UPDATED: 3 September 2020
The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 26 March 2020 as an emergency measure in response to the spread of the coronavirus. Notice periods in relation to possession proceedings for certain residential tenancies were extended with the aim of protecting residential tenants from eviction for the relevant period.
On 29 August 2020, the Coronavirus Act (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force. These apply to England only. They extend the relevant period and dis-apply certain parts of the original Coronavirus Act 2020.
We have answered some of the most common questions we have received below regarding evictions in England.
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 increased once again from 29 August 2020, from three to six months. An amended prescribed form 6A has also been produced.
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 in most cases to six months. Shorter notice periods will apply to certain cases where the landlord wants to evict the tenant because of rent arrears of six months or more, anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse or fraud. Details of these varying notice periods can be found here.
Notice must be given on a new ‘Form 3’ which has been amended to reflect these changes.
Q: How long will the requirement to provide these extended notice periods last?
A: The current legislation dictates that the extended notice periods are to be used until 31 March 2021. 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 or before the changes introduced on 29 August 2020?
A: The provisions are not retrospective. Accordingly, notices served with shorter notice periods before the changes were implemented are still valid.
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 20 September 2020. This suspension period has already been extended once and may be extended further 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 arrear (debt) claims affected?
A: While non-possession 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.