Evicting a tenant and the implications of the Coronavirus Act 2020

The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 26 March 2020, as an emergency measure in response to the spread of the coronavirus and substantially affected the ability of landlords to recover possession.

Its introduction has had significant implications for landlords and tenants of residential premises. We have answered some of the most common questions we have received concerning this piece of legislation.

 

Q: Can I still serve a s21 notice on my tenant to terminate the tenancy at the end of the fixed term?

A: Yes you can but the notice period to be given in a s21 notice has been increased from two months to three months. A new prescribed form 6A must be used to serve notice.

 

Q: What if my tenant is in rent arrears or committing another breach of tenancy?

A: The notice period to be given before possession proceedings can be commenced with a section 8 notice has also been extended to three months. Accordingly, where, for example, a claim for recovery of possession based on rent arrears may have been possible after two weeks’ notice, three months’ notice is now required. A new prescribed form, called ‘Form 3’, must also be used.

 

Q: How long will the requirement to provide these extended notice periods last?

A: These extended notice periods are to be used until at least 30 September 2020. However, provision has been made to extend these notice periods further, either as a whole, for different purposes or in different areas as required (perhaps to reflect a phased release from ‘lockdown’).

 

Q: What if a notice was served before 26 March 2020?

A: The provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 are not retrospective. Accordingly, notices served before 26 March 2020 with shorter notice periods are still valid.

 

Q: Is there any financial support for Landlords?

A: Landlords can apply for a three month payment holiday on buy to let mortgages. Other support may be available for self-employed and employed landlords in certain circumstances.

 

Q: Can I start or continue with court possession proceedings during the ‘lockdown’?

A: A new Practice Direction was brought into force on 27 March 2020. Possession proceedings are currently suspended until 23 August 2020. This suspension period may be extended if necessary. In theory landlords can start court proceedings for possession orders after a notice has expired. However,our experience indicates the Courts will not even serve the proceedings until the suspension is lifted.  

 

Q: Does the tenant’s obligation to pay rent continue after a tenancy or notice has expired?

A: Yes. Whilst the tenant remains in occupation, they remain liable for rent in accordance with the tenancy agreement.

 

Q: Are rent claims affected?

A: While court claims have not been formally suspended, delays are being experienced by court users and particular applications are being given priority over others. Claims for rent arrears can be commenced but landlords must be prepared for delay; these claims are not considered high priority.

 

Q: As a landlord, am I still liable to carry out repairs during the lockdown?

A: Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standards so urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made. Local authorities have been encouraged to take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to any complaints from tenants and consider the current difficulties landlords may encounter before taking enforcement action

 

This post was written by Heidi Berry, a Lawyer at Price Bailey. If you require any further assistance or have any other questions, please contact Heidi on the form below.

 

We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.

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