To coincide with the coronavirus pandemic and current market climate, the UK Government has updated the non-statutory guidance aimed at landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors on:
- Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings
- Health and safety obligations, repairs and inspections in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19)
The latest version of this article can be accessed here:
Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings
The idea behind the update is to give landlords and tenants a consistent and fair piece of guidance in these unprecedented times.
Due to the Coronavirus Act 2020, the law increased the required notice period length landlords must provide to tenants when seeking possession of a residential property.
With some serious cases exempt, from August 2020 it was law that landlords must not start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants at least 6 months prior notice.
The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020 and landlords are now able to progress their possession claim through the courts. Courts will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.
- It is advised that tenants should continue to pay their rent as normal as well as abiding by the previous tenancy agreement rules. If you are struggling to keep up with payments due to financial troubles, the government has a working scheme in place to support those in need.
- If you are finding it difficult to pay your rent on time due to the coronavirus pandemic, you must speak to your landlord as soon as possible
- Landlords are not required to stop charging rent during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, an early conversation may help both parties reach a temporary agreement.
- With everybody’s circumstances different, it’s important that landlords remain flexible and have open conversations with their tenants where necessary.
- There is an updated guide to managing arrears and avoiding possession claims in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, aimed at private landlords and tenants.
- There is also some guidance for landlords and tenants on the possession action process through the courts, which social landlords and tenants may find useful.
What financial support is available?
- To support those who may be financially vulnerable, the government has put in place a major package of financial support to enable people to keep up with their living costs. including rental payments. The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme has played a big role in keeping the economy intact.
- The Job Retention Scheme, most commonly known as furlough is in place until the end of September. Employees will receive up to 80% of their wages, whilst there is also support for the self-employed.
- You can find more about this at government support for employers and employees.
- In cases where tenants have financial difficulties due to their employment status, they may be eligible for universal credit.
What about mortgage repayments?
- In the case that a landlord is worried about their financial status, they should discuss this with their lender.
- Until 31 May, there is currently a legislation in place that bans enforcement of lender repossession, except for exceptional circumstances.
- There is more information available at Money Advice Service and UK Finance.
Possession action in the county court
- Since 21 September 2020, possession cases have been a highly debated topic. Landlords are able to bring possession claims to court after the relevant notice period has expired. Evictions cannot currently be carried out by county court bailiffs or High Court Enforcement Officers except with serious exceptions.
- It’s strongly recommended that tenants engage and comply with the court process where appropriate, so that they can receive free legal advice.
- New court arrangements have been put in place to ensure a fair and just process. More details can be found in theguidance for landlords and tenants on the possession action process through the courts.
Repairs, maintenance, health and safety, and home moves
The purpose of this updated guidance is to help landlords and tenants who find themselves faced with property maintenance issues or health and safety queries.
Tenants are obliged to a safe, warm and welcoming place to live. Landlords should ensure that their properties are well maintained, hazard-free and following health and safety laws.
Provided they comply with public health advice , landlords can travel to carry out repair issues where necessary.
Summary of key points
- It is imperative that landlords, tenants and local authorities work in conjunction to keep the properties safe.
- Tenants are responsible for informing the landlord of any safety issues that arise.
- Provided these are undertaken in line withpublic health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation, landlords are able to travel and carry out normal services to their properties.
- However, work must not be carried out where the tenant is isolating with COVID-19.
- Although it may prove difficult with the current lockdown restrictions, landlords should continue to make every effort possible to meet their responsibilities.
Repairs and maintenance in homes
- As long as the tenant is not self-isolating, landlords and local authorities are permitted to carry out:
- routine inspections, including annual gas safety checks.
- essential and non-essential repairs and maintenance; and
- planned maintenance activity inside and outside the home.
- Landlords should respect their tenant’s concerns over covid-19 and act with caution. All work carried out should be adhering to the guidance on working safely in people’s homes
- For those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, they are able to permit landlords and contractors to carry out routine repairs and inspections, as long as the latest guidance on the national lockdownis followed precisely.
Looking to move home?
- Whether you are renting or buying, you are free to move homes during the national lockdown which is in force in England, as long as the recent public health advice is followed.
- Although the process of moving home may be different to usual, property agents and professionals are continuing to work as normal with modifications to protect themselves and clients against the coronavirus. Changes may include more online viewings, vacating your current property during viewings; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.