The media reported widely in advance of changes to legislation that the government was going to ban “all evictions” for the next three months. The Coronavirus Act came into force on 25 March 2020. We discuss below the impact upon residential landlords.
New periods of Notice
From 26 March 2020, the Coronavirus Bill extended the notice periods required to terminate the following types of tenancy:
- Rent Act (protected and statutory tenancies);
- Secure tenancies;
- Assured tenancies;
- Assured shorthold tenancies;
- Introductory tenancies;
- Demoted tenancies; and
- Flexible tenancies.
This change will apply from 26 March 2020 up until 30 September 2020, and landlords will now need to provide a total of three months’ notice before possession proceedings can be commenced.
The Prescribed Forms for Notices relating to the above tenancies have been amended to give tenants guidance on the effect of these changes. It is vitally important that any new notices served are in the new format.
The legislation also contains provisions to extend the period of notice to be given to the tenant, for up to six months if necessary.
However, the new legislation will not apply to the notice period required to terminate Licences, contractual tenancies or service tenancies. The usual rules will continue to apply to the notice period for those notices.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 does not affect notices were served before 26 March 2020.
Whilst there was much focus on the issue of rent arrears in the media, guidance is still awaited. We are anticipating that a new pre-action protocol will be issued which deals with how Landlords should deal with rent arrears which are a direct result of Covid-19. Best practice would suggest that Landlords keep a paper trail of any contact from Tenants on this issue and why they are not able to pay their rent; as such evidence is likely to be relevant in deciding or advising on how the parties can proceed.
Landlords have always benefited from the use of Ground 2 (secure) or Ground 14 (assured) which allows them to issue proceedings immediately after service of the notice where there is anti-social behaviour complained of or the use of the premises for an illegal/immoral purpose.
Whilst the Coronavirus Act 2020 is in force, this power will be suspended.
Social Landlords do have other options to consider in order to regulate tenant breaches. These include the already widely used tools to regulate anti-social behaviour including:
- Warning letters;
- Civil injunction applications;
- Closure orders;
- Community protection warnings/notices.
Private Landlords may also need to consider obtaining an Injunction if the breach of tenancy is severe and communication with the tenants has proved futile and these steps are not prohibited by the Act.
From 27 March 2020, all on-going possession claims have been suspended. This means that any actions already in the court system or about to go into the court system cannot proceed to a stage where a tenant could be evicted.
The suspension will initially last for 90 days.
Warrants for Possession
Warrants for Possession will also be suspended for the same reason as set out above.
Although landlords are not prevented from serving notices and issuing proceedings, in reality landlords are now prevented from recovering possession of properties during this emergency period. Further guidance is awaited regarding rent arrears, which are likely to rise significantly during this period.