Concern about the COVID-19 outbreak is mounting around the world with the situation developing and changing fast. We are all having to take steps to deal with the issues that arise as a result of this unprecedented situation, but with so much information landlords and tenants are finding it difficult to decipher fact from fiction.
What we do know is many landlords are already facing rent arrears as a result of coronavirus and now the Coronavirus Act 2020 has come into force, landlords are delayed from all tenant evictions and repossessions.
Below, we have put a brief guide below to some of the most impost points landlords need to be aware of:
- Seeking Possession - From Thursday 26 March 2020 landlords have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession for any reason. Please note that there are updated possession forms to reflect the new legislation – form 3 and 6A have been updated here.
- Evictions - From Friday 27 March 2020 a ban on evictions from social or private rented accommodation during the national emergency is in place until 30th September, with scope for renewal once the three month period is over. This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. The ban applies both to new possession proceedings and to ongoing possession action.
- Ongoing Possession Cases - From Friday 27 March 2020 all ongoing housing possession action is suspended by the courts.This means that ongoing possession cases cannot progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
- Rent - Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. Support is available for tenants facing financial hardship via Local Authorities where tenants can apply for a DHP. If tenants think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment they are recommended to speak to their landlord in the first instance, and in this unique context landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.
- Buy-to-Let Mortgages - Landlords with buy-to-let mortgages can access a three-month payment holiday if required. This means that buy-to-let lenders will offer a mortgage holiday of up to three months for private landlords whose tenants have been impacted by the coronavirus, on the understanding that landlords will be expected to offer a similar rent holiday to their tenants.
- Universal Credit - Tenants in receipt of Universal Credit will be paid as normal and therefore landlords should receive rent as they did before. Those landlords with tenants who have had to start claiming Universal Credit due to the impact of COVID-19 can contact Caridon Landlord Solutions for advice on what that means and how to support their tenant whilst helping to ensure they receive rent. 020 3728 9937
- Maintenance and Repairs - Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live – and it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards. However, in these unprecedented times tenants and landlords must take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues which are affected by COVID-19 related restrictions.It is advised that access to a property is only proposed for serious and urgent issue.
- Gas & Electrical Safety - Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations and electrical safety regulations. However, there are provisions in the regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot do this but must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.If a landlord is unable to gain access to the property due to restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19, or are not able to engage a contractor to carry out the necessary work, landlords are advised to document their attempts to do so and all correspondence with tenants.
There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach, as each tenant’s and landlord’s circumstance is different and some will be worse affected than others. It is important for landlords to be flexible and have a frank and open conversation with their tenants at the earliest opportunity, to allow both parties to agree a sensible way forward.
These will be extremely testing times for us all and we all have a duty to do all we can to minimise the spread of the virus and help one another.If we work together and support anyone affected by this pandemic, we will get through this.