Updated COVID-19 Government guidance for landlords and tenants

by Nick Thompson

11:21 AM, 1st June 2020
About 5 months ago

Updated COVID-19 Government guidance for landlords and tenants

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Updated COVID-19 Government guidance for landlords and tenants

This guidance has now been updated as of 1st June and provides advice to landlords and tenants on the provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020, and further advice for landlords, tenants and local authorities more broadly about their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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1.1 As a tenant, should I stop paying rent during the outbreak?

•Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. The Government has a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.

•In many if not most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. If your ability to pay will be affected, it’s important to have an early conversation with your landlord. Rent levels agreed in your tenancy agreement remain legally due and you should discuss with your landlord if you are in difficulty.

1.2 What can I do about rent arrears?

•Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.

•As part of our national effort to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak it’s important that landlords offer support and understanding to tenants who may start to see their income fluctuate.

•An early conversation between landlord and tenant can help both parties to agree a plan if tenants are struggling to pay their rent. This can include reaching a temporary agreement not to seek possession action for a period of time and instead accept a lower level of rent,or agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date. Where a landlord does choose to serve notice seeking possession for rent arrears or has done so already, the notice period and any further action will be affected by legislation lengthening the notice period (see Section 1.3)and/or the suspension of possession claims (see Section 2).

•If a landlord and tenant agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date, it is important they both stick to this plan, and that tenants talk to their landlord immediately if they are unable to do so.

•If a tenant is worried about being unable to pay their rent, or if landlords become aware of tenants who may be in difficulty, advice is available from specialist providers such as Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service. If you are eligible for Legal Aid, you can also contact Civil Legal Advice for free and confidential advice.

•You can also find more information on Government support for employers and employees here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19.

•If you are worried about being evicted and not having anywhere else to go, you should speak to your local authority.

•If you fall into financial difficulties due to a change in your employment or earnings, for example, you may qualify for Universal Credit. Property Guardian licence agreements are a valid tenancy arrangement for receiving housing costs support in Universal Credit. Students are also able to claim Universal Credit under certain circumstances. Find more information about Universal Credit at https://www.gov.uk/how-to-claim-universal-credit.

•The Coronavirus Act 2020 means that landlords who do issue notices seeking possession will not be able to progress any further before the expiry of the notice. All notices for both the private and social rented sector tenancies are for three months.

•Regardless of this legislation, where tenants have difficulty paying rent over this period, we ask that landlords do not issue a notice seeking possession, particularly given that the tenant may be sick or facing other hardship due to COVID-19.

•During the current period, the Lord Chief Justice has said that applications to suspend warrants of possession should be prioritised, and that judges dealing with any possession claim must have in mind the public health guidance and should not make an order that risks impacting on public health: https://www.judiciary.uk/announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-message-from-the-lord-chief-justice-to-judges-in-the-civil-and-family-courts/.

How does the Coronavirus Act 2020 interact with the courts suspending housing possession claims?

•The decision taken by the Master of the Rolls means that housing possession claims in the court system will be postponed, this means landlords will not be able to progress any claims where they have already issued a notice seeking possession for a 90 day period(subject to review).

•This new measure applies to cases currently in progress and cases where a landlord or mortgage company has already commenced possession proceedings on expiry of a notice seeking possession.

•A tenant issued with a three-month notice immediately after the Coronavirus Act 2020 comes into force would see that notice expire in three months.At the expiry of the notice,a landlord who wanted to take the next steps in progressing the possession claim would have to apply to the courts for a possession hearing, a process that ordinarily takes 6-8 weeks, and may take much longer under the current circumstances.

•The legislation covering notice periods is in force until 30 September 2020 and is subject to review and may be extended by secondary legislation.

•The suspension of housing possession cases is by a Practice Direction under the Civil Procedure Rules.The practice direction will suspend possession proceedings under Part 55 of the Procedure Rules for 90 days from 27th March 2020.


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Comments

NewYorkie

13:14 PM, 1st June 2020
About 5 months ago

Where the legislation refers to 'Landlord', does it also mean 'Freeholder'?

James in London

18:51 PM, 1st June 2020
About 5 months ago

How has this actually changed?

Old Mrs Landlord

7:16 AM, 2nd June 2020
About 5 months ago

Clearly, having spent £millions clearing rough sleepers off the streets and now building supported accommodation for them the government don't want to see them replaced with evicted tenants so instead have chosen an alternative that will inevitably bankrupt a fair few landlords. The economy is not going to recover quickly even if there is no further resurgence of the virus, so I foresee a considerably reduced PRS by the time a vaccine is found or herd immunity established. Arguably the numbers of properties put on the market by landlords throwing in the towel would bring down the price to earnings multiple of housing which may be seen as a positive development, but the whole housing market would be impacted by that, not just landlords. As we saw in the last recession, if housebuilders can't sell new builds at the profit they want they just stop building. Since construction and infrastructure renewal appear to figure largely in plans to boost the economy as we emerge from coronovirus restrictions, the ramifications will reverberate throughout the economy. A balance will have to be struck eventually because there will always be some who prefer to rent or have no alternative, but how long before we see the scales tip back in favour of private landlords?


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