Update: 21st September 2020
The moratorium on evictions has ended but the notice periods that landlords must provide are dependent on the type of tenancy you have and the type of notice that has been served.
Residential tenants facing eviction should follow the advice set out in this link.
Update August 2020 - Eviction ban extended
The ban on evictions has been extended by a further 4 weeks in England and Wales and will now last until 20 September (30 September in Scotland, with a view to be extended into 2021).
This suspension was previously due to expire on the 24 August having already been extended since the ban was first announced in March.
Full details of this latest government's announcement can be found on the government's website here.
Update July 2020 - Pre-action protocol
Initially announced back in March, the first expected changes to the pre-action protocols i.e. the steps landlords have to take before they can apply to court for a possession order have been announced.
Among the updates, landlords seeking possession due to non-payment of rent will be required to provide details of the impact of Covid-19 has had on tenants ability to pay rent.
The amendments also suspend the minimum period between the issuing of a claim form and a hearing taking place. A move that will help alleviate some of the pressure on the courts once hearings recommence.
These measures are due to remain until 28 March 2021 - for more details, read the announcement on the Judiciary's website here
In March 2020, the government introduced legislation to suspend any new evictions from social- or private-rented accommodation for a period of at least three months, or until the initial crisis is over.
This applies to both section 8 notices where tenants may have broken the terms of the tenancy (e.g. the non-payment of rent) and section 21 notices (also known as no-fault eviction notices).
The pre-action protocol - i.e. the steps landlords have to take before they can apply to court for a possession order – shall also be widened. In other words, this means once new possession proceedings are permitted, there will be an expectation from the courts that landlords have reached out to tenants to work around the financial position that they're in.
Help available to landlords…
If you're unable to pay your rent, your landlord can check what their mortgage lender may be able to do for them.
Many lenders are offering three-month payment holidays for their customers and this specifically includes landlords with either buy-to-let mortgages and tenants who are facing financial difficulties due to the impact of Covid-19.
However, lenders will add the interest to the end of the term of the loan, so it’s important for them to get a clear statement from them of the consequences of using this option.
Making a new agreement between you and your landlord…
While landlords are under no obligation to reduce or delay rent payments, even if their tenants are struggling, the intention is to pass on some of the benefit of a mortgage holiday to tenants and alleviate the pressures being felt by both parties.
They can do this by attempting to work together with their tenants to establish a repayment plan that the tenant finds affordable and takes their personal circumstances into account.
Landlords can use our payment plan template to record the terms of any temporary arrangement between them and their tenants during this time.
We also recommend that landlords keep an accurate paper trail of any steps they’ve taken to date, in order to protect their position and build evidence that helps support their case should they need to take legal steps in the future.
Once the government signals the end of the initial crisis, the option to repossess the property will be reinstated. But, it's likely that the government will place additional requirements on landlords for this to be successful.
The current gov.uk rental guidance only defines this as “landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.” but before possession orders can be granted, the courts will want to see that landlords attempted to do so.
Finally, the government have consolidated all of their Covid-19 advice for landlords and tenants here.
You may also find the government’s guidance on landlord and tenant matters helpful.
You and your landlord should speak to each other asap
If you're not able to pay your rent by the agreed date, then the first thing you should do is speak to your landlord about it directly.
In the first instance, they may want to consider reducing the rent that’s owed, or they could allow you to pay what you can afford now and make up the rest later.
If you haven't yet, it might be worth checking if you may also be eligible for housing benefit, universal credit or statutory sick pay.
If the situation doesn’t get any better – or deteriorates further – then the landlord may need to start thinking about serving notice on the tenant to leave the property.
Landlords can use a section 8 notice to seek an eviction under specific grounds, including non-payment of rent (rent arrears) or where tenants have damaged the property.
Before a landlord takes this course of action, they should review the paperwork and make sure they've done everything properly to date.
Tenant's rights prevent landlords from being able to simply change the locks and throw the tenants out, even where a tenant’s behaviour may be criminal.
See our residential landlord and tenant 101 guide for more information about the process of ending a residential tenancy.
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