• Posted

The Coronavirus affects landlords and tenants in private rented accommodation.

The current Coronavirus has prompted the Government to act principally with the aim of preventing tenants from losing their homes.

There are two separate elements to this. First, any Notice issued by a landlord, whether a “fault” Notice (Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988) or a ”non-fault” Notice to Quit (Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988) for longer tenancies cannot take effect for at least 3 months. There are new forms, which need to be used.

The second element is the freezing of all claims for possession by the courts. Any hearings that are currently scheduled to take place have been postponed for at least 90 days. Similarly, no new claims for possession will be issued for at least 90 days.

The above also applies to claims by mortgagees and freeholders against the owners of longer leasehold interests.

Tenants remain obligated to pay their rents.  If a tenant remains in paid employment, there is no reason not to pay rent. If a tenant is under furlough, this should provide an income of 80% of salary up to a maximum salary of £2,500.00.

If a tenant is on housing benefit, and the rent has fallen into 2 months’ arrears, a landlord should contact housing benefit to request payment of the rent direct.

A private landlord should be entitled to a 3 month mortgage payment holiday on a buy to let mortgage.

No one can be evicted without a Court Order. Neither the landlord nor the tenant can claim that the tenancy (is “frustrated”) by the Coronavirus. It is possible of course for landlords and tenants to agree a way forward, where all parties have the reasonable opportunity to take independent legal advice.

No one can be forced to leave their home because of the virus. Nor, for example in a house in multiple occupation, (HMO) are landlords obliged to re-house tenants to protect them from a virus-sufferer in the property or, vice versa.

Landlords and tenants must be free to observe the terms of their tenancy agreements.  There will be some limitations in the current circumstances. Landlords are not absolved of ensuring that urgent repairs which are required for essential health and safety are carried out. These will include

  1. the fabric of the building
  2. boiler breakdowns
  3. plumbing of toilet and washing facilities
  4. repair of fridge or washing machine
  5. security issues such as broken windows
  6. equipment relied on by a disabled occupant.

Landlords are still obliged to provide a gas safety certificate and to check electrical installations (to prepare for the change in the law due on 1 July 2020), if it is practicable to do so. If the tenant refuses access, it is advisable for the landlord to clearly record the landlord’s efforts to comply with the statutory obligations.

If you further questions, or need more advice on how this may affect you, please contact senior property litigation lawyer, Simon Tucker.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.