1st April 2020
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act”) is now in force temporarily altering regulations of residential tenancies in England and Wales.
Set out below the key points to note for landlords and tenants in relation to residential tenancies. For commercial leases please read our separate blog.
The Coronavirus Act does not apply to the following:
All residential landlords are however being urged to follow the same guidelines and will still need to apply for a possession order.
The government is discouraging S.8/S.21 notices from being served, but have not ruled it out altogether. Instead any notice served up until the 30 September 2020 must set a deadline of at least three months before proceedings are issued.
Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Where reasonably safe to do so, tenants should allow access to the property for emergency repairs only to be carried out. Precautions should be taken so that no direct contact between parties happens during visits with tenants staying in a separate room.
Emergency repairs are those which affect the tenant’s ability to live safely and maintain mental and physical health. The government has provided the following list of examples:
In the event that landlords are unable to gain access to the property, e.g. tenants refusing access due to self-isolating or an engineer not being available, a record should be kept showing reasonable steps taken to try and comply with the law.
Annual Gas Safety checks can be carried out either two months before the deadline date or 10-12 months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check.
Homebuyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new home whilst emergency measures are in place to fight Coronavirus. No one should visit the property to conduct viewings or anything else which is not urgent.
A tenant who has symptoms should self-isolate and follow the government guidelines, avoiding all communal areas if it is a house in multiple occupation. Nobody can be removed from their home because of the virus.
Landlords are not obliged to provide alternative accommodation for tenants if others in the property contract the virus.
Landlords –reach out to tenants early, check they have your up to date contact information and ensure good records are kept of the attempts made to find a solution before any notice is served. Any change to the tenancy agreement terms should be recorded in a letter/email. It is likely that the above deadlines may be extended further and so it is important to bear in mind that s.21 notices are only valid for 6 months. Consider virtual 360 viewings if you are looking for new tenants. Follow government guidelines set out for businesses when asking contractors to undertake urgent work.
Tenants – using COVID-19 as a reason not to pay rent will only delay your liabilities to your landlord. Open communication early with your landlord and be prepared to support your position with documentary evidence such as bank statements or letters from employers. It is still open for landlords to apply to the county courts for money judgments for the outstanding arrears and they may further seek to increase the costs you owe them by relying upon a clause in your tenancy that allows them to recover their fees associated with having to enforce the terms of the tenancy agreement.
This article was created on the 30 March 2020. We shall do our best to keep this note up to date but the law in this area is changing constantly and some references and details may be out of date when reading. For specific advice on your matter contact Nicola Davies in the Property Litigation team.
Our dedicated “Coronavirus – Legal advice and guidance” page contains advice and guidance on matters affecting, businesses, employers, self-employed, employees, planning legislation, property etc. and is regularly updated as and when new guidance comes in from the government or other regulated bodies.
The best source to read on how the changes are impacting the residential property sector is the government guidance notes.
Paris Smith LLP
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