Assured Shorthold Tenancies – How are these effected by the Coronavirus Act 2020?

The Coronavirus Act (the Act) came into force on the 25 March 2020 and it contains provisions in relation to residential tenancies. This Q&A will focus on assured shorthold tenancies only and provides an overview of the new provisions a landlord must adhere to.

Q1: Can a landlord evict a tenant for non payment of rent?

In normal times where a tenant is in rent arrears a landlord would serve a notice to terminate a tenancy under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (a S8 Notice). The new Act does not stop a landlord serving a S8 Notice for rent arrears but it has extended the timeframe for the notice. If a landlord serves a S8 Notice between now and the 30 September 2020 the notice period given in the notice needs to be 3 months instead of the usual 2 weeks. This means a landlord must wait until the 3 months notice has expired before they can issue Court proceedings.

Q2: Can a landlord serve notice on a tenant to end the tenancy?

If there are no rent arrears but a landlord wants to serve a notice to terminate (a S21 Notice) just because they want to obtain possession of a property whether at the end of the fixed term or once the fixed term has ended and the tenancy has become periodic, again they are not stopped from serving a notice but the Act has extended the timeframe for the notice period. If a landlord serves a S21 Notice between now and the 30 September 2020 then the notice period must be 3 months instead of the usual 2 months. As above the landlord may not commence Court proceedings until after the notice has expired.

Q3: What if a tenant has not looked after a property what can a landlord do?

If a tenant is in breach of any other term of the tenancy agreement other than rent arrears (for example anti social behaviour or disrepair) then again the landlord is not stopped from serving a S8 Notice on the tenant but the Act extends the notice period for all grounds under the Housing Act 1988 to 3 months instead of the usual provisions for each ground.

Q4: I’ve heard that a landlord cannot issue new possession proceedings for 3 months?

Initially the Courts refused to issue any new claims for possession following the Act coming into force. The Courts also suspended all current possession actions for 90 days (generally to the end of June 2020). This has been amended and Courts will now issue new claims for possession but they will be immediately stayed in line with all current claims. This protects a landlord’s notice from expiring and preserves the landlord’s right to pursue the claim for possession when the stay is lifted. The stay is expected to remain in force until the 30 June 2020 but it can be extended if the situation requires it.

Q5: Are there any new forms that must be used to give notice?

Yes. Where the Act has extended the Notice periods for S8 and S21 Notices, the formal prescribed Section 8 and Section 21 Notices have been amended to reflect the provisions of the Act. These forms must be used by landlords for the period now until 30 September 2020. There is a provision in the Act to extend the 30 September 2020 date and so landlords must be vigilant and keep themselves up to date with any extensions to any of the timeframes.

If you are in any doubt as to what steps you can or should take at the current time, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I would be happy to talk through your options and if necessary provide a costs estimate to review documents and provide an advice.

For advice contact Sarah Woolnough Email or telephone: 01227 763939.