Advice for residential landlords amid COVID-19
When and how can a tenant be evicted?
During lockdown, various restrictions have been implemented preventing landlords from evicting tenants.
Rent continues to remain due however, and the government has strongly advised that tenants in financial difficulty due to the COVID-19 impact should continue to pay rent where possible and have an early conversation with their landlord if in difficulty to arrange a payment/installment plan.
Whilst measures have afforded some considerable protection to tenants experiencing difficulties in paying rent temporarily as a result of the impact of COVID-19, there are unfortunately instances in which tenants capable of paying rent are taking advantage of the situation.
Landlords will therefore be pleased to know that the moratorium, preventing landlords from pursuing tenants for unpaid rent and vacant possession of a property lifted on 20 September 2020.
Certain restrictions remain, and these are set out below.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (CVA2020), passed as an emergency measure in response to the spread of COVID-19 instilled various rules relating to tenancies.
From 26 March 2020 until 31 March 2021, notice periods given to tenants requiring vacant possession of a property for certain residential tenancies have been extended.
- From 26 March 2020 to 28 August 2020, notices of eviction/possession proceedings related to certain residential tenancies under Section 21 and Section 8 were increased to 3 months in certain circumstances.
- From 29 August 2020, Landlords were required to give at least 6 months notice. As a result, a Section 21 Notice will now not expire for an extended period of 10 months from the date it is given to the tenant.
Shorter notice periods will apply to certain tenancies, where the landlord wants to evict a tenant because of:
- Rent arrears of at least 6 months.
- Where the grounds for eviction relate to the tenants’ immigration status or the tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy or AST and possession is sought following the death of the former tenant.
- Certain criminal convictions and breaches of injunctions or closure orders under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
- Domestic abuse (social tenancies only where the victim has permanently left the property).
- Acquiring the tenancy as a result of a fraud.
The provisions are not retrospective, and any notice that has now expired can now be progressed, if necessary, via court proceedings.
When lockdown arrived, the government announced that with effect from 27 March 2020, all ongoing housing possession actions to include mortgage possession proceedings as well as proceedings against squatters, with a small exception relation to some trespassers, were to be suspended.
During this time, the government strongly advised landlords not to issue new notices seeking possession or to commence or continue eviction proceedings without “very good reason”.
Practically speaking, cases currently issued, or about to be issued, are stayed and cannot progress to a stage where someone could be evicted.
The stay of 3 months initially, was extended from 25 June 2020 until 23 August 2020 and again until 20 September 2020.
However this moratorium has now lifted and existing matters can now be progressed provided they are reinstated.
Reinstating Existing Proceedings
From 20 September, in relation to existing stayed proceedings brought before 3 August 2020, the claim will not be listed until one of the parties serves a “reactivation notice” setting out:
- The knowledge that the landlord has as to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tenant and their dependents.
- Where the claim is based on rent arrears, the landlord must also provide an updated rent account for the previous two years.
- And a copy of case management directions with new dates for compliance.
The standard 8-week period between issue of proceedings and listing of the final hearing has been extended in order to allow the court more flexibility.