Coronavirus Rental Eviction Ban: Guide for Landlords
by Yasaman Tamiz; Laxmi Mall
The rental eviction ban was introduced by the government to prevent landlords from evicting private and social tenants who were financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. On 21 September 2020, court proceedings for evictions restarted after having been suspended for six months.
The government has stated that allowing eviction hearings to resume is an important step towards protecting landlords’ rights.
It may be difficult to keep up with the fast moving changes, so we offer our guidance to landlords below.
Q1 – What does the end of the eviction ban mean for landlords? Can I now evict my tenants as normal?
A – No, all landlords must serve their tenants with a notice, providing a six month notice period in most circumstances. This rule currently applies to landlords seeking possession of their homes until March 31, 2021. This means that tenants will have a minimum of six months to leave their property after an eviction notice is issued.
The six months’ notice period only fails to apply in the most serious of circumstances, such as domestic abuse and serious anti-social behaviour. The Government has introduced a “Christmas truce” meaning that court bailiffs should not enforce possession orders over Christmas, other than in the most serious of circumstances.
Q2 – My tenant hasn’t paid rent in 3 months and I’m having to pay the mortgage. When can I get possession of my flat?
A – There is undoubtedly a lot of pressure on landlords during this difficult time. You will still have to provide six months’ notice to your tenant since your tenant has not paid rent for 3 months. Where your tenant continues to not pay their rent for at least 6 months, a minimum of four weeks’ notice period applies. Again, these rules are currently in force until March 31, 2021.
Normally, your mortgage lender can apply for a possession order from court if you breach the terms of your mortgage agreement, such as by falling behind in your mortgage payments. However, please note that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said that mortgage lenders must not start or continue court action for repossession until at least 31 October 2020.
Mortgage lenders have also agreed to offer payment holidays of up to three months where this is due to the unprecedented uncertainty and hardships caused by the pandemic. The mortgage payment is not automatic for landlords and you would need to apply with your lender to see if you are eligible.
Q3 – My tenants are involved in domestic violence and I wish to evict the perpetrator. Am I required to give six months’ notice to evict the perpetrator?
A – No, you need to only provide 2-4 weeks’ notice of the eviction depending on the severity of the situation. The “Christmas truce” also does not apply to this situation, since domestic violence is a mitigating circumstance.
Q4 – I started the eviction process against my tenants prior to coronavirus and that was when I had issued the claim. What happens now?
A – If you already started the eviction process pre-COVID, you will have to file a reactivation notice and send it to court as confirmation that you wish to continue with the eviction claim. If a landlord fails to file and serve a reactivation notice for a claim which was issued before 3 August 2020 prior to 4pm on 29 January 2021, the claim will automatically be suspended.
Q5 – What does the current situation mean for repairs and inspections to my property? What about my legal obligations to provide regular gas and electrical safety inspections?
A – Repairs and gas safety inspections can still take place and it is in the landlord’s best interests that these continue to take place, if they can be done so safely. Landlords and tenants should work together to make prior arrangements to ensure that social distancing is maintained and hygiene procedures should be followed in line with the latest guidance on working safely in people’s homes.
Landlords should take all reasonable steps to carry out annual gas safety checks and failure to do so could put tenants at risk of serious illness or fatalities from gas explosions or carbon monoxide poisoning. If a tenant is self-isolating, they should inform their landlord, so that the gas safety check can be delayed until after their isolation period has ended.
If you are not able to access the property because either you or your tenants are self-isolating, provided that you can demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to comply, you would not be in breach of your legal obligations. If a tenant is persistently refusing to allow access to the property and they are not self-isolating, you still have the powers and tools to gain access to your property, including the access to the courts to obtain an injunction.
Q6 – I have a problem with anti-social behaviour in my property and wish to have the tenant evicted. What steps can I take to address this issue?
A – Anti-social behaviour can mean many things – including noise, or when a tenant is damaging your property or a neighbouring property. In light of the current circumstances, the government urges that landlords do not commence eviction notices without a very good reason to do so. Evicting a tenant for anti-social behaviour should be your last resort and landlords should first discuss any complaints with the tenant and give them a chance to stop their behaviour.
If this is not successful, then both private and social landlords can work with their local authority or their local police agency by form of civil injunctions or other powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in their property. However, in situations of serious anti-social behaviour, landlords can progress an eviction case as normal by providing the tenant at least 4 weeks’ written notice.
Q6 – What does the current situation mean for conducting a viewing of my property or where a move is scheduled?
A – Your tenants’ safety should be your first priority and virtual viewings of the property should be conducted prior to holding in-person viewings, in order to minimise public health risks. If a member of either the household being viewed, or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed [section 2.19 of the guidance].
Q7 – I rent out a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and one of the tenants has coronavirus. Am I required to remove them or find my tenants another place to stay?
A – No, nobody can be removed from their home because of COVID-19. Tenants should advise you if they have any symptoms of coronavirus and the whole household will need to self-isolate for 14 days. The government issued a guidance on what to do if someone in the household has contracted the virus.
As a landlord, you are not required or obliged to provide alternative accommodation for tenants if others in the property contract the virus.
Q8 – I rent out a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) which has an empty room. Can I admit or replace new tenants into my property where existing tenants will be continuing to live there?
A – Tenants’ safety should be your first priority in this or any other move. According to section 2.22 of the government guidance, moves into HMOs are not prohibited. As the HMO landlord, you have the responsibility for the cleaning of common areas and you must take particular care when conducting any required cleaning before, during or after viewings with visitors.
Yasaman Tamiz is an experienced Solicitor in our Dispute Resolution team, with a specialism in Property Litigation. At Lennons, we understand just how important your rental property is. If you face a problem with your tenants, we can act swiftly and decisively to assist you. Please contact us on 01494 773377 or [email protected]
This article has been prepared in order to assist landlords on matters relating to the current coronavirus pandemic. It does not constitute legal advice. It has been prepared in good faith, but neither Lennons Solicitors, nor any of the individuals responsible for or involved in its preparation accept any responsibility or liability for anything done in reliance on it.