Coronavirus : Residential Landlord and Tenant Q&A

COVID-19 has created unprecedented times for Landlord’s and Tenant’s alike. Over the last few weeks, a number of changes in the law have been introduced by the Government with a view to trying to strike the right balance between protecting tenants from losing their homes and landlord’s needing to seek possession for wholly legitimate reasons. This article will set out the most common Q&A’s.

1. What is the new law?

The new law relating to possession proceedings came into effect on 26 March 2020. It is contained within Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act”). There has also been an amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”) which governs civil matters. In short, the new law has:-

(a) Increased the notice period which a landlord has to provide to their tenant before they can issue possession proceedings. That notice period is now currently 3 months and a landlord will have to wait until the 3 month period has expired before they can issue possession proceedings.

(b) As of 25 March 2020 all possession proceedings (i.e new and existing claims) have been stayed (ie put on hold) for up to 90 days. This rule is set out in CPR 51Z and the same not only applies to residential possession proceedings, it also includes commercial and mortgage actions too;

2.Can I still serve my tenant with a Notice?

If the tenancy is an AST (ie Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement) you are still permitted to serve a Notice Seeking Possession upon your tenant, such as a Section 21 or Section 8 Notice. There are new forms which have been introduced which deals with the increased notice period which a landlord now has to give their tenant and they can be located on the .gov website.

3.What about Notices served before the new law?

Landlords who have already served a Notice upon their tenant (that is before the new law introduced under the Act came into effect) can still able to commence possession proceedings once the notice period under that Notice has expired. However, due to the amendments to the CPR, as all possession proceedings have been stayed for 90 days, in reality the outcome will not be all that different. So therefore whilst a landlord is able to issue possession proceedings, those proceedings will have to be stayed for 90 days.

4. What about rent?

The government have not authorised tenants to cease paying rent. If, however, a tenant is unable to pay their rent due to the financial implications caused by COVID-19 they are encouraged to discuss their concerns with their landlord as soon as possible. If any agreement is reached (for example a payment plan) it is recommended that such is recorded in writing. For landlords suffering financially due to a lack of rental income, they may be able to take advantage of their lender’s mortgage holiday to relieve such financial burden. Further, whilst landlords are also able to commence proceedings to recover rent arrears (in an alternative to seeking possession), it should be borne in mind that a landlord may experience difficulty in enforcing any future Judgment due to the their tenant’s financial circumstances.

5. What about gaining access to property occupied by a Tenant?

The Government has recommended that visits to a tenanted property should be avoided unless the visit is urgent and health & safety related. A list of some health & safety issues which a landlord is required to deal with during the coronavirus outbreak can be found on the .gov website but such includes roof leaks, a broken boiler, plumbing issues and security problems etc. Further, with regards to a landlord’s obligation to provide regular gas and electrical inspections, landlords are encouraged to make every effort to abide by the existing regulations. There are however provisions in the regulations to account for situations whereby such requirements cannot be met and thus, landlords are recommended to document any attempts to gain access to the property and / or engage a contractor to undertake an inspection.

Please contact our specialist Residential Landlord & Tenant Team at BTMK by e-mailing at [email protected] or by telephone on 03300 585 222 (24/7) and ask for Louise Mickleburgh or Gabriella Shepherd. We also offer live chat through our website and are contactable through all of our social media channels.

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