From 26 March 2020 landlords have to give all renters three months’ notice if they want to end the tenancy, and must use the updated section 8 and section 21 prescribed forms. This extended notice period applies to all tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After three months, if the tenant has not moved, a landlord needs to apply to court in order to proceed. The restrictions currently apply until 30 September 2020, but may be extended.
From 27 March 2020 the court service has suspended all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the courts, nor any about to actioned, can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but can be extended if needed. This applies to all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
The government has published general and technical guidance on the new eviction requirements. This guidance is being regularly updated.
Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made. An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords.
Where reasonable and safe for you, and in line with other government guidance, you should make every effort to review and address issues brought to your attention by your tenants, and keep records of your efforts. Use technology such as smartphones to avoid the need for in-person visits. Further guidance on visiting properties to make repairs.
Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations and the new electrical safety regulations which will come into force on 1 July. There are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot do this, and landlords must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. If you are not able to gain access to the property due to restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19, or are not able to engage a contractor to carry out the necessary work, we recommend you document your attempts to do so and all correspondence with your tenants. For further advice please visit the GasSafe website.
We will take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to enforcement during this time.
Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support for tenants is available.
In the first instance tenants should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.
Going forward the government is seeking to strengthen the pre-action protocol requirement and also extend this to the private rented sector. This will help landlords and tenants to agree reasonable repayment plans where rent arrears may have arisen.
The Government has agreed with lenders that buy to let landlords will be able to claim up to three months of ‘mortgage holiday’ in situations where their rental income has been impacted by the coronavirus. If your tenant contacts you saying they cannot pay their rent due to coronavirus, you should contact your lender to discuss your options as soon as you possible. Mortgage holidays are only available to people who are up to date with their payments. However, from 19 March 2020 mortgage lenders agreed to suspend all possession orders and not start any new court actions for 90 days.
If you are currently in the process of buying or selling property, please refer to the government advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.