Residential Renters – What Are Your Coronavirus Rights?

In Covid-19, Featured

New laws came into effect at the end of March to protect people renting property during the uncertain coronavirus period, we look at and decipher them.

With the excellent article in The Guardian highlighting the horrific issue of hospitality workers having to sleep in the street after losing their jobs and homes, we wanted to remind you of your rights to hopefully give you some piece of mind and ammunition should your landlord decide to apply pressure.

Back at the end of March the government altered some of the laws regarding residential renters/landlord rights, to try and stop people having to worry about being evicted during the coronavirus lockdown. As always with these sorts of things the language was pretty hard to get your head around so with the help of some lawyers (who understand this stuff) we have hopefully made it a bit easier to understand.

The three announcements looked like this:

  • From 26th March 2020 the notice period for Section 21 and Section 8 notices seeking possession is extended to 3 months, until 30th September 2020
  • From 27th March 2020 all possession proceedings are suspended for 90 days, as are all proceedings to enforce possession orders by writ or warrant of possession
  • Landlords are going to be expected to follow the possession of pre-action protocols that already exist for social landlords

Already confusing right? Let’s break them down.

They basically say that:

  • Any attempt at eviction after 26th March requires a 3 month notice period before the landlord can apply to the court for an eviction order.
  • If your landlord applied to the court for an eviction notice before 27th March they cannot evict you until at least 25th June as the courts are not taking any hearings for 90 days.
  • There are new rules landlords have to follow when giving notice that are beneficial for the renter called ‘pre-action protocols’.

Let’s tackle them one by one.

Notice Period Served After 26th March

If any landlord tries to evict you after 26th March, up until 30th September, they have to give you a 3 month notice period (which may be extended to 6 months) no matter what the reason for the eviction.

It is worth bearing in mind this is a 3 month period before they can apply to the court, NOT before you have to leave the premises. With the courts not opening until the end of June at the earliest and with an expected massive backlog of cases this is unlikely to be a quick process even then.

Just in case your landlord tries to confuse you with lingo – the ‘Section 21 & 8’ bit simply refers to the reason they are trying to evict you. Section 8 is usually used for anyone with rent arrears. Previously the notice period for Section 8 claims was 2 weeks, now 3 months. Section 21 means they don’t have to give a reason (it’s slightly more complicated, but that is the outline). Notice period used to be 2 months, now 3 months.

Notice Served Before 27th March

If your landlord had served a notice period to you prior to March 27th, but had not yet got a court ruling, then you cannot be evicted before June 25th at the earliest. Once again this is the earliest date that a court can hear the case and make a judgement and once again there is likely to be a delay in hearings taking place.

It is your legal right to stay in your home until the landlord has received a court order and a bailiff warrant which they can’t do currently as both are on hold.

Pre-Action Protocols

Whilst this is currently a suggested course of action and has not yet been made a legal requirement lawyers are advising their landlord clients to follow this as the feeling is those who don’t will not be looked on favourably by the court, especially during the coronavirus lockdown. This Pre-Action Protocol is applies to conduct at the time of serving notices.

You can find the full details of the Pre-Action Protocol on the Justive.gov.uk website, but the highlights are that your landlord should:

  • Provide rent statements
  • Make contact with the tenant
  • Assist with benefit claims
  • Try to get benefit claims paid directly to the landlord
  • Encouraging the tenant to get independent advice and help

On top of this before serving either a Section 8 or 21 notice the landlord has to write to you explaining why they intent to seek possession and give them a specific timeframe to make representations about their personal circumstances or other matters they wish to take into account. The landlord should consider any representations the tenants make, and if they still intend to go ahead with possession, explain why.

This Is Not A Rent Holiday

It is important to note that this is not a rent holiday. Whilst you cannot be evicted during this period you are still liable for your rent. If you are struggling to pay rent at the moment, for obvious reasons, then it is best to speak to your landlord to try and address the situation.

Once this is all over (and it will be even if some days it feels like it won’t) then any outstanding rent will need to be paid eventually so it is best to get communication going as early as possible. You never know what they will say. Shelter have a great section on their website which gives advice on how to address this conversation and a sample letter for you to use, that can all be found here.

There are a few FAQ’s below, that we will update as we get any others, but the baseline is simple. Your landlord cannot evict you currently from your property. Yes, you may come out of this owing some extra rent and that is something we will have to address going forward but for now you do not need to worry about being evicted whilst the lockdown is on.

FAQ’s

What if I am a lodger?

Unfortunately these new laws do not cover lodgers. Whilst your landlord doesn’t have to go to court to evict you there are usually notice periods that need to be observed. Again Shelter has a useful page with information for you. 

Can my landlord increase my rent during this period?

Yes, but they still need to follow the correct procedure. Therefore your rent can only be increased if you:

  • Agree to a new rent
  • Sign a new contract
  • Have a rent review clause in your contract
  • Get a section 13 notice of rent increase from your landlord

Can I leave my tenancy early because of coronavirus?

No. Well not using that as a reason, the landlords have rights as well. You can only leave early if your contract has a break clause or you negotiate this with your landlord.

How long after a court order do I have to leave my home?

If the court rules for an Outright Possession Order then it is usually 2 weeks. You can apply to the court to have this extended to 6 weeks if you have mitigating circumstances. On a rare occasion it can be only a few days but this is the exception rather than the rule. The rule being 2 weeks. If the court rules a ‘Suspended or Postponed Possession Order’ then you will allowed to stay providing you keep to certain conditions.

Who should I contact if I have a dispute with my landlord?

Our recommended first port of call would be the Citizens Advice Bureau. Alternatively The Tenants Voice website has a list of options and people to turn to specifically for this issue.

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