The government has announced emergency measures to suspend new evictions from private or social rented accommodation during the coronavirus outbreak. There is a ban on new possession proceeding applications to the court for 90 days and all existing proceedings have been stayed for the same period. All notices have also extended to 3 months.

 

We try to answer some pressing questions raised by landlords over the last few weeks.

 

Can I serve a Notice during COVID-19?

Yes. However, the advice from the Government is that Landlords should not commence or continue possession proceedings during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so. Serving a Notice during these times of uncertainty is only likely to add to the anxiety faced by tenants.

What is the Notice Period that I must provide?

The Housing Act 1988 is amended by Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020. All notices served between now and 30 September 2020 must be for a period of 3 months.

When will this provision end?

The 3 month notice period applies until 30 September 2020. It is likely that this period would be extended subject to the crisis unfolding over the next weeks and months. The relevant authority has the power to extend the relevant period within which the 3 month Notice period applies beyond the date of 30 September 2020.

What happens to Court Proceedings?

All existing possession proceedings are stayed for a period of 90 days from 27 March 2020.

Is this stay of court proceedings likely to be extended?

This is likely to depend on the way this pandemic unfolds and the resulting impact. The guidance makes it clearly that the suspension is subject to review. This could be extended.

Have the prescribed forms changed?

The Prescribed Forms have been amended and the correct forms must be used for the relevant notices to be valid.

The amended forms are clear that court proceedings cannot begin earlier than 3 months from the date the notice is served.

Can Possession claims be pursued after the expiry of the Notice Period?

As the law currently stands, possession claims can be commenced after the expiry of the notice period. However, the situation is subject to review and the 90 day “ban” on possession claims could be extended beyond the 90 day period.

Are there any help available for landlords not receiving rent from their tenants during this crisis?

Landlords are not under any obligation to suspend rent payments. If a tenant is unable to pay the rent, then the relevant notice could be served. However, that is at the discretion of the landlord, and compassion is urged from all quarters in these unprecedented times.

There is potential for landlords with buy to let mortgages to seek repayment holidays during the pandemic. However, those who have a mortgage free property and rely on the rental income may need further help.

What happens once the COVID-19 outbreak passes?

The Government has advised that once the crisis has passed, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an ‘affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.’ There is likely to be a practice direction requiring landlords in the private sector landlords to work with tenants before pursuing possession claims. This will ensure that private sector landlords reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in before taking possession action through the courts once the 3-month delay on issuing eviction proceedings has ended.

The situation is rapidly unfolding. Landlords are encouraged to check the guidance before taking any further steps against tenants.

The information contained in this article is not designed to constitute legal advice and is provided for information purposes only.

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