Landlords and Tenants Update – COVID-19

Following on from the Landlords and Tenants guidance published on 30th March 2020 by the MHCLG, a press release was issued on 5th June 2020 extending the suspension of evictions for a further 2 months until 23rd August 2020.

Solicitor Kiran Manku considers the changes.

What does this extension mean?

From the announcement made by the Housing Secretary, people who are renting in social or private rented accommodation will be provided with wider protection measures against evictions. This offers tenants a degree of certainty and security in relation to their renting over the coming summer period.

This protection will take effect from 25th June 2020 as a continuation from the previous 3 months eviction ban already in place and is intended to be applicable to homeowners, commercial and leasehold properties.

The new announcement made on 5 June 2020 does not mention how the extension until 23rd August 2020 will be effected, or if this will indeed become an extension to the 90 day stay period (currently until 25th June 2020) referred to in Practice Direction 51Z.

As stated in the previous guidance, if tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus and as a result are unable to make rent payments, then tenants should speak with their landlord at the earliest opportunity so that they can both work towards a solution together and without the need for the matter to be resolved in court. Ultimately, the tenant’s liability to pay rent still remains.

A judiciary-led working group has convened to address any matters that may arise once the suspension of the possessions proceedings has ended, and how this will have an impact on all parties in each case and the courts.

Guidance for landlords and tenants in respect of this extension is being updated accordingly to reflect the recent changes introduced.

What if you have already served a notice to evict before the CVA 2020 and Practice Direction 51Z?

The CVA 2020 was introduced as a measure sought to protect tenants against eviction under residential and business tenancies during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Relevant provisions of this Act clarify the position on the landlord’s ability to obtain possession of residential premises let under particular types of residential tenancies, and forfeiture of business tenancies if no rent payment has been made. Please refer to our previous article ‘Rights of Commercial and Residential Landlords and Tenants during the Covid-19 Pandemic’ which explains the Relevant Period for residential and business tenancies.

The new Practice Direction 51Z means that all possession proceedings under CPR Part 55, and all proceedings to enforce a possessions order by a warrant or writ of possession will be suspended for 90 days from 27th March 2020.

This applies to residential and non-residential possessions proceedings.

This Practice Direction has since been amended from 18th April 2020, to clarify matters such as possession proceedings not applying to a claim against trespassers, the direction not applying to an interim possession order, applications for case management directions and the direction not preventing the issue of claims.

Residential Tenancies – S8 and S21 notices:

The Technical Guidance on eviction notices published by MHCLG in June 2020 provided guidance for landlords in private and social renting, and the amended processes for serving section 8 and 21 notices during the Coronavirus. This guidance only applies to England.

If section 8 and 21 notices are served on tenants within the relevant period as defined in the CVA 2020, then the requirements are these must be 3 month notices and possession proceedings can only be brought by the landlord once this notice period has expired.

In the situation where any of these notices were served on a tenant before 26th March 2020, then the notice may still be relied upon by the landlord; the changes brought by the CVA 2020 do not amend the existing legislation for notice periods that were already in place before this Act. Therefore, the notice period for section 8 (between 2 weeks to 2 months) and section 21 (two months) remain. However, due to the extension to the eviction ban it is likely that all possession proceedings that are brought will be on hold until 23rd August 2020.

Business Tenancies – Forfeiture of Lease

Please see our previous article ‘Rights of Commercial and Residential Landlords and Tenants during the Covid-19 Pandemic’ which explains the protection provided by Section 82 of the CVA 2020 to commercial tenants during the pandemic, and the position where possession proceedings have already commenced or have been issued.

During the Relevant Period applicable to business tenancies, a landlord cannot exercise the right of re-entry or forfeiture, but this does not mean that the landlord is waiving these rights unless they have expressed this in writing to their tenant(s).  

If the landlord has already issued possession proceedings under CPR Part 55 to forfeit the lease, then such proceedings and any proceedings to enforce the possession order granted will be put on hold under Practice Direction 51Z until 25th June 2020. But as the extended eviction ban is applicable to commercial and leasehold properties, it is more than likely that proceedings will be put on hold until 23rd August 2020.

MHCLG have advised landlords not to commence or continue possessions proceedings during this time unless they have a very good reason.

It is a matter of decision for the landlords to consider whether undertaking possessions proceedings would be necessary during these times.

For future information see the following link to the government website

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