27 March 2020

Residential Possessions Update

You may have read about the Government’s intention to change the law to stop tenants being evicted as a result of Coronavirus. A Bill has been passed today which will impact on current possession claims and also on the service of notices.

Possession Claims

All ongoing housing possessions actions are stayed (suspended) for an initial period of 90 days. In practice this means that that neither cases currently in, or any about to go into, the Court system will progress until the suspension is lifted.

The suspension applies to most types of residential tenancies, and includes:

  • contractual tenancies and council tenancies of temporary accommodation;
  • Mortgage possession claims against homeowners;
  • Licences that are not excluded from the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, which includes property guardians and some employment related accommodation.

The Government is encouraging tenants to speak to their landlord in the first instance if they are experiencing financial hardship as a result of Covid-19 and if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment. In a press statement released yesterday, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) stated that, 'in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme'.

We understand that MHCLG is also working with senior Judges to strengthen the Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords and may extend it to the private rented sector. The Protocol sets out various steps that should be taken before possession proceedings are initiated, such as agreeing rent arrears repayment plans. Costs sanctions may be administered if parties do not abide by the Protocol.

Possession Notices

The Coronavirus Act is now in force which means that any notice to quit or possession notice served between now and 30 September 2020 must give three months’ notice. The prescribed Sections 8 and 21 forms have been amended to reflect this change.

The legislation applies to:

  • Assured tenancies (including Assured Shorthold Tenancies);
  • Rent Act/Protected tenancies;
  • Flexible tenancies;
  • Demoted and introductory tenancies.

But not:

  • Rent Agriculture Act 1976 tenancies;
  • Assured Agricultural Tenancies; or Family Intervention Tenancies;
  • Licences or contractual tenancies, so will not cover property guardians or those in lots of employment-related accommodation.

All possession notices served before the commencement date will remain valid, though note that possession proceedings cannot be begun or progressed during the suspension referred to above.

Should you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Disclaimer

The current global crisis is evolving rapidly, and the rules and guidance for individuals, companies and other entities to manage its implications are similarly fast moving. Notes such as this may be out of date almost as soon as they are published. If you have any questions prompted by this article or on any other matter relevant to you, please get in touch with your usual contact at Forsters.

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