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COVID-19 Guidance for Landlords & Tenants

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 Government: Guidance 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, Citizens Advice 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 obligations.

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 followed: Guidance 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.

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