Covid-19 Update

March 2021

The UK Government and the Welsh Government have introduced further measures to protect residential and commercial tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Residential Tenancies

1. Minimum Notice Period for Residential Possession Claims (England)

The UK Government has introduced further regulations which extend the use of the 6-month minimum notice period for most residential possession claims until 31 May 2021.

Shorter periods are permitted for certain Section 8 claims where the grounds relate to the tenant’s anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, fraud or where there are more than six months’ rent arrears.

The documents relating to possession proceedings under Section 8 and Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 have been amended.

2. Minimum Notice Period for Residential Possession Claims (Wales)

The Welsh Government has also introduced further regulations which extend the use of the 6-month minimum notice period for most residential possession claims until 30 June 2021.

Shorter periods are permitted for certain Section 8 claims where the grounds relate to the tenant’s anti-social behaviour (nuisance, annoyance or criminal activity) and domestic violence.

The documents relating to possession proceedings under Section 8 and Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 have been amended.

3. Temporary Eviction Ban (England)

The Government has further extended the eviction ban in England until 31 May 2021. No eviction notices can be served on residential tenants, nor can bailiffs execute warrants of possession of land, during the ban, unless an exemption applies. There have been no changes to the exemptions in England which remain as follows:

1. To evict occupants where ‘substantial’ rent arrears have accrued. The arrears must equate to 6 months’ rent;

2. To evict trespassers;

3. To evict occupants on the grounds of anti-social behaviour;

4. To evict occupants on the grounds of nuisance or false statements; and

5. Where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant.

Court proceedings to obtain a possession order are still ongoing but unless an exemption applies, no evictions can be enforced during this time.

4. Temporary Eviction Ban (Wales)

The Welsh government has also further extended the eviction ban in Wales until 30 June 2021. No eviction notices can be served on residential tenants nor can bailiffs execute warrants of possession of land, during the ban, unless an exemption applies.

The exemptions in Wales are:

1. To evict trespassers;

2. To evict occupants on the grounds of anti-social behaviour;

3. To evict occupants on the grounds of nuisance; and

4. Where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant.

The Welsh Government must review the Regulations every three weeks to ensure that the ban imposed is deemed proportionate. The eviction ban may therefore be lifted before the expiry date of the regulations. Court cases can continue, however bailiff evictions cannot proceed during this time.

Commercial Tenancies

In England and Wales, the moratorium on forfeiture proceedings for commercial leases (where the landlord was forfeiting the lease for non-payment of rent) has been extended until 30 June 2021.

Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) is a mechanism for landlords to recover rent arrears from tenants. The CRAR regime has been temporarily extended to 30 June 2021. These rights are usually exercisable when there are 7 days’ worth of rent arrears. The government has made further amendments so that landlords will only be able to exercise CRAR between 25 March 2021 and 23 June 2021 if at least 457 days’ rent is outstanding, and only between 24 June 2021 and 30 June 2021 if at least 554 days’ rent is outstanding.

Our CRAR documents remain suitable for use, but landlords in England and Wales should note the new rent arrears requirements.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act – this Act temporarily restricts a landlords’ ability to serve statutory demands and issue winding-up petitions as a means of recovering rent arrears. These restrictions have been extended to 30 June 2021.

The UK Government has also announced that it will be launching a call for evidence to monitor the overall progress of rent arrears negotiations between tenants and landlords. These negotiations for how to deal with Covid-19 rent arrears are stated in the voluntary code of practice (issued last summer) and the code continues to apply until 24 June 2021. The evidence will then be used to inform the UK Government on the potential steps they could take after 30 June 2021 in respect of reviewing commercial landlord and tenant law.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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