Tenant Eviction – Guidance for Landlords

We now have Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants[1] from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. So we consider how this impacts on tenant eviction below.

This is “Non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors on:

  1. Measures relating to notices seeking possession as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020
  2. Court action on possession cases during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
  3. Property access and health and safety obligations in the context of Coronavirus) COVID-19) restrictions”

It’s well worth a read of you’re a landlord.  However, the guidance is not binding.

The guidance covers a range of issues relevant to the landlord and tenant relationship during the coronavirus outbreak.  But in this note we will just look at what it says about tenant eviction.

The guidance advises landlords not to “commence new notices” without a very good reason for doing so.  It suggests that landlords should offer support and understanding to tenants who may see their income fluctuate.

Otherwise the guidance simply repeats what we already know from the statute and practice directions, which were discussed here[2] and here [3]. Most notices are for three months. Proceedings and enforcement can be commenced but will be stayed for 90 days from 27.03.20.

Comment

Landlords are, according to early anecdotal evidence, being sympathetic where arrears are likely to be due to the coronavirus outbreak.  Tenant eviction is always a last resort.

Landlords will be more concerned about tenants whose arrears or other breach of the tenancy have nothing to do with the current emergency. Those are tenants who seek to exploit the situation to avoid wholly justified evictions.

We suggest that the number of tenants put at risk of eviction by the current pandemic will be relatively modest. 

Those relying benefits appear most at risk.  However their benefits will not reduce during the pandemic.  State employees are another very large section of the community. They are receiving their full salaries.  Retired people’s income has not changed.  Private sector employees who are not still working are on at least 80% of the usual earnings, so they should also be able to manage their priority outgoings.  The self employed now have entitlement to significant support.

We should of course be doing something to help the small proportion of the workforce who are suffering financial hardship.  Of course, these people will become known in time. Probably mostly those with small businesses who are still paying rent, insurance etc. even though they now have no income.

Obviously, this is extremely stressful for those effected.  However, the point that is being made is that only a very small number of tenants will be suffering financially. So the ultimate effect on the number of tenant evictions will, we suspect, be relatively minor.

For this reason, it is disturbing to watch various tenant focussed organisations agitating for complete rent holidays and wholesale changes to the balance of rights and responsibilities between landlords and tenants.  This seems a frankly immoral attempt to exploit the coronavirus crisis to further their own political agendas.

Conclusion

In most cases, landlords will be completely justified in getting notices served and claims issued because, arrears will have little, if anything to do with the current pandemic.

This is not legal advice and must not be relied upon in any way.  We cannot and do not give legal advice on the website.  This website is not intended to and does not take the place of legal advice.

Nothing on this website creates a solicitor / client relationship.  We will be very happy to assist you if you contact us directly. 

The contents of this note are simply the view of the author at the date of writing.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-and-renting-guidance-for-landlords-tenants-and-local-authorities

2] https://www.sjvsolicitors.co.uk/2020/03/27/coronavirus-update/

[3]https://www.sjvsolicitors.co.uk/2020/03/25/evictions-and-coronavirus-where-are-we/