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Health Assured team

30 September 2020

The government aimed to combat some of the housing challenges created as a result of recent events by introducing the Coronavirus Act 2020, which prevented courts from hearing property eviction cases until the 20 September 2020 and extended the required eviction notices.

Notice periods

The Coronavirus Act 2020 increased the required length of notice to be served under assured shorthold and regulated tenancies. The increase has been put into place until 31 March 2021, with the required length of notice varying dependent upon when it was served.  

 

Date notice was served

Required minimum notice

Before 26th March 2020

2 months’ notice

Between 26th March 2020 – 28th August 2020

3 months’ notice

Between 29th August 2020 – 31st March 2021

6 months’ notice

1st April 2021 onwards

2 months’ notice*

*According to current government guidance (September 2020)

 

Landlords will therefore not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants the correct notice. However, there are exceptions to this amount of notice where serious incidents occur, or rent arrears have been allowed to accumulate. Each incident requires different lengths of notice.

  • 2-4 weeks’ notice: domestic violence and/or abuse or false statements
  • 4 weeks’ notice: anti-social behaviour, rioting or 6 months’ rent arrears

If a tenant has left less than six months’ rent arrears unpaid, the landlord must serve at least 6 months’ notice before considering applying for possession. However, from the 31 March 2021, these time frames will revert to previous legislation requiring landlords to serve 2 weeks’ notice when a tenant had 2 month’s rent arrears.

Furthermore, if the tenant has passed away or is in breach of immigration rules and therefore does not have the right to rent, the landlord must serve a minimum of 3 months’ notice to the individual or representatives of the individual.

Possession proceedings

When the Coronavirus Act 2020 was implemented all existing housing and possession cases were postponed by 4 weeks. Therefore with the addition of new applications, the court now has a backlog of cases.

Throughout this challenging time, the government has urged landlords not to commence possession proceedings without a good reason and have encouraged parties to try to resolve disputes via mediation.  Trained mediators can support individuals through this informal dispute resolution process, aiming to help them resolve less serious disputes such as a clash of personalities or repair concerns. To arrange mediation, you locate a local civil mediator via the civil mediation council website at www.civilmediation.org.

Defending possession proceedings

If a landlord begins possessions proceedings, the tenant will receive court papers advising them that the process has been started, attaching an N11R form which can be used to defend the claim. Tenants should respond to the courts, providing a defence within 14 days of receiving the documentation. In the defence form, tenants should include anything they feel the court needs to be aware of before making a decision. For example, any ongoing financial hardship, living situation, or evidence of a new job role, which is especially relevant for proving that you can now afford to pay outstanding rent arrears and future rent.

At the hearing, the courts will first determine if the notice is valid and whether possession should be permitted. If the notice is not valid or the possession is no longer necessary i.e. possession orders for rent arrears where tenants have now paid, then the claim may be dismissed. However, where notices are valid, the court may issue an outright possession order giving a specified date of eviction. Tenants can request a delay of up to 6 weeks if they will suffer hardship as a result.

Scotland

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 protects tenants by increasing the required notice to 6 months. The government have also expressed that the landlord should not evict tenants for financial hardship caused by the coronavirus. Further information is available through www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-landlord-and-letting-agent-faqs/

Northern Ireland

Private Tenancies (Coronavirus Modifications) (Northern Ireland) Act 2020 has put in place a requirement for rental notices to be no less than 12 weeks until 31 March 2020. Further guidance can be sought through www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/protection-against-eviction

Republic of Ireland

Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020 increases the required notice to 90 days where tenants have suffered financially because of the coronavirus. Further information can be accessed through www.citizensinformation.ie/en/housing/renting_a_home/tenancies_and_covid19.html

 

Guidance for tenants is regularly changing and our advisors can provide you with the most up to date information. Please contact the Health Assured helpline for support.

 

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