Landlords; changes to gaining possession of your property during the coronavirus crisis
Landlords; the Government is introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants and restrict landlords gaining possession of their property during the coronavirus crisis.
The temporary changes being introduced are intended to prevent tenants being evicted and made homeless during the crisis.
Guidance for landlords during the coronavirus pandemic
Section 8 and Section 21 Notices to Quit
Landlords can still send statutory notices (section 8 and section 21 notices) to quit during the crisis. For both section 8 (regardless of the ground relied upon) and section 21 notices (no fault notices), the landlord must give at least 3 month’s notice before they can apply to the court for possession. The prescribed forms are being updated to reflect the change in notice period.
This extension of the notice period is expected to last until 30th September 2020.
Lodger agreements and licences are not affected.
The extension of the notice period does not apply where notice has been served prior to the coronavirus crisis (however please see below in relation to court proceedings).
Court Possession Proceedings
The Government is introducing emergency legislation to prevent evictions during the crisis. As a result, possession proceedings have been suspended until late June 2020. No new possession proceedings are to start during the crisis.
Pre Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords (“the protocol”)
It is likely that private landlords will be required to comply with the protocol in the future.
The aim of the protocol is to encourage more pre-action contact and exchange of information between landlord and tenant and avoid court proceedings, where possible. These steps will be expected of private landlords. Once landlords are able to start court proceedings for possession again, they will need to ensure that they are compliant with the protocol.
Based on the general requirements of the protocol, landlords will be expected to:
- Avoid court action where a settlement out of court is being actively pursued;
- Document steps the landlord has taken to communicate with the tenant ahead of time and the tenant understands any documents being served on them;
- For vulnerable tenants, landlords should be mindful of whether they have mental capacity to defend a possession claim and any discrimination issues to consider under the Equality Act 2010.
If landlords fail to comply with the protocol, a Court may make an order for costs, adjourn or dismiss the possession claim entirely.
For section 8 notices for rent arrears, landlords should make reasonable efforts to contact the tenant to discuss the situation and send the tenant a copy of the protocol. Possession proceedings should be postponed if a payment plan has been agreed between the landlord and tenant, and the tenant is sticking to it.
For section 21 notices, the landlord should write to the tenant explaining why they seek possession. This letter must give the occupiers a timeframe to make representations to the landlord (in writing) of any personal circumstances or other matters they wish to have taken into account by the landlord. This letter can be sent at the same time as sending the section 21 notice.
The landlord should consider any representations the tenant makes and respond giving reasoning why the landlord still intends to start possession proceedings. Once possession proceedings have started, the landlord is expected to attach to the claim form a witness statement including the following:
- Whether the tenant was invited to disclose personal circumstances / matters to be taken into account;
- Whether any representations were considered by the landlord;
- Why proceedings are being brought;
- Attach relevant documents.
Possession of residential property is a rapidly moving area; we will update the above as and when new information becomes available.