31st March 2020

Changes to repossession procedures for landlords

In a time of national crisis and uncertainty with the current coronavirus pandemic, the government has enacted a series of measures to protect renters and has placed restrictions on landlords regaining possession of their property during the pandemic. Our expert team explain these measures, what this means for you and explore how court services are managing possession applications currently in the court system.

Landlord’s seeking possession
From 26 March 2020 and until 30 September 2020, if landlords intend to seek possession (i.e serve notice that they wish to end the tenancy) they are required to give all renters 3 months’ notice. This means that landlords are unable to apply to start the court process until after this period. By way of example, a landlord issuing a notice under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 will now be required to give the tenant 3 months’ notice rather than 2 months as previously specified

The three month notice period and the period for which this new restriction applies can be extended if required.

This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales and covers all grounds of eviction. Claims for possession of tenancies under the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988 are also covered by this protection.

Following the expiry of the three month notice period, if the tenant has not vacated the property the landlord will still need to apply to court in order to proceed. However due to the current pandemic, the court has adopted measures to ensure that tenants are not made homeless.

Suspension of possession cases
From 27 March 2020 the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession cases. This means that cases currently in the court system or those that are about to be processed are unable to progress to a stage where a tenant can be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but can be extended if required.

This measure is aimed to protect the following groups of tenants:
• Private and social renters
• Renters with mortgages
• Renters with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977

Support for tenants
Although tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual, if they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, the following methods of support are available or will be available shortly:
1) In the first instance tenants should liaise with their landlord if they are having difficulties to meet rental payments. The government has advised that tenants and landlords should work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.
2) The government is working with the Master of Rolls to strengthen the pre-action protocol requirement to help landlords and tenants agree reasonable repayment plans for rent arrears. This will also be extended to the private rented sector.
3) A £500 million has been made available to fund for households experiencing financial hardship.
4) Housing Benefit will increase and from April, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area.

Support for landlords
The government is also committed to ensure that landlords are adequately supported during this pandemic. It has therefore been agreed between the government and lending institutions that lenders will ensure that support is available where it is needed for landlords.
Landlords will also be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday where they have a Buy to Let mortgage.

Due to the uncertainties surrounding Covid-19 we understand that landlords and tenants will have concerns. Our team are in place to help you, providing the right advice at the right time – every step of the way. To discuss the article, or for further guidance, please contact James Staton, partner in our litigation team, on 01274 350 850 or email JamesStaton@schofieldsweeney.co.uk.

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