Coronavirus Act 2020: measures to protect residential tenants in England and Wales affected by national emergency against eviction
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2020/7/contents/enacted/data.htm) entered into force on 25 March 2020. It introduces important temporary restrictions on the abilities of landlords of residential premises to recover possession during these extraordinary times.
The final measures introduced are unaltered from the Bill on which this note was originally based.
Residential tenancies: protection from eviction
Section 81 introduces Schedule 29, the core function of which is, broadly, to extend the requisite period of notice that must be given by a landlord under certain residential tenancies before proceedings for possession can be issued (or to introduce a notice requirement where one did not exist).
In most cases, at least three months’ notice will now have to be given.
Thus, in the case of section 8 Housing Act 1988 notices given in relation to assured (and assured shorthold) tenancies, whereas ordinarily a claim for recovery of possession based on rent arrears (Grounds 8, 10 and 11) can be commenced after just two weeks from the date of service of a s.8 notice, now the earliest date on which possession proceedings can begin cannot be earlier than the expiry of the period of three months from the date of service of the notice. Note that the notice itself, to be valid, must be drafted to specify a lawful date accordingly.
Similarly, the two months’ notice ordinarily required under a section 21 notice given in relation to an assured shorthold tenancy (i.e. the usual form of private residential tenancy) is to be read as three months.
Similar provision is made in relation to Rent Act tenancies (for which a notice need not necessarily have been given) as well as Secure, Flexible, Demoted and Introductory tenancies.
The extended notice requirements will apply for the duration of the “relevant period” – defined to run from the day after the day on which the Act enters into force, i.e. today 26 March 2020, and ending on 30 September 2020 (subject to extension).
Provision is also made for the three-month period to be altered by regulations and extended, up to a maximum of six months.
The powers conferred by the Schedule may all be exercised more than once, enabling the restrictions to continue if the crisis lasts longer than presently expected. They can also be exercised so as to make different provision for different purposes or different areas – conceivably therefore if a particular area is more seriously affected, more stringent time limits may be imposed.
Importantly, no restriction appears to be placed upon recovery of possession as against trespassers (whether squatters, in the traditional sense of persons who have entered unlawfully into possession, or those who have simply remained in occupation following (e.g.) expiry of a mere licence).
No transitional provision is, as yet made – suggesting notices served prior to the entry into force of the Act will still be valid.
Whether the courts will still be listing and hearing residential possession claims in the near future must be open to some doubt, however. On 24 March 2020 it was announced no hearings which require people to attend are now to take place in the County Court until further notice, unless there is genuine urgency and no remote hearing is possible.
Compiled by James Tipler.
The information on this webpage is for the purposes of information and discussion only and is not to be relied on as legal advice.
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