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Renters and coronavirus: Tenants given ‘a certain amount of respite’

These are tough times, and many people need help to cope, including those living in private rented accommodation. 

The government has taken measures to alleviate the immediate financial pressures on businesses and individuals caused by the onset of the lockdown.

Residential tenants are among those that have been given a certain amount of respite by measures set out in The Coronavirus Act 2020 which came into force on 25 March 2020. 

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Simon Wood, a barrister at Hart Brown Solicitors, explained: “The Act made important changes in respect of the notice periods relating to residential possession proceedings.

“The most significant changes relate to assured and assured shorthold tenancies, but other types of tenancy are also affected, including Rent Act tenancies.

“In respect of assured and assured shorthold tenancies for the duration of the relevant period, the minimum period for the notice periods under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 have been extended to three months. 

“In the case of actions for possession under Ground 8 [substantial arrears of rent] this is a substantial change from the minimum period of two weeks.

“To give effect to the prescribed form of notice, Form 3, has been amended.”

For the accelerated possession procedure in respect of Assured Shorthold Tenancies, the notice period under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 has been extended from two to three months, with the prescribed Form 6A amended accordingly. 

Wood continued: “In addition to these measures the courts have introduced a new direction providing that all possession proceedings brought under CPR Part 55 and all proceedings to enforce a possession order by a warrant or writ of possession are now stayed for a period of 90 days from 27 March 2020 (Practice Direction 51Z), i.e. to 25 June 2020.”

But Wood points out that it is important for tenants to appreciate that these measures do not relieve them of the requirement to comply with their obligations under their tenancy agreement.  

He added: “The extension of the notice period, and the stay of court proceedings, simply provide them with a longer period of time before the landlord can commence an action for possession. As I say it is a breathing space so that, in particular, tenants in financial difficulties can seek whatever governmental assistance is available to alleviate their circumstances if they have been either laid off or furloughed.” 

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