On 18 March 2020, the Government announced emergency legislation to “suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place”. As such, eviction notices served on or after 26 March 2020 must last for a minimum of three months, and this period may be extended.
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, but where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. In most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent, and rent levels agreed in your tenancy agreement remain legally due. Tenants who are unable to pay, 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 in these cases. An early conversation between landlord and tenant can help both parties agree a plan if tenants are struggling to pay rent. This could 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.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 protects most tenants by putting measures in place that state where landlords need to issue notices seeking possession, the notice period must be for three months or longer.
From 27th March, any claims in the system or about to go into the system will be affected by a 90 day suspension of possession hearings and orders. At the end of the notice period, a landlord still cannot force a tenant to leave their home without a court order if the tenant was unable to move.
We strongly advise landlords not to commence or continue eviction proceedings during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so.
Additionally, the government is increasing Housing Benefit and Universal Credit so that local housing allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents, operating payment holidays of up to 3 months, providing emergency funding for local authorities in England, and urging authorities to support rough sleepers and other vulnerable homeless people into appropriate accommodation.
Having welcomed the Government’s commitment to introduce a “complete ban on evictions”, several commentators said the changes to the Coronavirus Bill fell short of the initial commitment. However, the suspension of ongoing housing possession action from 27 March is acknowledged as a significant step in providing security of tenure for most tenants in England and Wales.
The government is doing as much as possible to support all those affected by the epidemic.