Coronavirus (COVID-19) and eviction proceedings – tips for residential landlords

By William Coon and Sophie Walker

3-month moratorium period

Many residential landlords will be aware of the recent Government announcements concerning rent payment and eviction proceedings in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

On 18 March 2020 the following was announced on the gov.uk website:

Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a 3-month period. As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation need to be concerned about the threat of eviction.

Recognising the additional pressures the virus may put on landlords, we have confirmed that the 3-month mortgage payment holiday announced yesterday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to Coronavirus. This will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.

At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.

This announcement was embodied in s.81 of the Coronavirus Act, which received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020.

What does this mean for residential landlords?

Landlords who wish to start possession proceedings in respect of assured tenancies and assured shorthold tenancies must first give tenants notice under s.8 or s.21 of the Housing Act 1988 ('HA 1988').

These notices inform the tenant of the landlord's intention to bring possession proceedings in the future. Without them a landlord is unable to apply to court for a possession order.

The implementation of the Coronavirus Act 2020 means that:

  • For notices served under s.8 HA 1988 between 26 March and 30 September 2020 the notice must specify a 3-month notice period before commencing possession proceedings.
  • For notices served under s.21 HA 1988 between 26 March and 30 September 2020 that previously required less than 3 months' notice of possession proceedings, the notice must now specify a period of 3 months.

What can residential landlords do?

For residential landlords, the key points are:

  • Whilst measures remain in place in an attempt to contain Coronavirus (COVID-19), it is very unlikely that landlords will be able to evict tenants.
  • Landlords should have conversations with tenants who they suspect will be unable to meet their rent.
  • Any agreements reached should be clearly recorded in writing to avoid uncertainty and future disputes.
  • Notices served up to 30 September 2020 must (for the time being) conform with the 3-month notice period implemented by the Coronavirus Act 2020.

If the outbreak in the UK takes longer to eliminate than anticipated, there is every reason to believe that the measures will be extended in due course.

Check your insurance cover

Please refer to our article: Coronavirus update – insurance implications of unoccupied premises for more information.

Taking advice

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or have other concerns about the impact of Coronavirus, please contact Andrew Baines in Michelmores' Property Litigation team.

 

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This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please contact our specialist lawyers to discuss any issues you are facing.