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‘Complete’ ban on evictions and additional protection for renters

Emergency legislation introducing a complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters during the coronavirus crisis has been announced.

Emergency measures announced by the Government 18 March 2020

The Government recently announced that it will be implementing emergency legislation introducing a complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters during the coronavirus crisis.

Before the draft Bill was published, the package of measures was said to include:

  • Emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
  • No new possession proceedings through applications to the court to start during the crisis
  • Landlords will also be protected as the three month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages

Coronavirus Bill published 23 March 2020

The Coronavirus Bill implementing the measures has recently been published and the Act anticipated to come into force by Friday 27 March 2020 at the earliest, or potentially the week commencing 30 March 2020.

The Bill provides that, from the commencement date until 30 September 2020 (a date which could potentially be extended), a three month notice period will apply to any notice to quit or notice seeking possession. Relevant national authorities (Secretary of State for England and Welsh Ministers in Wales) also have the power to extend the minimum notice period for any period up to six months.

The changes to the relevant notice period will apply to the following tenancies:

  1. Assured Tenancies
  2. Assured Shorthold Tenancies
  3. Secure Tenancies
  4. Rent Act 1977: protected and statutory tenancies
  5. Flexible Tenancies
  6. Assured Tenancies
  7. Assured Shorthold Tenancies
  8. Introductory Tenancies
  9. Demoted Tenancies

The Bill does not appear to extend to licenses or contractual tenancies.

Points to note

  • Notices issued before the commencement of the Act will remain valid for possession proceedings.
  • As the Act will not come into force until Friday 27 March 2020 at the earliest, landlords have the option to issue notices over the next few days to which the extended notice period will not apply. It also follows that the legislation will not affect any ongoing possession proceedings. However, it should also be noted that the national court’s guidance appears to be to adjourn all possession claims until at least June, so it is unlikely that possession hearings will be take place before that time.
  • The Bill confirms that the amendments apply to all notices, not just those relating to issues arising as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including antisocial behaviour, section 21 etc. The purpose of some evictions, such as antisocial behaviour, is to protect the public and concerns have been raised that such evictions will be delayed.
  • Whilst the relevant national authority will have the power to extend the relevant notice period by up to six months, it is unclear how this will affect notices issued with the three month notice period after the commencement of the Act but before a further extension is granted by the national authority.
  • The Bill does not make any provisions relating to rent arrears built up by tenants during the period affected by the coronavirus crisis. It appears that it would be open for the landlords and tenants to negotiate any such rent arrears without guidance.
  • It should also be noted that, if a tenant builds up rent arrears as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis, landlord will have the power to issue possession proceedings if the relevant notice period has been complied with. This could result in an influx of possession cases in the future which could place a strain on the court system.
  • The Government has confirmed its intention to issue guidance asking landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by the coronavirus to remain in their homes wherever possible. However, this guidance has not yet been published.

The Bill has been criticised as not going far enough to protect renters from eviction following on from the Government’s announcement on 18 March that there would be a complete ban on evictions. It is possible that other draft Bills are being developed to widen the scope of the powers to stop evictions during the relevant period.

If the content of this update raises any issues for you, or you would like to discuss, please liaise with Sian Evans at sian.evans@weightmans.com.

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