Back in July, Adem Esen from Wiseman Lee explained the changes to residential tenancies caused by COVID-19. With more changes now in force ahead of winter, the local solicitor provides an update
Since my last article in the July edition, there have been further changes to residential tenancies. Landlords or their agents must now give tenants six months’ notice before they can start eviction proceedings, except in the most serious of cases, such as incidents of antisocial behaviour and domestic abuse. This change came into effect on 1 September.
Possession notices served on or before 28 August are not affected by these changes and must be for at least three months.
Exceptions apply for the worst cases to seek possession. These are antisocial behaviour (now four weeks’ notice), domestic abuse (now two to four weeks’ notice), over six months’ accumulated rent arrears (now four weeks’ notice) and breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (now three months’ notice).
In addition, new court rules have been agreed to confirm landlords will need to set out in their claim any relevant information about a tenant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings.
“We have developed a package of support for renters to ensure they continue to be protected over winter. I have changed the law so that renters are protected by a six-month notice period until March 2021… These changes will support landlords to progress the priority cases while keeping the public safe over winter. We will keep these measures under review and decisions will continue to be guided by the latest public health advice,” said Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
Jenrick added: “We are conscious of the pressure on landlords during this difficult time and do not want to exacerbate this. Of course, it is important that tenants who are able to do so must continue to pay their rent.”
With the introduction of the new notice periods, the government has recognised that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. The effect of this is that the duration of a Notice Seeking Possession will differ depending upon which ground you are relying upon and, essentially, the rent arrears cases where the arrears are more than six months old, as well as antisocial behaviour cases, can be progressed more quickly than other types of cases.
In business rent cases, the freeze on landlords taking action for non-payment of rent has been further extended until 31 December 2020. However, commercial tenants are encouraged to pay their rent where possible.