Property Receivership and COVID-19: What lies ahead for enforcement?


aniel Richardson - Partner CG&Co

An enormous amount can happen in a month…

Since I last wrote an article for Bridging Loan Directory’s Opinion page, there has been yet another extension to the ban on bailiff-led evictions in England.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced last month that the ban will now remain in place until May 31, 2021.

In short, this means that unregulated lenders continue to be hamstrung when it comes to enforcing repossession orders – although there remains much that can be done, as I’ll discuss shortly.

If you’re thinking that there’s nothing remarkable about the most recent extension to the ban given the immense uncertainty that continues to surround the pandemic, you’d be absolutely right.

None of us need any reminder that coronavirus remains resolutely in our midst and the rollout of the vaccine nationwide simply cannot take place too quickly.

Nonetheless, there is a subtle – yet discernible – shift in the language that the government is now using when explaining the extension to the ban on bailiff-led evictions.

Take the previous extension announced on February 14, 2021. On this occasion, the government made clear that these measures would be “kept under review in line with the latest public health advice” until March 31.

But when the most recent extension was announced on March 10, 2021, the language was – by contrast – more expansive and unequivocal.

A statement released by the government made clear: “We will consider the best approach to move away from emergency protections from the beginning of June, taking into account public health advice and the wider roadmap.”

To my mind, this is the strongest indication yet that something resembling “normality” is likely to resume on or after June 1, bar for any unforeseen circumstances.

Separately, it’s worth noting that lenders authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority are also going to be similarly hamstrung by the most recent extension to the ban on bailiff-led evictions.

The FCA announced on March 5 that those lenders it authorises would be allowed to enforce repossessions from April 1.

The FCA stated: “We recognise that repossessions can be difficult and stressful but delaying repossession can lead to poor customer outcomes as a result of increased balances and equity erosion.

“This is why we propose to allow firms to repossess homes when it is fair and reasonable to do so.”

So, what needs to happen before June 1?

While it remains impossible to get bailiffs to act on all but the most serious cases, the courts remain open for business.

CG&Co has consistently progressed default cases as far as possible through the courts during the pandemic to ensure that evictions can be enforced at the earliest opportunity once the enforcement ban is lifted.

We fully intend to continue adopting this highly proactive approach until the start of June – and beyond if this becomes necessary.

Nonetheless, it will undoubtedly feel as though something resembling normality – as we conventionally knew it prior to the pandemic – is returning once the bailiffs can resume their invaluable role.

But if the past year has taught us anything, it’s to prepare for the unexpected.

And – as I said at the start – a great deal can change in a month.