Coronavirus: Government advice for landlord and tenants

The Government published ‘COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities’ on 28 March 2020.

This guidance gives details of measures to help renters during the current coronavirus crisis. It clarifies the proposals, which the Government announced previously, for a temporary ban on evictions.

These measures could give renters some relief. But, if you are an accidental or buy-to-let landlord, you may be worried about what will happen if your tenant fails to pay the rent and you cannot get your property back.

First, the guidance stresses tenants should continue to pay their rent where they can and to discuss any problems with their landlord. Your tenant will still be liable for the rent during their occupancy. If they are struggling financially because of the crisis, the possibility of missed payments and default increases. So, it makes sense to address any issues proactively. This could involve agreeing a temporary lower level of rent or a plan for paying off arrears later.

Secondly, the guidance explains the effect of the new Coronavirus Act 2020 on possession proceedings. The Act stops short of a total eviction ban. Instead it increases the period of notice a landlord must give to recover possession of property under most types of tenancy to three months. If the Government considers it necessary, this could be increased to six months in the future.

In theory, the Act does not prevent you serving notice, or affect a notice which has already been served. However, any proceedings issued will be stayed for a period of 90 days. This means any action to evict your tenant will be paused, and the guidance strongly advises landlords against commencing or continuing eviction proceedings during the current crisis.

The fall-out from the coronavirus crisis is affecting both landlords and tenants in unprecedented ways, and there may well be further changes in the forthcoming months. You can, however, reduce the risks by keeping up to date with developments and discussing any potential issues with your solicitor early on.

Full details of the announcement can be found here.

How can we help

For further information, please contact Phil Moir in the property dispute resolution team on 0191 567 0465 or email: [email protected]

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published on 1 April 2020.

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