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Government tables measures to protect residential tenants in England and Wales affected by national emergency

As promised by the Prime Minister, the Coronavirus Bill 2019-21 (https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-21/coronavirus.html, as amended in committee on 23 March) seeks to introduce important temporary restrictions on the abilities of landlords of residential premises to recover possession during these extraordinary times.

Residential tenancies: protection from eviction

Clause 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.

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 is to be read as three months.

Similar provision is made in relation to Rent Act tenancies, as well as Secure, Flexible, Demoted and Introductory tenancies.

The extended notice requirements will apply for the duration of the “relevant period” – presently defined as the day after the day on which the Bill is finally passed 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 Bill will still be valid.

Whether the courts will still be listing and hearing recently issued claims in the near future must be open to some doubt, however. This morning it was announced all face-to-face hearings in the County Court at Central London were to be adjourned to a date to be fixed, and all parties excused from attendance.

The Bill is subject to further amendment as it completes its passage through Parliament. We will endeavour to keep you updated.  

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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