COVID-19 – the impact on landlords of residential properties who are seeking possession of their properties

27 Mar 2020 | William Ford

From the 26th March 2020, landlords will have to give their tenants 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession compared to the usual notice periods for notice pursuant to section 8 and section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. This means that a landlord cannot commence court proceedings until after this period.

This law will apply to the 20th September 2020. Landlords should note however both the three month period and the end date of the 20th September 2020 can be extended.

If possession has already been commenced then the cases will be adjourned. Any cases currently in or about to go into the system will be suspended so no cases can progress to a stage where someone can be evicted. These cases will be suspended initially for 90 days but this could be extended. Even if you have obtained possession, bailiff’s warrants are being suspended even if you have a date for the eviction. In the circumstances, even if you issued proceedings before Covid 19 arose and have already obtained a possession order, you cannot evict your tenant for at least 3 months.

This measure is sought to protect all private and social renters as well as those with mortgages and those with licences covered by the Protection of Eviction Act 1977.

The tenants are still liable to pay their rent and are encouraged to pay this as usual unless they are facing financial hardship. If they are experiencing difficulties landlords may be faced with requests to defer payments. In those circumstances, landlords are encouraged to work together with their tenant to put in place a rent payment scheme. The Government has also extended the pre-action protocol which normally applies to social landlord to private landlords https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/protocol/pre-action-protocol-for-possession-claims-by-social-landlords reinforcing the requirement on both parties to agree payment plans.

For those landlords with mortgages the Government has also agreed with lenders that they will ensure support is available to landlords. It has been agreed that landlords will be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday where they have Buy to Let mortgages.

Landlords must, of course, still comply with their obligations to ensure properties meet the required standard. They must deal with urgent and essential repairs for the health and safety of their tenants. In respect of non-urgent repairs, the Government are encouraging the landlord and tenants to agree to do these at a later date.

This is certainly a challenging time for landlords and many whose tenants are already in arrears will clearly struggle with these proposals which are designed to protect the health and safety of tenants.

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