FAQs: Impact of Covid-19 on Landlords and Tenants

by Fred Rose | Solicitor, MWG Solicitors

E: frose@mwgsolicitors.co.uk

 

Can a landlord evict a tenant straight away because of coronavirus?

It's illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant without following the proper steps.

Illegal eviction is a criminal offence - coronavirus doesn't change this.

It's likely to be an illegal eviction if a landlord:

  • makes a tenant leave without notice or a court order

  • locks a tenant out of the home, even temporarily

What do the new rules on eviction mean?

The new rules do two things:

  • extend the notice period for evictions

  • suspend eviction court action

All court proceedings for eviction are on hold until at least 25 June 2020, regardless of when a landlord applied to court.

This means most tenants can’t be evicted before the end of June at the earliest. The advice to tenants is to stay in the home if a landlord gives you notice or asks you to leave.

How long is the new notice period?

Most tenants will get 3 months' notice before their landlord can apply to court. This applies if you get notice on or after 26 March 2020.

This includes:

  • private tenants who get a section 21 or a section 8

  • secure, introductory and flexible council tenants

  • housing association tenants

  • regulated tenants

What if the tenant had notice from the landlord before 26 March?

The advice is that the tenant should stay in his/her home. There is no need to leave at the end of the notice. 

It is the tenant’s legal right to stay until the landlord gets a court order and a bailiffs warrant. They can't do this at the moment because court action for eviction is on hold. 

PRESCRIBED FORMS

As a result of the change in law, the UK Government has changed Form 6A Notice seeking possession of a property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy to reflect the change in the law which came into force on 26 March 2020. The Form 6A should be used by landlords in England up to 30 September 2020.

 

The Government Position

The government has announced a radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus. As a result, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time.

Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a 3 month period. As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction.

Recognising the additional pressures the virus may put on landlords, we have confirmed that the 3 month mortgage payment holiday announced yesterday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. This will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.

At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.

To support this announcement the government has worked with the Master of the Rolls to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit. This will support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.

The government will also issue guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. The National Housing Federation and Local Government Association have welcomed the new support for social renters and made clear that no one should be evicted because of the coronavirus.

This important step on buy to let mortgages ensures parity of support, further to the announcement yesterday that the government made for private mortgage holders.

We are also announcing that those who have benefited from a government backed Help to Buy equity loan will be offered interest payment holidays if they are struggling to pay due to coronavirus.  

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: "The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts."

 

 

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