COVID-19 FAQs for landlords

Last updated 05/07/2021
  1. The Coronavirus Act was passed in 2020, how does this affect residential landlords in 2021?
  2. How much notice do I need to give to end a tenancy?
  3. If I have served a valid notice, can I start possession proceedings?
  4. Am I prohibited from serving a notice to quit?
  5. What if I already have a repossession and rent guarantee claim underway, will that continue to be paid?
  6. What happens if my tenant still doesn’t pay their rent?
  7. What support are you offering landlords during this epidemic?
  8. 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?
  9. Should I be proactively contacting my tenants about reporting any maintenance issues?
  10. How can I carry out right-to-rent checks when we are all being advised to self-isolate or practise social distancing?
  11. Can I continue to undertake inspections during the social distancing recommendations?
  12. What if I have served a valid section 8 or 21 notice but my tenant is too ill to leave the property?
  13. What is a rent holiday?
  14. How do I know if I should claim?

The Coronavirus Act was passed in 2020, how does this affect residential landlords in 2021?

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

The Act has not stopped landlords exercising their right to serve a notice on their tenants requiring possession either via a Section 21 and/or a Section 8 notice (often known as a ‘notice to quit’ under the Housing Act 1988). In short, the new legislation requires landlords to give a longer notice period.

How much notice do I need to give to end a tenancy?

This largely depends on the type of notice you are serving and the reasons behind the service of the notice.

Section 21

Notices served on or after 1 June 2021 will need to be a minimum of 4 months.

Section 8

Notices served on or after 1 June 2021 will need to be 4 months in most part, save for limited circumstances e.g.

  • If 4 months or more rent is owed the notice could be 4 weeks;
  • Serious anti-social behaviour attracts 4 weeks’ notice;
  • Nuisance and immoral use of property could allow possession proceedings without notice;
  • A full list of grounds and period of notice required is available on Gov.uk. It is especially important that you seek legal advice if you relying on tenant’s improper behaviour as a ground for section 8 notice.

From 1 August 2021 it is proposed that the notice period for rent areas will be further reduced and 2 months’ notice will be required where less than 4 months’ is owed.

The updated provisions put in place as of 29 September are in place until 30 September 2021. The plan is to return to pre-pandemic notice periods from 1 October 2021, this is subject to government’s review of the situation.

Wales

As of 29 September 2020 any section 21 notice will need to be at least 6 months. In most part section 8 is also 6 months save for very limited circumstances such as serious anti-social behaviour which requires 4 weeks’ notice. Full list of grounds and period of notice required is available on Gov.uk. It is especially important that you seek legal advice if you relying on tenant’s improper behaviour as a ground for section 8 notice.

The updated provisions put in place as of 29 September are in place until 30 September 2021. What will follow after that date is not yet clear.

If I have served a valid notice, can I start possession proceedings?

The ban on evictions has been lifted as of 1 June and as of 1 July in Wales and you can generally initiate possession proceedings without restrictions (see: Am I prohibited from service a notice to quit?).

Am I prohibited from serving a notice to quit?

As of 4 May 2021 if the landlord is notified that their tenant has successfully applied for breathing space (i.e. moratorium period) for their rent arrears the landlord would not be able to serve section 8 notice on grounds 8, 10 and 11 and would also be prohibited from making a claim for possession in the county court unless the court has given permission for them to do so.

An updated Form 3 that includes a reference to the new Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) rules was also introduced and must be used to service section 8 notice.

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 notice to quit and other steps such as attempting to agree a payment plan.

What happens if my tenant doesn’t pay 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 (and in the spirit of the government guidance) is to work with the tenants on a mutually acceptable resolution this could be 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.

On 1 Feb 2021 the government has launched the free ‘Housing Possession Mediation’ pilot scheme which is expected to run for six months and provides support to landlords and tenants in resolving disputes before a formal court hearing takes place.

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 landlords 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 landlords’ frequently asked legal questions.

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

Residential landlord guide

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?

Current advice is that no work should be carried out in the home if the tenant or the household is self-isolating because one or more family members has symptoms unless it is to remedy a direct risk that affects the safety of the tenants, their household, or to the public.

Should I be proactively 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.

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. Between 30 March 2020 and 31 August 2021 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 Landlords Checking Service if a prospective or existing tenant cannot provide any of the existing documents.

Full guidance on how to checking an individual’s right to rent during the temporary COVID-19 measures is available from GOV.UK.

  • check the applicant’s original documents, or
  • check the applicant’s right to rent online, if they’ve given you their share code.

The full government update can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-landlord-right-to-rent-checks

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

Inspections can be carried out so long as they’re in line with the latest guidance. You may also need to consider 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?

Open a dialogue with your tenant to see if anything can be done to help them move out.

Should this fail you could start possession proceedings through the courts, this could be a long protracted case so sometimes it is worth waiting for the tenant to leave on their own accord. 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 if you have coronavirus or are self-isolating. The full government update can be found here.

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 or 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 UK has precedents for landlords at www.dasbusinesslaw.co.uk 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.

How do I know if I should claim?

During the current Covid-19 period, the government recommends that all landlords do what they can to work with their tenants to help keep them in their homes.

If you are a DAS UK customer, you can get help with this process by talking to DAS Law’s legal advisers, who will explain where the current law stands so that you can decide when or if you should proceed with a claim (check your policy information for contact details). They may require you to complete a questionnaire to assist with this process.

The questionnaires can be downloaded here:

Landlord questionnaire Tenant questionnaire

If you have an ongoing possession claim with DAS UK and we have instructed a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will be in touch to explain how to ensure you comply with current legislation.

Further information on this topic can be found on DAS Businesslaw. DAS Businesslaw can help policyholders create a range of documents such as ready-to-sign contracts (with built in e-signature functionality), agreements, policies and letters.

Customers can also access guidance on a wide range of legal matters such as new legislation, employment issues, crowdfunding, tax and financial planning, and data protection. The service also includes numerous COVID-19-specific templates and guides for businesses.

To find out if you have access to this resource, please consult your policy documentation or contact your insurance broker.

If you are an insurance broker then you can quote and buy our products via DAS Connect, our E-Trade portal, or via your Acturis account.

About DAS Businesslaw

DAS Businesslaw can help policyholders create a range of documents such as ready-to-sign contracts (with built in e-signature functionality), agreements, policies and letters.

Customers can also access guidance on a wide range of legal matters such as new legislation, employment issues, crowdfunding, tax and financial planning, and data protection. The service also includes numerous COVID-19-specific templates and guides for businesses.

How to register

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.

  • If 4 months or more rent is owed the notice could be 4 weeks.
  • Serious anti-social behaviour attracts 4 weeks’ notice.
  • Nuisance and immoral use of property could allow possession proceedings without notice.
  • Full list of grounds and period of notice required is available on Gov.uk. It is especially important that you seek legal advice if you are relying on tenant’s improper behaviour as a ground for Section 8 notice.
  • From 1 August 2021 it is proposed that the notice period for rent areas will be further reduced and 2 months’ notice will be required where less than 4 months’ is owed.
    • Check the applicant’s original documents, or
    • Check the applicant’s right to rent online, if they’ve given you their share code
    • Visit dasbusinesslaw.co.uk;
    • Enter the voucher code found in your policy documentation into the ‘First time using DAS Businesslaw?’ box and click ‘Validate Voucher’;
    • Fill out your name, email address and create a password, and then validate the confirmation email sent out.