The property market began reopening on 13 May as a result of the updated Government guidance enabling viewings and moves from/to properties.

You can find more information on the Government guidance here.

Applications for possession of properties remain subject to the general 90 day stay, effective from 27 March 2020 and the further delay imported by the requirement to serve 3 months notice in the case of most tenancies and licences. You can find more information here.

What actions can you take now?

This does not however prevent landlords from organising matters now. This may include liaising with any tenants who were in rent arrears prior to the lockdown, or fallen into arrears subsequently, investigating any complaints which may have been difficult under the previous guidance and issuing notices or proceedings if appropriate.

The courts are, currently, permitted to start processing claims from 25 June 2020 although there is an option for this period to be extended. There will be a backlog of claims pre-dating 27 March to be re-listed before the courts are able to process those that have arrived since that date and listing delays are expected as it seems unlikely that the courts will be able to arrange the possession lists in the pre-stay manner.

As yet we have not seen any new protocol for private sector landlords seeking possession but preparing for this possibility should, in the writer’s opinion, continue to influence landlord’s actions now in case they are required to evidence actions in the near future.

The impact of lockdown

There have been calls for the courts to be permitted wider discretion in considering arrears cases where the arrears may have resulted from the COVID-19 measures. Any such amendment would effectively impact upon the two month arrears cases where possession is currently mandatory. If such a relaxation to the mandatory ground is permitted then conduct will be a feature of any case brought on a landlord’s behalf.

The Government’s Renters Reform Bill (as announced in the Queen’s speech on 19 December 2019) has not yet been presented although there have been comments during the lockdown period from the Government as to their intention to proceed with this legislation.

Rented Homes Bill

The private member’s Rented Homes Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords on 22 January 2020 but has yet to be listed for a second reading. The Rented Homes Bill provides for the abolition of assured shorthold tenancies and hence of course the no fault ground for possession together with an expansion of grounds to obtain possession so as to include the landlord or a member of their family wishing to live in the property and the landlord wishing to sell the property.  

Finally, a reminder that there must be an electrical safety report in place for new tenancies granted from 1 June 2020.