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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Impact on possession claims

View profile for Andrew Whitehead
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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Impact on possession claims

The government has announced that it will be taking emergency measures to suspend new evictions from private or social rented accommodation during the coronavirus outbreak. It is anticipated that there will be a ban on new possession proceeding applications to the court for an unspecified period. The government has not released a draft of the proposed legislation at this stage.

Are possession claims being suspended?

The government is due to pass emergency legislation imminently to deal with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

For residential landlords, this is expected to include the following:

  • Suspending new evictions from social or private rented accommodation
  • Banning new possession proceeding applications to commence during the outbreak for the next three months
  • Introducing 3-month mortgage payment holidays for buy to let mortgages

The government is taking measures to ensure that no renter in either social or private accommodation will be evicted during the outbreak.

When will this come in to effect?

The government has not yet confirmed the precise details of the measures that will be taken in order to protect tenants during this period, nor has it released draft legislation. It has not been confirmed when this legislation will be passed. At this stage, many details are unknown, but we intend to provide further updates as a priority once further Government advice is released.

I am a residential landlord, how will this affect me?

It appears that during this period, it will not be possible to pursue a new possession claim against your tenant. It is anticipated that the government will issue guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants affected by the outbreak to remain in their homes wherever possible.

It is not clear at this stage whether this will extend to all possession claims, rent arrears claims only or Section 21 claims.

It is unclear what effect this will have if your possession proceedings are already ongoing at the time of the announcement. If you have a court hearing for possession of your property in the coming days, HM Courts and Tribunal Service has released guidance encouraging the use of telephone and video to support hearings. As at 18 March 2020, the official guidance from the Courts is that you should continue to use courts and tribunals as usual, so long as you do not have confirmed or suspected covid-19, or you are not self-isolating in line with government advice.

However, it could be possible that your hearing may be adjourned following the passing of the emergency measures. We would advise you to check gov.uk for further updates from the government and the courts. You are encouraged to contact the court in which your hearing is due to take place for further guidance. 

The government is expected to make changes to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings to strengthen its remit. This is expected to encourage landlords to reach out to their tenant to understand the position they are currently in, including their financial position. It is anticipated that the changes will require landlords and tenants to engage with each other to resolve disputes during the crisis.

During this difficult period, the government intends to include measures to reduce the pressures on residential landlords. It has been confirmed that the three month mortgage payment holiday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus.

Please note that these emergency measures may affect any rent indemnity and/or rent guarantee payments that you may be entitled to in accordance with any insurance policy you may have. We urge you to contact your insurer to discuss this as we cannot comment.

What happens once the outbreak passes?

The Government has advised that once the crisis has passed, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an ‘affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.’

There is no further clarification at this stage what will constitute an ‘affordable repayment plan’. However, we presume that this will include taking into account how the individual tenant has been affected by the virus including the effects on their employment and income.

These are rapidly developing measures and it is unclear at this stage precisely how these will impact landlords and tenants. We intend to provide further updates once the government confirms the scope of the emergency measures and releases draft legislation. If you have an urgent query regarding your ongoing possession case, please do not hesitate to contact the solicitor with conduct of your case.