Government guidance on COVID-19

Non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors on:

1. Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings

 

2. Health and safety obligations, repairs, and inspections in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19)

 

This guidance is advisory and informs you about recent changes to the law. All advice is subject to frequent updates and should be checked regularly for currency.

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions remain in place. The government has announced a 4-week pause at Step 3. Step 3 restrictions remain in place, and you should follow this guidance, which explains what you can and cannot do.

There is further advice for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The government urge all landlords and tenants to abide by the latest government guidance on COVID-19.

 

The guidance in this document applies to England only. Some of the measures referred to also apply in Wales.

 

See guidance for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

You can obtain free legal advice from Landlord Advice UK.

How to deal with Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings 

 

This is a summary of the rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings section. Further detail can be found in Section 1 below.

 

The purpose of this advisory guidance is to help landlords and tenants understand requirements around Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings that are in place during the pandemic.

 

The Coronavirus Act 2020 provides protection to social and private tenants by delaying when landlords can evict tenants. 

 

The provisions in the Act increased the required notice period length landlords must provide to tenants when seeking possession of a residential property and have been extended through additional legislation.

 

This means that between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021, except in the most severe cases, landlords needed to give their tenants 6 months’ notice before starting possession proceedings. 

 

These severe cases include anti-social behaviour (including rioting), some instances of domestic abuse in the social sector, and false statements. A tenant has accrued rent arrears to the value of over 6 months’ Rent, where a tenant has passed away and where a tenant doesn’t have the right to rent under immigration legislation.

 

From 1 June 2021, notice periods must be at least 4 months in most cases, including where the tenant has less than 4 months’ rent arrears. From 1 August 2021, the notice period for issues where there are less than 4 months of unpaid Rent will further reduce to 2 months’ notice. 

 

Notice periods for the most severe cases, as set out above, are lower, with most requiring 2- or 4-weeks’ notice. The notice period for ‘serious arrears’ is 4 weeks’ notice. The threshold for what constitutes ‘serious arrears’ is ‘arrears equivalent to 4 or more months’ Rent.

 

The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020, and landlords can now progress their possession claim through the courts. 

 

Courts will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.

 

Legislation is in place up to 31 May to ensure bailiffs do not serve eviction notices or conduct evictions. Still, there were exceptions for the most severe circumstances that presented the most strain on landlords. 

 

These circumstances were illegal occupation, false statements, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social rented sector. Property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant, and serious rent arrears more significant than 6 months’ Rent.

 

The restrictions on bailiff enforcement will end at the end of 31 May, reflecting the improved public health situation and easing national restrictions. From 1 June, bailiffs can send out eviction notices and enforce evictions. 

 

Given the requirement to provide 14 days’ notice, no evictions are expected until mid-June, except in the most egregious cases. Bailiffs have been asked not to conduct a removal if anyone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.

 

Legislation is in place to ensure bailiffs do not serve eviction notices or conduct evictions (including mortgage repossessions). Still, there are exemptions for the most severe circumstances that present the most strain on landlords. 

 

These circumstances are illegal occupation, false statements, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social rented sector. Property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant, and serious rent arrears more significant than 6 months’ Rent. These measures are in force until the end of 31 May. 

 

Given that 14 days notice is required before an eviction can occur, no evictions are expected before mid-June except in the most severe circumstances.

 

The government have published new guidance for landlords and tenants on the possession action process through the courts.

 

The ban on bailiff enforcement includes mortgage repossessions. No action to enforce repossession should commence until at least 1 June unless the homeowner agrees to a voluntary repossession. 

 

The Financial Conduct Authority has issued separate guidance covering mortgage repossessions.

  1. About Repairs, maintenance, health and safety, and home moves

 

This is a summary of the repairs, maintenance, health and safety and home moves section. Further detail can be found in Section 2 below. 

The purpose of this advisory guidance is to support landlords and tenants in managing property maintenance issues, health and safety, and overcrowding as the country moves towards an easing of lockdown measures. It also provides advice on home viewings and home moves.

 

Tenants have a right to a decent, warm, and safe place to live. 

 

Where safe to do so, it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are well maintained, kept in good repair and free from hazards.

 

Landlords can take steps to conduct repairs and safety inspections, provided these are undertaken in line with the latest guidance on (COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions. You can and cannot do public health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation.

You can visit the Landlord Forum to search for any questions regarding the above issue’s.