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The Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has had a profound impact on residential tenancies. We have compiled below a list of the most common questions we have been asked.
If you have any specific questions or need further legal advice on the points below, please get in touch with our expert Residential Property Litigation team.
Can my tenant claim a rent suspension or rent reduction?
The Government advises landlords and tenants to communicate directly about any housing concerns during this unprecedented time. To underline this, landlords now need to comply with the pre-action protocol for social landlords before commencing possession proceedings.
The pre-action protocol imposes many more requirements upon landlords before commencing possession proceedings. In particular landlords need to exhaust all other options before commencing possession proceedings and actively work with the tenant to address any rent issues.
Inability to evidence compliance with the above can result in the Court exercising its discretion as to costs and whether to adjourn or strike out the possession proceedings.
To balance out the above buy-to-let landlords are now eligible for a six month mortgage payment holiday.
Can I evict my tenant for rent arrears and other breaches?
Yes, however the notice period for any S.21 or S.8 notice cannot be less than three months (an increase from a minimum of two months and two weeks respectively). This applies to all notices served between 25th March and 30th September. This period can be further extended by the government.
Landlords will also need to abide by the pre-action protocol for social landlords (see above).
In addition, all possession proceedings filed with the Court have been suspended until 23 August 2020. This means that any possession claim filed with the Court will not be dealt with until after this date.
Can my tenant stop paying rent?
No. However, as set out above the notice period for S.21 and S.8 notices is now three-months and there are new requirements to comply with before filing a possession claim.
This three-month period is subject to review and may be extended. This legislation may influence a tenant's decision to withhold rent. See below for landlord remedies.
Does this apply to all residential tenants?
Do I still need to provide services to my tenant?
This will be governed by the wording of the tenancy agreement and whether there are any modifying phrases e.g. for the landlord to use "reasonable endeavours" to provide services. In such a situation the landlord would not be liable in for not providing services where illness, guidance from Public Health England, or staff shortages make it impossible to do so.
Urgent and essential health and safety repairs should continue to be made.
As a landlord do I have the same remedies against my tenant?
Yes, but you need to wait longer in order to access them.
There is currently a minimum duration of three months for S.21 and S.8 notices. Furthermore, all existing possession proceedings have been suspended until 23rd August 2020. Both of these periods can be further extended by the government.
In light of Government guidance most Courts are de-prioritising what they view as non-essential cases; this includes most possession proceedings. This means that possession proceedings may still be filed, but they will be dealt with much more slowly than usual.
Pinney Talfourd is experienced in these matters and in the current crisis we are able to offer landlords a fixed fee assessment of their position specific to their needs for £100 plus VAT. Please contact Stephen Eccles, 01708 463 202 or Oliver-James Topping, 01708 463 227.
The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Oliver-James Topping, Solicitor in the Property Litigation Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of July 2020.