The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting all areas of life in many and substantial ways - including housing and the private rented sector.
As is the case for many other areas, the government has quickly brought in temporary measures relating to the Private Rented Sector, the details of which have developed over recent weeks and will undoubtedly develop even further in the coming weeks and months.
In Greater Manchester we want to ensure that tenants and landlords understand the new measures and know where to find the most up-to-date information, help and advice.
The headline information and advice to Tenants and Landlords is as follows:
- The government has provided Increased protection against eviction – 3 months’ notice is now required before a landlord can start possession proceedings and court proceedings for evictions suspended for next 90 days.
- A financial support package has been made available by the Government to help tenants struggling to pay their rent.
- Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability.
- Tenants who are struggling to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
- Tenants and landlords encouraged to work together – including in due course to agree and put in place a rent payment scheme.
- Property access and health and safety obligations remain but with due regard to physical distancing and isolation measures.
- Landlords with buy to let mortgages helped with 3 months mortgage holidays.
Increased protection against eviction
One of the main elements of the package of reform relate to increased protection against eviction and are designed to enable tenants to remain secure in their homes if they are adversely affected by the virus and to enable them to follow Public Health England’s advice on self-isolation, social distancing and hygiene. This means that:
- From 26 March 2020 until 30th September 2020, most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants 3 months’ notice and this applies to all ground for possession. Landlords can choose to give more than this three months’ notice.
- On the 27 March 2020 all court proceedings for evictions were suspended for 90 days. This means that landlords who have already served notice or applied to court will not be able to get a possession order or a bailiff during that time.
- The government may extend all these periods
- For those few tenancy types not covered (e.g. lodgers and those on licence) the government is advising them to follow the same guidance as other renters and landlords will still need to follow the correct procedures.
- Landlords and tenants are expected to engage and work together to agree and manage any difficulties in paying rent – there will be formal requirements introduced in relation to this and we are expecting more guidance from the government in this area.
Illegal evictions remain a criminal offence, and correct processes (in most cases of serving notice, applying to court for possession and applying for a warrant for possession) must be followed.
Other elements of reform and new government guidance cover landlords’ responsibilities and requirements to manage and maintain properties.
Landlords are still under a legal obligation to ensure properties meet required standards – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made. However this must be balanced against the risk of the infection or spread of the virus and agreements made between landlords and tenants in relation to urgent repairs being done later.
Measures for landlords and tenants
The economic impacts of this pandemic are enormous and measures for Landlords and Tenants include:
- Holidays of up to 3 months for buy-to-let mortgage payments - where tenants ability to pay their rent are impacted and on the understanding that landlords will be expected to offer a similar rent holiday to those tenants.
- A Government package of temporary financial support to households experiencing financial hardship – for instance covering some pay for those in work and the self-employed and an increase in Benefits, which also includes an increase in the amount of assistance available towards paying rent. Oher financial support which may be available to tenants includes help manage utility and other bills.
It is important for tenants to note that there is no rent free holiday entitlement over the next few months.
Tenants should wherever possible continue to pay their rent and if there are any difficulties should contact their landlord as soon as possible.
Landlords should also engage with tenants, including in due course discussing and coming up with an agreed, realistic and affordable repayment plan. Further government guidance is expected on this aspect.
This is a complex area and for further details, we strongly encourage tenants and landlords to access and keep up to date with the following resources:
For tenants and landlords
The council website where you live/where your property is situated will have information, advice and support for landlords and tenants.
Both the Residential Landlords Association and National Landlords Association websites offer detailed specific advice for landlords. Note that these two organisations will shortly be merged to become the National Residential Landlords Association.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a tenant who you think might be vulnerable and in need of additional support please find more information here.
If you need support around employment or self-employment you can find it here.