Legal News | 5.05.20
COVID-19 – THE STATUS OF POSSESSION PROCEEDINGS
Residential tenancies – From 26 March 2020 a Landlord of a property let out on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must now give 3 months’ notice in the eviction notice (for both a Section 8 and Section 21 notice).
These new provisions are not retrospective, meaning a Landlord may still rely upon an eviction notice served before 26 March 2020, so long as the Notice has not expired at the time of bringing the claim.
Business tenancies – The right of re-entry for non-payment of rent cannot be enforced until 30 June 2020. For the purpose of these new measures “rent” includes any sum a tenant is liable to pay under its business tenancy including basic rent, service charges or building insurance contributions. Unless a Landlord expressly waives its right to re-enter (in writing), its conduct up until 30 June 2020 will not be treated as waiving its right to re-enter for non-payment of rent.
Landlords can still exercise re-entry rights in respect of other breaches of covenant, on basis that the new measures explicitly restrict re-entry for non-payment of rent. However in issuing a Section 146 Notice for non-rental breaches, the Landlord must provide a ‘reasonable’ period of time for the breach to be remedied. This should factor in that a Tenant may face difficulties in rectifying the breach, in light of the Covid-19 restrictions, so additional time should be given in the Section 146 notice.
Within Court Proceedings
Both residential and business tenancies – A new Practice Direction has come into force since the coronavirus outbreak that affects possession claims. PD 51Z has the effect of preventing all possession proceedings for 90 days from 27 March 2020 by imposing an automatic stay. Save for a few exceptions (such as proceedings against trespassers), this means that ongoing cases or those just about to begin cannot progress to the stage where a tenant can be evicted as the Court will put it on hold.
Both residential and business tenancies – Practice Direction 51Z also puts a 90 day stay on enforcement of possession orders from 27 March 2020. If a Landlord has already obtained a possession order then they will be prevented from getting bailiffs in to enforce it.
For any possession proceedings that are in Court at the moment, we are advising Landlords that they are going to face long delays to evict tenants due to the automatic stay on proceedings.
For any new matters, we are able to still take the initial steps of serving eviction notices but with the advice that we shouldn’t start Court proceedings until the coronavirus lockdown has ended and the new Practice Direction has been removed. It is only a temporary measure and ought to be lifted later in the year.