In the initial stages of the current Covid-19 crisis, the government’s strategy has principally been to buy time in order to get the NHS in a position to cope with the anticipated influx of cases. At the same time it has taken measures to alleviate the immediate financial pressures on businesses and individuals caused by the onset of the lockdown.
Residential tenants have been given a certain amount of respite by measures set out in The Coronavirus Act 2020 which came into force on 25 March 2020. The Act made important changes in respect of the notice periods relating to residential possession proceedings.
The most significant changes relate to assured and assured shorthold tenancies, but other types of tenancy are also affected, including Rent Act tenancies.
In respect of assured and assured shorthold tenancies for the duration of the relevant period, the minimum period for the notice periods under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 have been extended to 3 months. In the case of actions for possession under Ground 8 (substantial arrears of rent) this is a substantial change from the minimum period of two weeks.
To give effect to the prescribed form of notice, Form 3, has been amended.
For the accelerated possession procedure in respect of Assured Shorthold Tenancies, the notice period under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 has been extended from 2 to 3 months. Again, the prescribed Form 6A has been amended.
The relevant period is from 26 March 2020 to 30 September 2020, and can be extended.
In addition to these measures the courts have introduced a new direction providing that all possession proceedings brought under CPR Part 55 and all proceedings to enforce a possession order by a warrant or writ of possession are now stayed for a period of 90 days from 27 March 2020 (Practice Direction 51Z), i.e. to 25 June 2020.
It is important for tenants to appreciate that these measures do not relieve them of the requirement to comply with their obligations under their tenancy agreement. The extension of the notice period, and the stay of court proceedings, simply provides them with a longer period of time before the landlord can commence an action for possession. As I say it is a breathing space so that, in particular, tenants in financial difficulties can seek whatever governmental assistance is available to alleviate their circumstances if they have been either laid off or furloughed.
If you require any further assistance with the new provisions under the Act and/or with negotiations for new temporary arrangements, please contact us on 01483 887766, email us or start a live chat.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.