The last six months have been challenging for most. Tenants have especially faced difficulty whereby they have been unable to meet rental payments.
The Government has therefore issued guidance with the primary purpose being to protect private and social tenants by delaying when landlords can issue proceedings to evict.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (‘the Act’) means that from 29th August 2020, landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants six-month’s notice. This will continue until 31 March 2021 at least.
There are exceptions to the six-month notice period requirement in ‘serious cases’ such arrears to the value of over six months rent, antisocial behaviour, fraud and domestic abuse.
New and existing claims for possession will not be able to commence proceedings before 21 September 2020. Furthermore, at the end of the notice period landlords cannot force tenants to leave without a court order and the government does strongly encourage the use of mediation in such circumstances.
For landlords, the Act will come across as draconian and unfair if there is no prospect of getting vacant possession for at least six months leaving them with a huge financial deficit. It will also no doubt put off buyers of flats where a tenant is in occupation, but vacant possession is expected on completion. It will especially come as a disappointment to sellers and buyers because the stamp duty holiday ends on 31 March 2021!
The flip side of the argument is that the current pandemic is out of the tenant’s control and therefore it is unduly harsh to penalise them. Furthermore, some may argue that landlords have had the option of seeking a mortgage holiday.
Further information on the Act can be found by clicking here.
Finally, it is important to remember that the above protection does not apply to Licences to Occupy unless such a Licence is secured under the Housing Act 1985.