COVID-19: Court services suspended for housing possessions

Due to the deadly spread of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures that have been put in place, the UK Government passed into law the Coronavirus Act on 25 March 2020 which provides additional powers to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak.

Eviction measures

The special law passed because of Coronavirus means that from 26 March 2020 landlords will have to give all renters three months’ notice if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the endpoint, and the three-month notice period can be extended if needed.

This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After three months, if the tenant has not moved, a landlord needs to apply to the court in order to proceed.

Suspension of court proceedings

Following extensive consultation on the impact of COVID-19, from 27 March 2020, the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.

This suspension of housing possessions action will apply to those in both England and Wales and will initially last for 90 days but can be extended if needed. This measure will cover all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Prescribed forms

As a result of the change in law, the UK Government has changed Form 6A Notice seeking possession of a property let on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy to reflect the change in the law which came into force on 26 March 2020. The Form 6A should be used by landlords in England up to 30 September 2020.

However difficult it may be, this is the right decision in light of the current circumstances. Yet evictions will not be required if we can keep the rent flowing.

The latest advice is that people stay put, and as long as the Government helps tenants pay their rent, there will not be a large build-up of debt from rent arrears, meaning there will be no logical reason why a landlord would start eviction proceedings.

David Cox Chief Executive | ARLA Propertymark
FURTHER GUIDANCE

For more guidance in relation to COVID-19 for businesses or employees, visit gov.uk where you’ll find individual guides to help you understand your rights and obligations.