9th June 2020: We write with a further update to the situation concerning housing cases and the ongoing COVID19 pandemic

The government has now extended its ban on evictions for residential tenants for a further two months, which takes the ban into late August 2020.

If you require advice on dealing with tenants during the ongoing pandemic, you can call us on 0800 988 7756

30th March 2020: We wrote last week about the Government’s proposed ‘ban on evictions’ and mortgage holiday for landlords. Since then, the Government has finalised its emergency Coronavirus measures to look after both landlords and tenants. More detail is now available about how the ban will work, as well as other measures to protect those who are understandably concerned about losing their homes and/or income streams during this difficult and unprecedented time. We look at how this will affect both landlords and tenants.

Ban on evictions – an update

From 26 March 2020, landlords will have to give all renters three months’ notice if they intend to seek possession. This means that landlords cannot start the court process until after this three-month period. This takes the threat of eviction away from tenants for the time being at least. This applies to all types of tenancies, and all types of notices.

This buffer period where landlords must give three months’ notice will apply until 30 September 2020. The Government can extend this date and the three-month notice period if required.

Regardless of this, the Government guidance states,

“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″.

Housing possession actions suspended

On top of this, as of 27 March 2020, the court service has suspended ongoing housing possession cases. This means that any cases that have be issued at court or are about to be issued will be paused so that no one is evicted during this time.

This suspension will initially continue for three months. However, the government may decide to extend it. This will not only assist tenants, but also people with mortgages and licences.

Potential mortgage holiday for landlords

The Government has appreciated that, as tenants may struggle to pay their rent, landlords will have difficulties with their mortgages. Therefore, as we considered last week, protections are also available to landlords. Mortgage lenders will offer payment holidays of up to three months if required due to Coronavirus-related hardship. This includes for buy-to-let mortgages. Landlords are advised to contact their mortgage lender if their tenant is unable to pay their rent in full.

What happens after the three-month period?

The Government has suggested that landlords and tenants work together to agree an affordable repayment plan. The Government announcement states that they will be issuing guidance asking landlords to “show compassion” and allow tenants affected by the virus to remain in their homes where possible.

In the meantime

Landlords’ and tenants’ obligations continue as usual. Tenants must pay their rent. If tenants are suffering financially as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, they should speak to their landlords in the first instance.

Landlords will be expected to continue to ensure that their properties are in a good state of repair. While we are practising social-distancing and self-isolation, only urgent and essential health and safety repairs should be made. If repairs are not urgent, landlords and tenants should agree that these will be done at a later date. The Government encourages local authorities to take a “pragmatic, risk-based approach” to enforcing against landlords.

As the position is changing regularly, we will keep our blog updated on the emergency measures during this Coronavirus pandemic, for both landlords and tenants.

If you are concerned about managing your rental properties during this difficult time, our property disputes team can assist. Call us on 0800 988 7756. While our offices are closed in accordance with Government guidance, our solicitors are certainly still working and providing legal services and advice. We can advise you by telephone, email and video conference. For more information, please read our announcement.