The ban on bailiff enforced evictions in England, as well the requirement for landlords to provide 6-month notice periods, ended on 31 May 2021 for residential tenants, notes Ross Pierrepont, from Tallents Solicitors.
However, the Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) came into force on 4 May 2021 and must now be included in Section 8 notices and eviction proceedings. The breathing space will give tenants in debt the right to legal protections from their creditors.
Two types of breathing space for tenants in debt
Tenants in debt can enter two types of breathing space: a standard breathing space and a mental health crisis breathing space.
The breathing spaces have been designed to give debtors time to restructure their finances and tenants have been advised to continue paying their rent during the breathing space period.
Standard breathing space: this is available to anyone with problem debt and it gives them legal protections from creditor action for up to 60 days. This includes pausing most enforcement action and contact from creditors and freezing most interest and charges on their debts.
Mental health crisis breathing space: this is only available to someone who is receiving mental health crisis treatment and it has some stronger protections. It lasts as long as the person’s mental health crisis treatment, plus 30 days (no matter how long the crisis treatment lasts).
Accessing a breathing space
To access a breathing space, tenants in debt must seek debt advice from a debt advisor who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer debt counselling or a local authority which provides debt advice to residents. All applications for a breathing space have to be considered however, the debt advisor will consider if the breathing space is appropriate for a debtor.
What the breathing space means for landlords
If landlords need to regain possession of a property they can take action by serving Section 8 notice under an assured or assured shorthold tenancy.
However, if you are advised that the debt owed to you is in a breathing space, then you must stop all action related to that debt and apply the protections (which must stay in place until the breathing space ends).
The protections include:
- Not contacting the tenant about the repayment of the debt, unless you have permission from the court,
- Stopping any enforcement or recovery action to recover the debt (by you or any appointed agent),
- Stop the tenant from paying certain interest, fees, penalties or charges for the debt while it is in the breathing space.
If you do not comply with the breathing space protections then any action you take will be null and void and you may become liable for the debtor’s costs.
Complying with the breathing space
These changes are new and complicated so landlords who are considering serving Section 8 notices should seek legal advice to ensure they are complying with the breathing space guidelines and protections.
If you are a landlord or tenant, residential or commercial and require clear legal advice, then please contact Tallents Solicitors on 01636 671881 to arrange a confidential appointment.
The situation with Covid-19 is rapidly changing so this article is intended as a guide only. For the latest guidelines, please refer to gov.uk.