Covid-19 - Rental properties and possession claims

Not long after the country went into lockdown, the government announced an intention to prevent new housing possession claims from being issued by the Courts, and putting existing claims and evictions on hold for three months.

Their original advice stated : The government strongly advises landlords not to issue new notices seeking possession or to commence or continue eviction proceedings without “very good reason”. Tenants should continue to pay rent where possible, and have an early conversation with their landlord if in difficulty.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 then introduced further measures relating to Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST) including the provision that a section 21 Notice (for no-fault evictions), which normally gives the tenant 2 months notice to leave, must now give at least 3 months notice before proceedings can be issued. The same 3 month notice period applies for section 8 notices, where previously proceedings could be issued in as little as 2 weeks if the tenant owes rent arrears or is in breach of the terms of the tenancy.

This extended notice provision will stay in place until at least 30th September.

Where tenants are suffering genuine financial difficulties arising from Covid-19 they should let their landlord know as soon as possible and try to come to an amicable arrangement to avoid action being taken at a later date, because the rent remains legally due and payable.

However, if landlords are having problems with their tenants, or need to get their property back for whatever reason, it is still possible to serve notices at the present time, but possession proceedings cannot be issued until at least 3 months later.

Any existing Court proceedings for possession, or eviction applications, have been put on hold for 90 days from 27th March.

These changes to the law only apply to tenants under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). People who lodge in another person’s house do not have an AST and only have a Licence to occupy. Therefore they are at risk of eviction at any time (as they always have been). Again, the advice is for landlords and lodgers to work amicably together at this difficult time.

Landlords with buy-to-let mortgages, who are affected by their tenant not paying rent due to Covid-19 may be able to apply for a payment holiday, and should speak to their lender.

This article is prepared on the basis of the current guidance at the time of publishing. For specific advice, please contact suzie.fisher@thwlegal.co.uk


COVID-19 - Repairing and Inspecting rental properties.

The government advice during the current situation is that Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live – and it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.

How does this work in practice?

A good landlord should already be on top of routine repairs and maintenance, so may only be effected if any urgent or essential problems arise. Tenants should notify their landlords immediately and work together to try and resolve issues in a way which is safe for both parties and any contractors who may need access to the property. You should follow the latest government guidance at time times.

Other non-urgent repairs and routine inspections will need to be put on hold, but the landlord should keep records of what repairs are needed, and what steps or efforts (if any) you have made to carry them out. The government advice is that “in these unprecedented times we encourage tenants and landlords to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues which are affected by COVID-19 related restrictions”.

There are however certain legal requirements that require a landlord to carry out an annual Gas Safety Check and new Electrical Safety Checks that come into force in July. Landlords should make every effort to abide by these requirements. If they cannot do so, they must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. They should document the efforts they have made both with contractors (who may be unable to attend) and the tenants if they refuse access to the property, or access cannot be granted because they are a high risk person, or self-isolating.

This article is prepared on the basis of the current guidance at the time of publishing. For specific advice, please contact suzie.fisher@thwlegal.co.uk

Published 2 April 2020

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