COVID-19 And Residential Tenancies
In response to the extraordinary measures which the UK Government has implemented to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, changes have been made to the termination of residential tenancies and eviction of tenants.
Because the Government has instructed the public to stay at home emergency measures have been put in place to facilitate this happening by halting the usual evictions which ordinarily take place every day up and down the country. This means that presently the Courts are not hearing any possession applications submitted by Landlords. Any eviction orders which were made prior to the start of this crisis have been put on hold and bailiffs will not be visiting people’s homes to carry out those evictions.
Changes have also been made to the length of time which Landlords are required to give their tenants to terminate their tenancies and begin the eviction process. A minimum of three months’ notice is now required regardless of the type of notice process which a Landlord wishes to use. The idea here is to stretch out the eviction process, hopefully until such time as the crisis has passed.
Any notices which were served on tenants prior to 26 March 2020 remain valid and are unaffected by these changes except for the fact that the Court will not process your application for a possession order at the moment. Those applications can still be lodged with the Court and they should be, otherwise you may lose the right to rely upon those notices as they only remain valid for a certain period of time before they must be served again.
So what exactly does this mean for Landlords and Tenants?
For Tenants it should give you some peace of mind that you cannot legally be made to leave your home during the pandemic crisis. You will remain liable for your rent and if you are unable to pay this, perhaps because you cannot afford to do so presently, you should be aware that you are still incurring rent arrears debt with your Landlord. Our advice is to speak with your Landlord to explain why you cannot pay your rent (or you cannot pay it in full) and agree with your Landlord a sensible payment plan to repay this debt once things return to normal. Once these restrictions are lifted there will be nothing to prevent your Landlord from seeking possession and evicting you from your home due to rent arrears which may have accrued simply as a result of the pandemic crisis and therefore through no fault of your own. Many Landlords will be understanding and will allow you time to catch up with your rent but you must be proactive about this and communicate with your Landlord about the problems you are facing.
For Landlords we would advise that you consider if it is appropriate to begin the eviction process by serving a notice on your tenant at this time. You may already have tenants who are behind on their rent from before the crisis began and you may consider that it is inevitable that you will be seeking possession of the property back once things return to normal. If this is the case, you should issue your notice now so that you are in a position to make your application to the Court once the notice has expired. The Courts are likely to be very busy processing applications once these restrictions are lifted and there is likely to be a significant backlog of cases which will have to be processed before the Courts can begin to deal with new applications.