Developments in Possession Proceedings for Landlords and Tenants during the Covid-19 Pandemic

With the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic showing no signs of letting any time soon, the government have within the past few weeks introduced new procedures which affect what steps Landlords must take against Tenants before and during Court proceedings before the Court will evict Tenants and their families.

Under the amended Coronavirus Act 2020 which came into force for England (but not Wales or Scotland) on 29th August 2020, notice periods for Notices served by Landlords on their Tenants under Sections 8 and 21 of the Housing Act 1988 have been changed and are essentially now longer than they were until March 2020, when the national lockdown first started. Such Notices designed to terminate residential tenancies on a no-fault basis (Section 21) or a Tenant’s breach of the Tenancy Agreement (Section 8) cover most private sector rented housing possession claims which come before the Courts.

Where a Landlord is entitled to the return of their Property, without having to prove fault, when the Landlord serves a Section 21 Notice on the Tenant on or after 29th August 2020, they now need to give the Tenant at least 6 months’ notice to vacate the Property, not just two months as before the lockdown. Under this procedure, Landlords can issue court proceedings against their Tenant at any time from between 4-10 months from the date when the Section 21 Notice was served.

If a Landlord has to use the more complicated and involved grounds under Section 8 to seek to recover possession of the Property from their Tenant, then the new notice periods vary depending on the grounds relied on. These range from a notice period of 4 weeks where the Tenant is in arears of 6 months’ rent or more, rising to at least 6 months’ notice, if the Tenant’s rent arrears are less than 6 months. There are also new notice periods introduced for various other Section 8 grounds depending on the seriousness of the Tenant’s actions across the various grounds, ranging from two weeks’ notice in certain circumstances, to three months on other grounds, depending on which basis the Landlord seeks possession of the Property.

The above rule changes, have been supplemented by a raft of other new changes to Court rules, which introduce additional steps which a Landlord will now have to take from 21st September 2020, when pursuing a court claim for a possession order through the Courts.

The combination of the above changes, is likely to mean it will take a Landlord over 12 months to evict their Tenant on this basis, whilst these present rules remain in force.

It will be clear to all reading this article, that if you are having problems relating to the Tenancy of your Property, whether as a Landlord or as a Tenant, there has never been a time when it is more important for you to seek independent legal advice on your particular position, if you are in any doubt as to where you stand.

Written by Tim Parsons – Bates Wells & Braithwaite – 01787 880440

Tim Parsons

Tim joined Bates Wells & Braithwaite in 2017 as a Commercial Litigation Solicitor.

Tim completed his legal training in Norwich, before specialising in commercial litigation at an East Coast firm, where he represented commercial clients and individuals across East Anglia in a wide range of disputes. Prior to qualifying as a solicitor in 1993, Tim worked for a large multinational accountancy practice.

Away from the office, Tim enjoys golf and playing and watching most sports.