The emergency provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 26 March 2020 and will continue until 30 September 2020, unless extended.

Posted By: on 30th March 2020 | Category: Property Disputes

The new measures seek to provide support for both residential and commercial tenants during these unprecedented times. It enacted a series of provisions which restrict landlord’s regaining possession of both residential and commercial property during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Residential

  • The notice period given to a tenant before possession proceedings has been increased to 3 months, and may in due course be extended up to 6 months. This includes section 8 and section 21 notices.
  • Courts in England and Wales have suspended all current possession proceedings for 90 days from 27 March 2020.

As a result of the changes, it is not possible to obtain or enforce a possession order i.e. no action can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted, until the end of June 2020 at the earliest.

Our experience over the last week is that court hearings in current possession proceedings have been adjourned and, presumably, will be re-listed in due course after the suspension is lifted. Inevitably, this is causing issues for landlords with existing claims which are entirely unconnected with Coronavirus and pre-date the new legislation.

Preventing all possession proceedings also potentially raises difficulties for landlords who have genuine concerns about protecting neighbours from anti-social and/or criminal behaviour of tenants, which are entirely different from the need to protect tenants from financial difficulties caused as a result of Coronavirus.

Commercial

  • No right of re-entry or forfeiture for non-payment of rent may be enforced in any way until 30 June 2020 (“the Relevant Period”).
  • During the Relevant Period, no conduct by or on behalf of the landlord is to be regarded as waiving a right of re-entry or forfeiture, save an express waiver in writing from the landlord.
  • Failure to pay rent during the Relevant Period will be disregarded for the purposes of section 30(1)b) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (persistent delay in paying rent).

As a result of the changes, commercial tenants who fail to pay some or all of the rent in the next 3 months will not face the risk of the immediate termination of their leases.

The new legislation does not prevent landlord’s taking other enforcement options, including the ability to commence court proceedings to recover the monies owed or Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR).

A way forward

Although the above provisions give some comfort to both residential and commercial tenants, it does not resolve the huge issue of rent arrears caused as a result of Coronavirus – let’s hope that it does not simply result in huge wave of possession actions down the line.

From a practical perspective, if you are struggling, it is important that you contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss the options, which might include agreeing some flexibility in the time for paying your rent and/or the amount of rent payable during this period.

Hopefully, in these turbulent economic times, there will be a greater trend for cooperation between landlords and tenants to help both get through what is inevitably going to be a very difficult period ahead.

If you need help or guidance please contact Rebecca Turnbull-Simpson, Solicitor and Partner by email at rebecca.turnbull-simpson@coolebevisllp.com or Nigel Targett, Solicitor and Partner by email at nigel.targett@coolebevisllp.com.

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