencement date. Include details of when the tenant first moved in and make sure everyone has signed correctly. If there is a change of landlord/tenant during the tenancy (if any of the parties have changed) make sure you have given details of changes and included dates and reason for change.

Deposit

Check the deposit remains protected. Some deposit schemes do not renew unless you specifically ask them to and will not contact you at the end of the initial term. Check protection remains in place and that the amount on the certificate the same as what the tenant paid.

Prescribed Information

You will need to make sure that you have provided the tenant with the full terms and conditions and/or leaflet which relates to the deposit scheme. This is not just the certificate. If in doubt, contact the deposit scheme holder to ensure you have provided the tenant with the correct information. You need to have completed all relevant sections of the prescribed information along with signing and dating it and giving the tenant the opportunity to check and sign it.

Gas Safety

This is not just about gas appliances in the property. If the tenant is in a flat but does not have a gas cooker or boiler, are there any gas pipes which run through the flat to service the heating (for example) from a communal boiler situated elsewhere in the building? If so, the tenant must be provided with a copy of the gas safety certificate for that appliance even though it is not situated in the actual flat. The gas safety certificate must have been given to the tenant before a section 21 notice is served. The gas safety must be renewed on time each year and the tenant provided with a copy of the certificate. Each tenant must be given a copy of the gas safety certificates.

EPC

This must be valid and a copy given to the tenants.

Licenses

If the property is a HMO or in a selective licensing area, the license must be valid, specifying the name of the landlord on the license and being within date. If in doubt check with the local authority to see if a license is required for the area.

Repairs

If the tenant reported any repair issues or disrepair, you will need to ensure this has been addressed. Have you been served with any form of notice by the council in relation to repairs? Clear records of any repair works carried out, must be kept and made available at any court hearing.

Fees

You must ensure all unauthorised fees been refunded to the tenant, to include deposit overpayments.

Rent Statement

The Judge wants to see a simple rent statement dating back 2 years (or to the beginning of the tenancy if it is not more than 2 years old). The statement will have a rent amount due column, a date due column, a rent amount paid column and an accumulated arrears column. The accumulated arrears must show the increase/decrease each month.

Rent Due Date Due Rent paid Date paid Accumulated arrears
500.00 1/9/2020 0 500.00
500.00 1/10/2020 0 1000.00

It is important to keep it simple. The Judge will not like confusing schedules and will not want to see any payments other than those which are rent related.

Possession Proceedings are governed by Practice Directions and Civil Procedure Rules as well as legislation. The Civil Procedure Rules and Directions set out clear instructions on how a possession claim form must look, what information is required and how it is to be set out, amongst other things. The rules also give the Judge the power to strike out a claim if any of the rules have been ignored or not complied with correctly. Seemingly eviction is seen as the last resort, therefore Judges will not hesitate to use their discretion and power to strike out a claim for poor record keeping.

Possession Claims will now be subject to a preliminary hearing, which is where a Judge will look through the court papers without parties in attendance. This will be a prime time for Judges to spot errors or misleading information which could lead to a claim being struck out. The tenant’s legal representative will also be looking through the paperwork at the preliminary hearing. Again, a prime time to spot any breaches of procedure. Whereas historically, it was often an advantage that Judges listings were extremely full, as they rarely had time to look through files in fine detail, now they will have the time and opportunity to do so.

Please help us to help you and your landlord, in getting your paperwork in order. Now is a good time to start looking through all tenant files and check names, dates, addresses, prescribed information, gas safety certs etc to save time should a claim be required. The courts recognise that agents are professionals in the industry and they therefore expect a professional quality of possession claim.

Further details of the Governments recent announcements and how the court process will now look are set out in the links below.

https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/resumption-of-possession-cases/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/understanding-the-possession-action-process-guidance-for-landlords-and-tenants/understanding-the-possession-action-process-a-guide-for-private-landlords-in-england-and-wales

Please note that FCC Paragon will not be responsible for the delay or the failure of a claim, if it fails on inaccurate and/or insufficient information presented to court, when FCC paragon and their solicitors have asked you to provide and clarify such information.

Important Information

Copyright FCC Paragon - All rights reserved. Company Registration No. 3176719. Company VAT No. 880 9883 64

FCC Paragon is a trading name of Paragon Scheme Management Services Ltd who is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Our Firm Reference Number is 415457.

FCC Paragon is an appointed representative of Paragon Advance Limited, Firm Reference Number 304595.

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