This article considers the impact of COVID-19 on the residential landlord and tenant relationship.

Housing Act 1988

Amendments have been made to both section 8 and section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 such that Landlords must now give their tenants no less than 3 months’ notice of their intention to commence court possession proceedings.

Court Possession Claims

On 27 March 2020, a general 90-day stay was imposed by legislation on new and current court possession proceedings including the enforcement of already obtained possession orders.  There are only very limited exceptions to this rule which mainly relate to claims against trespassers.

Whilst not an exhaustive list, in summary the 90-day stay currently applies to:

  • All tenants and licensees who benefit from protection from eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This includes most tenants in social housing and the private rented sector and some licensees;
  • Mortgage repossession claims;
  • Possession claims brought by landlords against leaseholders on the basis of forfeiture; and
  • Residential occupiers who have become trespassers as the result of a notice to quit.

Again whilst not an exhaustive list, the 90-day stay does not apply to:

  • Lodgers and those occupying holiday lets, hostel accommodation and accommodation for asylum seekers (because they all occupy premises under tenancies or licences which are excluded from protection from eviction under ss.3 and 3A of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977);
  • Possession claims against trespassers who are persons unknown; and
  • Possession claims against trespassers for an Interim Possession Order.

Injunctions

Claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the 90 day stay.  Therefore, landlords are still able to apply to court seeking relief in relation to trespass, obstruction of rights of way, breaches of covenant and nuisance, to name but a few. However, the court are only likely to prioritise and hear urgent matters during this period of lockdown.

Repairing covenants

The Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government has released a non-statutory paper entitled Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for Landlords and Tenants which provides guidance on covenants of repair. Landlords repairing obligations remain unchanged, however landlords and tenants are actively encouraged to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues which are affected by COVID-19 related restrictions.

It defines urgent health and safety issues as:

“[T]hose which will affect your ability to live safely and maintain your mental and physical health in your home. This could include (but is not limited to):

  • If there is a problem with the fabric of your building, for example the roof is leaking
  • If your boiler is broken, leaving you without heating or hot water
  • If there is a plumbing issue, meaning you don’t have washing or toilet facilities
  • If your white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken, meaning you are unable to wash clothes or store food safely
  • If there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door
  • If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair.”

Therefore both tenants and landlords can still expect each other to attend to urgent matters that fall within their respective repairing obligations and therefore tenant’s must not restrict their landlords from gaining access to properties for this purpose.

For further help or advice on any of the issues raised, then please feel free to contact our Residential Property Dispute Partner, Hayden Glynn, via the enquiry form or the telephone number provided.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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