Covid-19 & Evictions: an important update

Who should read this?

  • All Executive Teams, Boards, Income, Housing Management and Tenancy Enforcement Teams

What has been announced?

  • On 25th March 2020 the Coronavirus Act 2020 was passed by the Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent. Whilst the Act deals with many substantive issues, section 81 and Schedule 29 are extremely important for residential landlords, both public and private as they offer protection from eviction for the majority of tenants during these unprecedented times.
  • • You can read the entire Act by following this link.

What does the Act do?

  • In summary, any Notice Seeking Possession (aka NSP, NISP, NOSP), Notice Requiring Possession (aka s.21 Notice) or Notice to Quit deemed served between 26th March 2020 and 30th September 2020 in relation to an Assured Tenancy, an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, a Secure Tenancy, an Introductory Tenancy, Flexible Tenancy or a Rent Act Protected/Statutory Tenancy will have a 3 month notice period before which any Claim for Possession can be commenced.
  • There is also provision for the 3 month notice period to be extended by up to 6 months, clearly providing flexibility if the crisis continues longer than is hoped.
  • The provisions amend the content of the prescribed Notices that must be served on tenants, the new wording relating to the 3 month notice period will be ‘written into’ any Notice deemed served on or after 26th March 2020 even if the Notice refers to the old notice period and wording.

What does this mean for Social Housing Providers?

  • Regardless of the reason why your organisation wants to serve Notice, whether for rent arrears, condition of property, anti-social behaviour or for a serious criminal offence, the notice period will be 3 months before possession proceedings can be started.
  • However, it is still be possible for the court to dispense with service of a Notice Seeking Possession if it considers ‘it is just and equitable to do so’, e.g. in extremely serious cases of anti-social behaviour albeit an application would have to be made to the court at the same time as issuing the claim for possession (that in itself may prove difficult with the courts running a skeleton service) and it is a discretionary remedy so caution should be exercised and appropriate legal advice obtained prior to considering this route.

What type of occupancy agreements/cases does this NOT apply to?

  • Contractual homelessness tenancies or excluded licences are not included, as such you should continue to follow the usual process to terminate these types of agreements.
  • Failed succession cases or left in occupation cases following abandonment by the tenant where the landlord serves a Notice to Quit, the notice period remains 4 weeks ending on the correct day of the week (i.e. usually a Sunday or a Monday in relation to weekly periodic tenancies).

What about Notices that have already been served prior to 26th March 2020?

  • Any Notice deemed served prior to 26th March 2020 is not covered by this new legislation and the old provisions regarding notice periods will apply.
  • This being said, from a practical point of view, whilst your organisation will be able to issue possession proceedings in reliance on a pre-26th March 2020 Notice, how quickly the case will be issued and when it will be listed for a hearing is another matter.

Next steps for you

  • Income Teams – those cases where a pre-26th March 2020 Notice has been served, exercise caution regards issuing possession claims where the arrears or at least any increase in arrears is or may be attributable to the current crisis and consider in those cases putting in mechanisms to try and help these tenants, including more assistance with benefit claims, rather than issuing possession claims straight away.
  • Income Teams – still consider serving Notices post 26th March 2020 where it is appropriate to do so and where either there is no link between the tenant’s inability to pay and the current crisis or where you have provided additional support to the tenant having regard to their circumstances.
  • Income Teams – where your system automatically generates Notices Seeking Possession and pre-populates the ‘notice period date’ this will need to be amended to ensure the correct 3 month notice is given.
  • Enforcement Teams – continue to serve Notices Requiring Possession and Notices Seeking Possession on ASB or other none Corona related grounds but ensure you include the correct 3 month notice period.
  • Enforcement Teams – continue to consider Injunction Applications for ASB which can be issued at any time.

What we will be doing

  • Our Housing and Regeneration Team are available to offer you help and advice on general matters flowing from the above or in relation to any specific cases you may have.

Contact us, we are here to help

If you have any questions please contact Tom Knox or Louise Murphy on the details provided below