COVID-19 FAQs for landlords

Last updated 31/03/2020

Now that the Coronavirus Act 2020 has passed, how does this affect Residential Landlords?

This legislation will have a significant impact on landlords’ rights to evict a tenant. The government has released guidance on the legislation but can be summarised as follows:

The Act has not stopped landlords exercising their right to serve a notice requiring possession on their tenants (often known as a notice to quit). In short, the legislation requires landlords to give a longer notice period.

From 26 March to 30 September 2020 landlords can still serve a notice on their tenant. The effect of the legislation is that all notices have been extended to a three month notice period to end the tenancy. So, if for example your tenant defaults on their rent, you may be in a position to serve either a Section 8 or 21 notice, but the right to enforce is only after the new three month period.

If I have served a valid notice prior to this legislation coming in, can I start possession proceedings?

In addition to the measures in the Coronavirus Act 2020, the Judiciary, with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor, has issued a Court Practice Direction to stop possession claims from progressing.

This applies to all possession claims for England & Wales and means that all court action for possession cases are suspended for 90 days from 27 March 2020.

The government guidance states:

The suspension will apply for 90 days from 27th March 2020, to all housing possessions proceedings in the rented, leasehold and home ownership sectors. This action is in line with public health advice, which has advised against nonessential movement in response to coronavirus.

This is will affect cases already issued, so if you have a case underway speak to your case handler as you may need to take additional steps. If you are a DAS UK policy holder and are considering issuing a notice, speak to our legal advisers via the number in your policy.

What if I already have a repossession and rent guarantee claim underway, will that continue to be paid?

For discussion on individual claims, please contact your case handler who will advise how to proceed. This may include issuing a new section notice and other steps such as attempting to agree a payment plan. As with any claim these are subject to ongoing prospects of success.

What happens after the three-month eviction ban is ended if my tenant still doesn’t pay their rent?

You can then serve either a Section 21 notice, a Section 8 notice, or both, and then issue court proceedings for possession in the normal way after the 90 period. There are likely to be additional steps required as the government have suggested they will amend the pre-action protocols required to move to repossession. The government has stated its intention will be:

  • The government is working with the Master of the Rolls to widen the existing ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings for social landlords, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit.
  • This will ensure that private sector landlords reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in before taking possession action through the courts once the three month delay on issuing eviction proceedings has ended.
  • It will encourage landlords and tenants to work together to agree an affordable rent repayment plan if their tenants fall into rent arrears.

We will post further updates and advice once the government has clarified the detail.

What are the alternative solutions should my Tenant default on their rent?

It is likely that some tenants will default on rent due to a drop in income. An alternative to serving a notice to quit is to enter into a temporary agreement with your tenant for a reduction in rent for a short period with a payment plan to pay off the arrears.

DAS Businesslaw includes a 'Covid-19 Landlord and Tenant Payment Plan'  designed to help landlords with tenants who have suffered a drop in income, and aren't able to pay the rent over this current time. You can access DAS Businesslaw via the activation code found within your policy documentation.

How to register  Visit DAS Businesslaw

What support are you offering landlord’s during this epidemic?

Our landlords are able to obtain the latest legal advice via DAS Law using the number in their policy documentation. In addition, our website will be updated regularly with landlord's frequently asked legal questions.

Customers also have access to additional templates and guides on which can be accessed via the activation code in your policy documentation. 

How to register  Visit DAS Businesslaw

If I am contacted by my tenant regarding a maintenance issue but they have coronavirus or are self-isolating, what is my obligation to the tenant?

Your legal obligation to carry out maintenance has not changed. You must take all reasonable steps to carry out maintenance if you are contacted by your tenant. The key is to plan ahead. If someone is self isolating then book in a time that suits all. If external maintenance is required then (with the tenant's permission) you can do this even if the occupants are self isolating.

The Government guidance is:

It has never been more important that landlords and tenants take a pragmatic, common sense approach to resolving issues. Tenants should let their landlords know early if there is a problem and landlords should take the appropriate action.

We understand current restrictions may prevent routine and obligatory inspections. While resources are stretched, we are recommending a pragmatic approach to enforcement from local authorities. This should mean that tenants who are living with serious hazards that a landlord has failed to remedy can still be assured of local authority support.

Landlords should also know they should not be unfairly penalised where COVID-19 restrictions prevent them from meeting some routine obligations.

What happens if I can’t find a contractor who is willing to attend a property due to the occupants self-isolating?

Again the key is planning this in. Build up your list of contractors and check their status/ability to work regularly.

Should I be pro-actively contacting my tenants about reporting any maintenance issues?

Yes. Your obligations to carry out maintenance or perform checks such as gas safety certificates remain the same. Plan these in good time taking into account any tenant self-isolation period. Encourage your tenants to contact you as soon as an issue arises so that you can plan in repairs.

The government guidance is:

Good management requires regular review and maintenance of a property, but we understand that planned inspections may be more difficult at this time. However, that is no reason to allow dangerous conditions to persist.”

In short, be pro-active with your tenant and ask them to report issues as soon as they arise so that you can prioritise the most urgent issues.

How can I carry out right-to-rent checks when we are all being advised to self-isolate or practise social distancing?

The legislation has been temporarily changed here. As of 30 March 2020 the following temporary changes have been made:

  • Checks can now be carried out over video calls
  • Tenants can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
  • Landlords should use the Landlord’s Checking Service if a prospective or existing tenant cannot provide any of the existing documents

The full government update can be found here:

Can I continue to undertake inspections during the social distancing recommendations?

Yes but this is not a legal obligation. You may need to consider alternative dates or alternative methods such as WhatsApp video calling.

What if I have served a valid section 8 or 21 notice but my tenant is too ill to leave the property?

The government has introduced legislation to stop possession proceedings. Open a dialogue with your tenant to see if anything can be done to help them move out. If you accept payment from your tenant this needs to be accepted as a 'compensation payment'.

Furthermore the government is encouraging all house moves to be delayed:

Home buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new home while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus. 

Therefore you might want to discuss an extension of the tenancy or an agreed future date for departure. You may even want to enter into a new tenancy with your tenant.

For further help with this scenario it is recommended you take legal advice as there are time limits for enforcing a section 8 and 21 notice.

What is a rent holiday?

This is an agreement between a landlord and tenant where the tenant is allowed to miss paying rent for a period of time without fear of being served with a section 8 or 21 notice.

These agreements can be informal but it is highly recommended that a landlord agrees this in writing with conditions (agreed holiday period and agreed re-payment of arrears period), so that action can be taken if the agreement is breached. 

This does not mean the tenant has this period rent free, but rather that there is an agreement for the payment or part of the payment to be deferred to a later date.

DAS has precedents for landlords at which can be accessed via the activation code in your policy documentation. Once registered, simply click on the resources section and search for 'COVID-19' to find the 'Covid-19 Landlord and Tenant Payment Plan' interactive template alongside many other landlord resources and guides. 

Visit DAS Businesslaw  How to register

What if I cannot meet my mortgage repayments due to tenant's failure to pay rent?

The government will be extending 'mortgage holidays' to Buy to Let mortgages to give landlords breathing space during these difficult times.

The government will be extending 'mortgage holidays' to buy-to-let mortgages to give landlords breathing space during these difficult times.

Where a tenant is unable to pay their rent in full you should discuss this with your lender.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.