Residential possessions and coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak has brought with it an unprecedented number of temporary changes to the way in which we live and work. The impact of these changes has extended into every aspect of people’s lives.

There was much publicity when the Government announced it was proposing a total ban on evictions for three months. The Government has now implemented this announcement, and whilst the measures introduced fall slightly short of a total ban, they will undoubtedly provide some protection for renters who may be struggling to pay their rent or bills. 

The first change is that the Government has legislated to extend the notice period before any possession proceedings can be commenced. Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 introduced a temporary requirement for landlords seeking possession of a property, to give 3 months’ notice before starting proceedings. This change applies to all notices given under a residential tenancy, including Section 8 and Section 21 Notices. 

The most noticeable effect of this change, for landlords, will be when they are seeking possession for non-payment of rent. Under the normal procedure, this can be sought on two weeks’ notice. However, like all other proceedings, they must now give 3 months’ notice, and the grounds for issuing a Section 8 Notice must still apply for a notice to be valid. The effect on landlords is that they will have no choice but to allow a tenant to remain in occupation for the foreseeable future, even if the tenant is in substantial rent arrears. Landlords are also being encouraged to work with tenants in order to arrange a repayment schedule of any rent arrears accrued during this period. 

These changes have been expanded by the Judiciary to cover tenants already subject to possession proceedings. On Friday 27th March 2020, the Judiciary issued Practice Direction 51Z to the Civil Procedure Rules. Under this Practice Direction, no possession orders will be made, and no enforcement will be authorised, for 90 days. Therefore, anyone subject to possession proceedings will not be forced to leave their property during the period of the stay.

It is worth noting that although all these changes are currently limited to 3 months, there is scope for the measures to be extended until the Autumn if necessary. The Government has also not ruled out expanding the notice period to six months should the need arise. 

Because of these temporary changes, landlords and tenants are expected to work together to understand each other’s circumstances and try to reach a mutual arrangement for resolving any differences, without the need to give formal notice and apply to Court. 

Get in Touch

If you are a landlord requiring advice on your options, or a tenant facing eviction in these unprecedented times, our expert solicitors are here to assist. For more information about how we can assist you please visit our website at www.barrettandco.co.uk, or call our team on 0118 958 9711. 

Further Reading:

COVID-19: Buying and Selling your Home. What Do I Do?

Coronavirus: Employer Duties and Employee Rights

The Legal World is Modernising During the Covid-19 Outbreak

How Barrett & Co are helping others during the coronavirus crisis

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