12/06/20

Residential Possession Proceedings in the UK During the coronavirus

Gaining possession of residential property through the Court proceedings remains suspended in the UK during the coronavirus crisis. This was effective from 27 March, for a period of 90 days and has been further extended by 2 months. The suspension will now run until 23 August.

Landlords; the protocol for possession proceedings during and after coronavirus’ – where are we now?

The case of Arkin v Marshall and another [2020] EWCA Civ 620 confirmed the stay can only be lifted in exceptional circumstances.

To recap:

Possession proceedings have been put on hold until 23 August 2020
The notice period in statutory notices was extended to 3 months, until 30th September 2020

On 13th May, house moves and viewings were able to resume again in England and it won’t be long before the suspension on possession claims expires. There is likely to be, however, a backlog of claims that had commenced prior to the stay, which will need to be dealt with before the courts can deal with new claims.

From 27 March, Landlords have been prevented from gaining possession of their residential property. This will be of particular concern if during the stay there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour from some tenants.

Whilst Landlords are still able to serve statutory notices to quit now, (with the new 3 month notice period) there are certain obligations that Landlords must comply with, before serving notice, which have been set out below.

Landlords; the Protocol:

In my article of 27 March 2020 (“Landlords; changes to gaining possession of your property during the coronavirus crisis“), I referred to the Pre Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords (“the Protocol”). It is not clear whether private sector landlords will be required to comply with this, or whether there will be a new protocol for private sector landlords. It would be prudent to start following the Protocol now, regardless of whether landlords intend to serve a section 8 or section 21 statutory notice to quit.

The courts will be sympathetic towards tenants who have been unable to pay rent as a result of the coronavirus crisis. It is important that landlords and tenants work together to agree an affordable repayment plan. The landlord’s conduct is likely to be under scrutiny should a claim for residential possession be brought following the coronavirus crisis; landlords should be prepared to evidence the pre-action communication and exchange of information between them and their tenants.

Landlords; get your house in order NOW:

  • If you have a tenant in rent arrears, communicate with them. Provide them with a rent statement showing rent paid and outstanding.
  • Discuss the reason for the arrears, their financial circumstances and attempt to arrange a payment plan;
  • Ensure there is an Electrical safety report for all new tenancies from 1 July 2020.

If you haven’t provided your tenant with a hard copy of the following, do this now;

  • “How to Rent” checklist;
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • Gas safety certificate (if applicable)
  • Deposit prescribed information (if applicable)

Further changes are anticipated for residential possession; we will provide further updates when new information is available.  If you would like advice on residential possession,  please contact our property Dispute Resolution Team on 01803 206203.

Kitsons Solicitors - Rhoda Honey

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12/06/20

About the author

Kitsons Solicitors - Rhoda Honey

Rhoda HoneySolicitor

Rhoda is a Solicitor in our Property Litigation team

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