26 March 2020

The Coronavirus Act 2020

By Danny Turpin, Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

In light of the current pandemic and prior to any emergency legislation being brought into force, the Government announced that no tenant would be forced out of their home during this difficult time and that they needn’t worry about the threat of eviction.

The emergency legislation that aimed to deliver on those promises is now in force in the form of the Coronavirus Act 2020 which received Royal Assent on 25th March 2020. In this article, Danny Turpin, litigation solicitor at Hayes + Storr looks at the impact on the private rented sector and whether the Act does what the Government said it would.

Schedule 29 of the Act covers residential tenancies and the protection from eviction provisions. These provisions are currently in force until 30th September 2020, the date being stated as “the relevant period”. However there is scope within the Act for this period to be extended.

The Act effectively requires that the notice period to be given to tenants, in respect of the majority of residential tenancies, is to be extended to 3 months (again there are powers to extend this period further where necessary). This includes the service of both section 21 and section 8 notices (on any grounds) served from 26th March 2020. The prescribed forms have now been updated and it is important that landlords use the correct forms during the relevant period.

However the Act is not retrospective and as such any notices served prior to 26th March 2020 only had to give the notice period required prior to the Act coming into force. Nothing within the drafting of the Act prevents continued possession proceedings which commenced prior to 26th March 2020.

Even while the Act is in force, provided a landlord complies with the requirement to give 3 months notice, they can issue possession proceedings. The Act also fails to provide protection for a number of residential tenancies, including licences and contractual tenancies.

The Act is therefore a significantly watered down version of the original announcement of the Government, and does not come close to offering the kind of protection they promised. As to be expected this caused immediate uproar and led to the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, to take to twitter to re-state the original intentions of the government that no renter would be evicted during the pandemic.

Late last night the Government issued further guidance, and has now agreed with the courts that all existing housing possession cases will be suspended immediately for a period of 90 days. The guidance makes clear that tenants should continue to pay their rent during this time and that landlords should continue to carry out their repairing obligations, albeit for the time being, only to those matters of urgent repair.

The Government have therefore plugged the wide gaps that it left open in the Act and the guidance does now deliver on the promise that tenants need not be concerned about the threat of eviction, at least for the time being.

If you are a landlord or tenant and require advice on this matter at this difficult time, contact Danny on 
01328 850749 or email danny.turpin@hayes-storr.com.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.