Coronavirus Advice: The rights of tenants and landlords

As the coronavirus outbreak continues, many UK workers have been furloughed or laid off, leaving many struggling to pay their rent or bills.

Naturally, in these perilous times, and with the whole of the country under lockdown, the Government is loathed to see tenants turfed out on the street for non-payment of rent – not least because this would run the risk of worsening the spread of Covid-19.

The Government has introduced measures to protect both landlords and renters during the crisis.

Delay repossession

The package of measures introduced by the Coronavirus Act 2020 on 26 March 2020 aims to ensure that no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home. Since that date, landlords must give all renters three months’ notice if they intend to end a tenancy and seek possession. Landlords cannot apply to start the court process until after 25 June 2020.

This buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the three-month notice period can be extended if needed. The protection offered covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions under the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1988 and the Housing Act 1996. After three months, if the tenant has not moved a landlord needs to apply to court to proceed.

Since 27 March 2020, the court service suspended all ongoing housing possession action for at least 90 days, meaning that no cases already in the system or any about to go into it can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.

Flexible options

These measures do not give free rein to renters to stop paying their rent – rent must still be paid wherever possible. If they are struggling to pay their rent, they are encouraged by the government to talk to their landlord and work together to draw up a rent payment scheme for reduced or suspended payments until the tenant is more financially stable, and affordable options for repayment in the future.

The government is working on strengthening the relevant pre-action protocol requirement and extend this to the private rented sector to help make drawing up such rent payment schemes easier.

Government welfare during coronavirus

Other measures the Government has put in place to help renters who are financially struggling include a £500 million package available to fund households experiencing financial hardship; an increase in both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit; and Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30 percent of market rents in each area. The Government, of course, is also paying up to 80 per cent of a worker’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per month, for workers placed on the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

To support landlords, the Government has agreed with lenders that they will ensure support is available where it is needed for landlords. Landlords will also be protected by a three-month mortgage payment holiday where they have a buy-to-let mortgage.

Landlords are still legally obligated to keep their tenants’ homes safe during the lockdown so essential repairs and maintenance checks should still be carried out where possible and within social distancing guidelines.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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