In these unprecedented times, the government has passed the Coronavirus Act 2020 to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new Act is wide ranging but importantly for landlords and tenants, the legislation amends certain sections under the Housing Acts 1985,1988 and 1996, as well as the Rent Act 1977. These amendments extend the notice period for any notice served by the landlord seeking possession to three months, meaning that a landlord cannot commence possession proceedings until a three-month period has passed. This applies from 26 March 2020 and is in place until 30 September 2020, although there is the power to extend this period for up to 6 months.
Notices served before the 26 March 2020 are still valid, however from the 27 March 2020 all possession proceedings going through the courts are suspended. This is likely to last until June, if not beyond.
The Act will apply to all notices to quit and notices seeking possession.
Any notice served from the 26 March in connection with a protected and statutory tenancy, a secure tenancy, an assured tenancy (including assured shorthold), a flexible tenancy, a demoted tenancy or introductory tenancy must have a notice period of three months. This applies to all grounds for possession including anti-social behaviour.
There are now new updated prescribed forms for section 8 and section 21 notices seeking possession.
It is important for tenants to know that a landlord cannot evict a tenant without a court order. Landlords therefore cannot ask their tenants to leave without one and that being served with a notice does not mean that they have to leave once the three months has expired; rather, it means that landlords cannot apply to the court for possession until the three months has passed.
The government is advising landlords and tenants to have open and honest conversations about rent payments which are still due. These conversations could include the financial hardships being faced by tenants, reasonable rent payments and repayments schedules.
While the emergency legislation attempts to ease the immediate pressure on tenants and protect them from losing their homes due to coronavirus, it is important to note that the legislation doesn’t provide for a rent holiday as tenants are still required to pay rent. This doesn’t of course help the landlord who may well have a mortgage to pay on the property. In those circumstances, it would be wise for the landlord to contact his or her mortgage provider to negotiate a mortgage repayment holiday to avoid any potential action against them.
By Ben Hall