DATED: 30 MARCH 2020
In mid-March 2020, the Government indicated sweeping changes affecting private landlord and tenant evictions which would effectively place an extended moratorium on possession claims, as part of measures to protect private rented sector tenants from enforcement in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the Coronavirus Act 2020—which received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020—is perhaps slightly less inflexible than we had initially envisaged.
- For new possession claims Schedule 29 of the Act extends the notice periods required under Section 8 HA 1988 (assured tenancies) or Section 21 HA 1988 (assured shorthold tenancies) from two months to three months. In the case of a standard assured shorthold tenancy the additional notice required is only one month more than the minimum two months which the Housing Act 1988 currently provides for. Section 13, Schedule 29 of the Act does contain a power to extend the minimum notice period to six months if deemed necessary. We will need to keep an eye on how the position develops in the coming weeks and months
- The Act is not prescriptive in relation to those cases already issued and with scheduled hearings. In practice however, on 27 March 2020, the Master of Rolls and Lord Chancellor agreed that all ongoing proceedings should be suspended for 90 days. We have seen a number of notices issued by local county courts in the area to this effect.
On a wider note some cases are still able to proceed if the parties agree. The Courts are attempting where possible to host some hearings by telephone or via video conferencing. However, the greater concern is how the Courts will be able to meet the challenge of dealing with the influx of new and existing adjourned cases when we are back to a more normal routine in months to come. It is also reasonable to assume that as many possession claims are defended by litigants in person, the Court is likely to be more accommodating to tenants’ applications to delay a hearing—particularly if there is a medical reason – for some time to come.
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