Landlord & Tenant - an update on residential possession proceedings

by Tim McLeish

Is it true there is a three month ban on new possession proceedings?

Not quite. The government announced a package of measures to protect tenants which at first appeared to be a complete ban on evictions but in reality the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Schedule 29) requires all notices seeking possession of residential property from a tenant to give a period of three months’ notice. This applies equally to notices served under section 21 Housing Act 1988 (the ‘no fault procedure’) and those served under section 8 Housing Act 1988 (for example where rent arrears have accrued). This does not stop new proceedings being issued. Nor does it change the circumstances of a landlord or tenant where a notice has already been served by the time the Act comes into force.

So is it business as usual?

No. There will undoubtedly be delays in the system – many courts are adjourning hearings until June and bailiffs will clearly not be operating normally. There is nothing as yet actually preventing new possession claims from being issued, but the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has stated that it is “extremely unlikely that any possession proceedings will continue during this period”.

I am unable to work due to coronavirus and I can’t pay my rent. What should I do?

Speak to your landlord and explain the situation. Try to reach an agreement with respect to current rent payments. Point out that the Government has stated that it expects landlords and tenants to work together. Let your landlord know about mortgage repayment holidays (below). Additionally,  find out if you are eligible for benefits.

I am a landlord and I can’t afford my mortgage repayments due to coronavirus. What should I do?

Contact your lender and apply for a mortgage holiday. Look at their website for more information. Most lenders (including Santander, Natwest and Nationwide) have useful advice and an online form to fill in. Your monthly payments will be recalculated over the remaining term of the mortgage. If your tenant has stopped paying rent you can still serve notice to terminate a tenancy – but as explained above you must give three months’ notice.

What about forfeiture of long leases?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 does not prevent possession proceedings being brought against leaseholders who are in breach of their lease, for example failure to pay service charges. However, landlords are likely to face delays in obtaining a declaration that a breach has occurred since the First Tier Property Tribunal has announced that all cases listed for face to face final hearings up until at least the end of May have been or will be postponed.

If you need advice on any landlord & tenant issues do not hesitate to contact us on 020 8367 3999 to arrange an initial consultation at a fixed fee of £75 plus VAT.