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Coronavirus Act 2020: Information for private housing landlords

On Sunday 26 March 2020 the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force. This put in place legislation to deal with a wide range of matters including temporary provisions to ensure no-one with a tenancy loses their home as a result of financial hardship brought about by coronavirus. This also included the Government publishing guidance for landlords and tenants who may be affected by current events. It explains social and private sector tenants’ rights and responsibilities during this period including important information on paying rent and evictions.

Private landlords are required to understand the new legislation and how this changes rules around new and existing possession cases.

Key points for landlords

The Coronavirus Act 2020 means that, until 31 October 2020, landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants at least three months’ notice. Landlords can choose to give a longer notice period. At the expiry of the three-month notice, a landlord cannot force a tenant to leave their home without a court order.

In addition, any possession claims already in the system are affected by a 90-day suspension of possession hearings and orders which began on Monday 27 March 2020.

It is important to note that this does not apply to lodgers and other ‘excluded occupiers’ such as those in temporary accommodation. For further information on this, see the Shelter website.

What can landlords and their tenants do

Government guidance strongly advises landlords not to commence or continue eviction proceedings during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so.

Tenants are advised to continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Landlords are strongly encouraged to speak to their tenants at the earliest opportunity about their ability to maintain rent payments. It is expected that landlords will offer support and understanding, working with their tenants to agree a plan if there are issues. This can include reaching a temporary agreement not to seek possession for a period of time, temporarily accept a lower level of rent, or agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date.

If a tenant is worried about being unable to pay their rent, or if landlords become aware of tenants who may be in difficulty, advice is available from specialist providers such Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service. These offer free, impartial advice on access to benefits and Government financial support as well as advice on landlords’ and tenants’ rights and responsibilities and homelessness. The Council’s housing advice and allocations service can work with private tenants and their landlords to try to prevent homelessness and can provide advice on alternative housing options where needed.

Anyone who falls into financial difficulty due to a change in employment or earnings may qualify for Universal Credit.

Mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to six months where this is needed due to coronavirus-related hardship, including for buy-to-let mortgages. The scheme was originally set at three months and due to expire in June but has since been extended for a further three months with the deadline for applying for an extension shifted to 31st October 2020. The sum owed remains and mortgages continue to accrue interest during this period. Landlords with any concerns about maintaining mortgage payments should speak to their lender as soon as possible.

Repairs and property maintenance 

Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live and it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.

In these unprecedented times landlords and their tenants are encouraged to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues. The focus instead should be on safely carrying out repairs which are necessary for the safety and security of residents. This means that no one should visit the property to conduct viewings, or anything else which is not urgent and related to health and safety, particularly where the property is currently occupied. During any visits by landlords or their contractors in relation to urgent issues, all present should follow the Government’s latest guidance on distancing measures necessary to help stop the spread of the virus.

Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations and electrical safety regulations which come into force on 1 July. There are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot do this, however they must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.

View the Health and Safety Executive’s latest guidance for landlords and Gas Safe engineers and inspectors.

Further information

The full Government guidance for landlords and tenants can be found at GOV.UK.

Advice and support for landlords can be found on the National Association of Residential Landlords website which includes COVID-19 specific information.

Updated: 14 September 2020