After considerable consultation on the impact of COVID-19, the court service has suspended all ongoing housing possession proceedings until June 25th 2020 – this means that neither cases currently in nor those about to start can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.
This suspension will apply to those in both England and Wales and will initially last for 90 days but can be extended if needed. This measure will cover all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
This is to give people peace of mind during the coronavirus crisis that they will not end up homeless.
Landlords will have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means the landlord cannot apply to start the court process until after this period.
These measures have been introduced in part due to inconsistency between courts on the issue since the coronavirus outbreak. The approach by county courts were very disjointed with some courts adjourning cases for three months, and others adjourning only for a few days or weeks, which is obviously very unfair.
Rent to be paid as normal:
The last thing that the government would want is for people to abuse this measure and use it as an excuse not to pay rent.
Government advice regarding this states:
Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.
Measures are being actioned to ease this situation and help both landlords and tenants:
- The government are working with the Master of Rolls to strengthen the pre-action protocol requirement and also extend this to the private rented sector. This will help landlords and tenants to agree reasonable repayment plans where rent arrears may have arisen.
- The government have already made £500 million available to fund households experiencing financial hardship.
- As part of the employee’ support package, the Chancellor announced the government will pay up to 80% of an employee’s wages, up to a total of £2,500 per month, where employees are placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
- Both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will increase from April and Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area.
What support is there for landlords?
Landlords will be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday where they have a Buy to Let mortgages.
Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made.
An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords. Local authorities are also encouraged to take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to enforcement.
This is not forever:
This is an administrative decision by the senior judiciary. It is a suspension, for a limited period of time. Everything will restart as normal when the suspension is lifted.
It does not cover everyone:
It does not cover those whose occupation is excluded from statutory protection or the Protection from Eviction Act. This means lodgers, homeless applicants housed under licence under the Housing Act 1996, and some people where accommodation is part of their employment (best to check with your employer regarding this).
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