The Effect of Covid-19 on Housing Possession Claims

It’s certainly not business as usual for housing possession claims.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force from 26 March 2020. The Act protects most tenants including secure licensees in the social and rented sectors. The key change brought by this act is that where landlords of residential properties choose to issue a notice seeking possession, the notice period given to the tenant must be for at least 3 months.

Amended processes for serving notices seeking possession

The Coronavirus Act 2020 amends the notice requirements for seeking possession in Section 83 of the Housing Act 1985 and sections 8 and 21 of the Housing Act 1988. It not only addresses the notice required but also exhibits the new forms that landlord should use.

When serving a section 21 notice, landlords must use the amended form 6a. The amended form reflects the changes mentioned above to possession proceedings, that at least three months notice to leave must be given to the tenant.

When serving a section 8 notice landlords must use Form 3 which has been amended to reflect that court proceedings cannot begin earlier than 90 days from the date the notice is served.

Both the amended forms (Form 6a and Form 3) can be used until 30 September 2020.

Practice Direction 51Z - Stay of possession proceedings

Practice Direction 51Z states that all possession claims brought under Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) Part 55 and for enforcement of an order for possession including by a warrant or writ are stayed. Housing possession cases in the courts (either new or existing) are suspended for 90 days from 27 March 2020. Landlords cannot progress claims where they have already issued a notice seeking possession for a 90 day period.

Landlords are advised not to serve new notices seeking possession or commence/ continue eviction proceedings during this pandemic without “very good reason” to do so. Claims for injunction relief are not subject to this stay.

The practice direction will cease to have effect on 30 October 2020.

Health and safety

Landlords and tenants are advised to adopt a common sense approach to issues that may arise. It is still important that properties are kept free from hazards.

Landlords are encouraged to agree with tenants for non urgent repairs to be carried out a later date. Local Authorities are also urged to take a risk-based approach to carrying out inspections or repairs during this pandemic.

Future impact

The government is currently looking to widen the pre action protocol for possession proceedings with social landlords to include the private rented sector. Landlords would be expected to approach their tenants to ascertain their financial position before taking steps to gain possession once the 90 day delay in issuing eviction proceedings have ended.

Please note, this article represents the law as at 31 March 2020.

Written by Nana Asare

If you have any questions regarding this update, please contact our residential property management experts here.