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Proposed Coronavirus Evictions Ban

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Under proposed emergency legislation recently announced by the Housing Secretary, evictions from social and private rented accommodation for any tenant affected by the Coronavirus outbreak will be suspended for a period of three months.

The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said that “Emergency legislation will be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period”.  Therefore the proposed measures will mean that landlords will be unable to start possession proceedings against tenants struggling as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak until mid-June 2020 (if introduced shortly).

Landlords could be concerned that tenants may try to take advantage of these measures and in an effort to appease landlords the Government has announced that “landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to Coronavirus” will also be protected by a three month mortgage payment holiday.

At the end of the proposed three month ban the Government expects landlords and tenants “to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances”. The Government also plans to issue guidance asking landlords to “show compassion” and allow tenants affected by the Coronavirus outbreak to remain in their homes “wherever possible”.

The Government has also announced that it plans to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings to “support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes”.

The intention is to assist tenants that have been affected by the Coronavirus but there is concern how that is defined and that the proposed ban will be used by those who are not suffering financial difficulties as a result of the Coronavirus. It is also unclear at this stage how the emergency proposed legislation will impact landlords who have already commenced possession proceedings or are shortly to, due to issues not relating to the Coronavirus.

The health risk posed will inevitably also impact upon the ability of landlords (and their contractors) to fulfil certain obligations pursuant to the tenancy agreement and/or legislation. The situation is also threatening the ability of courts up and down the country to consider proceedings in the usual manner. Clearly the true impact of the Coronavirus outbreak and the measures to be introduced as a result is yet to be determined and we expect daily developments.

Landlords will be concerned by these measures and will want to know what avenues remain open to them to obtain possession, especially where their tenant is in rent arrears. At JCP Solicitors we are open for business as usual and our property litigation solicitors are at hand to provide pragmatic up to date advice to landlords and tenants during this time and they can be contacted in the normal way.

Please note this article was prepared at 3pm on Friday 20 March 2020.