We previously posted on the impact of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (‘the Act’) on landlords looking to regain possession of properties rented to tenants.
To re-cap, changes to the law resulted in landlords being required to give increased notice when serving possession notices upon residential tenants – requiring at least three months’ notice to be given to tenants. Previously, a landlord was required to give between 2 weeks – 2 months’ notice to a tenant (depending upon the type of notice being served).
The changes brought about by the Act in terms of notice periods arguably impact most upon landlords seeking to recover possession from tenants who are in rental arrears of at least the value of two months’ rent, where two weeks’ notice of a landlord’s notice to commence possession proceedings was originally required.
The Act provides that the increase in the required notice period is to apply initially until 30 September 2020. Notably, the Act provides that a date later than 30 September 2020 may be specified at a later date. It, therefore, remains to be seen whether any extension will be made in respect of this. We will certainly be keeping a close eye on this.
On the topic of extensions, this week has seen an extension on the suspension of evictions in respect of social and private rented accommodation. Since 27 March 2020, all possession proceedings (including enforcement proceedings) already in the court system were stayed. These changes came about under ‘Practice Direction 51Z: Stay of Possession Proceedings, Coronavirus’. The ban on evictions was initially set to be in place for a period of 90 days, taking us until the end of June. However, the Housing Secretary announced on 5 June 2020 that ban on evictions is to be extended until 23 August 2020. Therefore, landlords who were hoping for progress to be made towards and beyond the end of this month, will now need to sit tight until the end of August.
Another point to note is that at the outset of the ban on evictions, it appeared that the suspension of evictions, and the changes implemented by the courts, meant that ‘new’ possession proceedings could not be commenced. However, subsequent guidance and an amendment to Practice Direction 51Z has made it clear that this is not the case. This amendment was welcome and is good news for those landlords who have served Section 21 notices, and who are required to issue proceedings within 6 months’ of service of the Section 21 notice.
Whilst the ban on evictions applies to most situations, there are still some circumstances in which possession proceedings may progress, including where trespasser proceedings are brought against ‘persons unknown’.