In an attempt to prevent large scale evictions of tenants who cannot pay their rent due to losing their jobs or being furloughed, the government has introduced measures to restrict the eviction process during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic.
The first measure is to extend the amount of notice that landlords must give to tenants.
The section 8 procedure
This applies where there are rent arrears. The process normally requires a notice period of just two weeks.
The section 21 procedure
This applies where there is no fault by the tenant and it normally requires two months’ notice.
The government has extended the required notice under both sections to three months. That means that any notice served between 26 March and 30 September must expire no earlier than three months after the notice is served on the tenant. Notices served before 26 March 2020 are not affected by this measure.
However, existing notices will be affected by the second measure which is a 90 day stay on possession proceedings. This took effect on 27 March so any possession claims already in the court system will not progress, nor will court bailiffs be allowed to attend properties to enforce possession order already in existence.
From a tenant’s point of view:-
- You still have to pay your rent unless the landlord agrees otherwise.
- If you fall in to arrears and the landlord serves you with notice then that notice cannot expire any earlier than three months from the date that it was served on you.
- If you were served with notice before 26 March or are already in possession proceedings no action will be taken until 25 June 2020 at the earliest.
- Your landlord can still sue you for unpaid rent as there is no stay of proceedings as yet for these type of claims.
From a landlord’s point of view:-
- If a tenant is in short term financial difficulty then there seems little point threatening or instituting legal proceedings against people who cannot pay. Instead be prepared to negotiate a deferral or temporary reduction in rent and remember that you may be able to approach your own mortgage lender for a three month payment holiday.
- You might want to preserve your position by serving notice anyway so that time is running. Once served a section 8 notice is valid for 12 months from the date of service but after then a fresh notice will have to be served. For a section 21 notice the time limit is 6 months.
- If you intend to serve a section 21 notice make sure that you have completed all the relevant steps. The government has published guidance on these effects which can easily be accessed on line.
Please contact us if you wish to discuss these issues further.