Wednesday, 1 April 2020
COVID-19 Guidance for Landlords & Tenants
The Government have released a set of non-statutory guidance notes for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors, focusing on the measures relating to notices seeking possession as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020, court action on possession cases during the Coronavirus outbreak and in regard to property access in the context of Coronavirus restrictions.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 means that until the 30th
September 2020, most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings
unless they have given their tenants three-months’ notice. In addition, there
has been a suspension of housing possession cases from courts for a 90-day
period from the 27th March 2020. Communication from the Lord Chief
Justice can be read here: Possession
Claims. At the end of this period, a landlord cannot force their tenant to
leave without a court order. Further information is available from the
for landlords, tenants & local authorities
Even if notice has already been issued for a landlord to
take possession of a property, no action through the courts will be possible
during the 90 days from the 27th March. This protects all tenants
and licensees from being evicted under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
Rent, Mortgage Payments & Possession
Rent levels in accordance with tenancy agreements remain
legally due during the Coronavirus outbreak. Any tenant whose ability to pay is
affected, should contact their landlord as soon as possible.
As part of the national effort to respond to the COVID-19
outbreak, landlords should offer support and understanding to their tenants.
Agreements to accept a lower rent, agree a payment plan for arrears ata later
date and to suspend any possession claims for possession.
There are a number of organisations to signpost tenants who
have had a change in their financial situation to. These include Shelter,
and The Money Advice
Service. In addition, local
authorities have access to new funding to help people stay in their homes.
Universal Credit may be something that individuals could qualify for if an
employment status has changed and are under-pinned in terms of rent by Property
Guardian licence agreements. More can be found here: Universal Credit.
Mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays for
up to three- months where the need is due to Coronavirus hardship. This
includes buy-to-let mortgages. The amount owed remains and interest will still
be accrued during this time.
Landlords have not been requested to stop charging rent,
although they are being asked to be open and frank with their tenants so that
both parties can agree a sensible forward plan.
Property Access and Health & Safety Obligations
The Government is asking everyone to do all that they can to
engage with social distancing. It has never been more important for landlords
and tenants to take a pragmatic, common sense approach to resolving issues.
Tenants living with serious hazards that a landlord has failed to remedy will
be provided with local authority support. Landlords will not be unfairly
penalised where COVID-19 restrictions prevent them from meeting routine
Landlord’s repair obligations have not changed, and the
rented property should provide the tenant with a decent, warm & safe place
to live. Planned inspections are not feasible at this time, so the onus must
lie with the tenant to inform the landlord early and constructively about any
issues. Non-urgent issues should be reviewed with common sense and social
distancing guidelines should be at the forefront of all decisions. However,
urgent health & safety issues which affect the tenant’s ability to live
safety and maintain mental & physical health in the home must be addressed.
In such situations, guidance for visiting properties to make repairs should be
for work in homes.
Government guidance on non-urgent visits to the home should
be upheld at all times- this includes viewings for the property to be let or
sold. It has been requested that home moves are delayed, unless time critical.
A link to our summary of the guidance can be viewed here: Moving
Home & COVID-19
Gas & Electrical Safety Inspections
Gas & Electrical safety checks must be carried out at
the beginning of any tenancy. These documents may be provided by post or
digitally if they have already been carried out. Landlords should make every
effort to abide by the safety regulations and the new electrical safety
regulations that are due to come into force on the 1st July 2020. If
not feasible due to COVID-19, a landlord must demonstrate that they have taken
all reasonable steps to comply. What is key is that all steps are documented,
dated and agreed by both tenant and landlord. For further information, follow
this link: Electrical
and Gas Safety in Privately Rented Property.
The full document of government guidance can be found here: Ministry
of Housing, Communities & Local Government Coronavirus Guidance for
Landlords & Tenants.