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Residential Possession Proceedings during the Coronavirus Period

Within the raft of emergency legislation covered by the Coronavirus Act 2020 are some very wide ranging restrictions which will apply to residential tenancies.These restrictions have been widely commented on in the press, but full details are only now becoming available to us.

It is, I am afraid, going to be a very difficult time for landlords.

To summarise: –

  • The Coronavirus Act (section 81 and schedule 29) amends notice periods in relation to possession proceedings for most residential tenancies.Generally speaking, this means that in the period up to 30 September 2020 the existing notice periods for a notice to quit, or notice seeking possession is extended to 3 months.
  • A new Practice Direction has been bought in with effect from 27 March 2020 which means that all housing possession claims and all proceedings to enforce an order for possession are stayed for a period of 90 days from 27 March 2020 (i.e. up to 25 June 2020).
  • The prescribed form of notices have been amended to take into account the new three-month period.

So what does this mean?

Firstly, of course, it does not mean that tenants are absolved from paying rent.Neither does it mean that landlords are absolved from their obligations to keep residential properties in a habitable status of repair or comply with obligations to ensure gas safe inspections etc are carried out.

Notices can still be served.However, it is important to ensure that a notice served within the period up to 30 September 2020 is in the new form.

If notices were served in the correct form prior to 27 March 2020, it would, in theory, still be possible to issue possession claims once those notices have expired if a tenant fails to vacate the property.However, all Court proceedings will be automatically stayed.

Landlords may still have recourse to guarantors.It is not clear, however, whether landlords may be able to have recourse to any tenancy deposits.

It is important that an agreement for payment of partial or reduced rent during this Coronavirus period is properly documented so as to ensure that the landlord does not do anything which might waive an entitlement to receive full rent (plus interest if applicable).

These are difficult and challenging times for us all.If you are affected by any of the issues set out above or would like to discuss any other queries, please feel free to telephone us.We have made all appropriate arrangements to ensure that we are still working effectively whilst our offices are closed.All our telephone numbers and email addresses are still fully functioning.

Kind regards

Simon Parrott

Lettings eBrief 30 March 2020