COVID-19 FAQs for landlords

Last updated 30/07/2020
  1. Now that the Coronavirus Act 2020 has been passed, how does this affect residential landlords?
  2. If I have served a valid notice prior to this legislation coming in, can I start possession proceedings?
  3. What if I already have a repossession and rent guarantee claim underway, will that continue to be paid?
  4. What happens after the current eviction ban is ended if my tenant still doesn’t pay their rent?
  5. What are the alternative solutions should my tenant default on their rent?
  6. What support are you offering landlords during this epidemic?
  7. 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?
  8. What happens if I can’t find a contractor who is willing to attend a property due to the occupants self-isolating?
  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. What if I cannot meet my mortgage repayments due to tenant’s failure to pay rent?
  15. How do I know if I should claim?
Now that the Coronavirus Act 2020 has been 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 that 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.

For properties in Wales, the three months’ notice has been extended and a six months’ notice period will apply to notices issued on or after 24 July 2020 under Section 21 and Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (except those that specify grounds 7A or 14 – relating to anti-social behaviour).

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 from 27 March 2020 to 23 August 2020, following the extension of the initial suspension period.

The government guidance states:

“Millions of renters across England and Wales will receive greater protection after the government extended the suspension of new evictions until 23 August. The extension announced by the Housing Secretary today (5 June 2020) takes the moratorium on evictions to a total of five months to ensure that renters continue to have certainty and security.”

This 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.

There has also been a new update by the government and the Judiciary to confirm what will happen once the current stay on possession proceedings ends on 23 August 2020. See below under What happens after the current eviction ban is ended.

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. As with any claim these are subject to ongoing prospects of success.

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

Whilst you are currently not prohibited from commencing possession proceeding, there is a stay on proceedings, meaning that other than the case being logged with the courts there would be no further progress with the claim.

Following the expiry of the current ban, there may be another extension and/or as the government have suggested they may amend the pre-action protocols required to move to repossession.

Landlords are still able to issue Section 8 and Section 21 notices but are encouraged to work with the tenants on a resolution where possible. The government guidance states:

“Where tenants do experience financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, the government is clear that landlords and tenants should work together and exhaust all possible options – such as flexible payment plans which take into account a tenant’s individual circumstances – to ensure cases only end up in court as an absolute last resort.”

Previously the government stated that 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 pre-action protocol aims to 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 also encourage landlords and tenants to work together to agree an affordable rent repayment plan if their tenants fall into rent arrears.

A new Practice Direction (PD) 55C - coming into force on 23 August - has been created to confirm the following steps that landlords will have to follow should they wish to proceed with a possession claim in court:

  • The new PD will require a claimant who wishes to continue the proceedings after the expiry of the stay to provide a “reactivation notice” informing the court and defendant in writing of this without which the case will remain dormant.
  • Where the claim includes non-payment of rent, that the particulars of claim set out what knowledge (if any) that party has as to the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Defendant and their dependants to enable the court to have regard to any vulnerability, disability, and social security position, and those who are “shielding”.
  • Suspends the standard period between issue of a claim form and hearing which would usually be not more than eight weeks.
  • Encourages a claimant to produce the full arrears history in advance rather than at the hearing.The new rules will be in force until at least the 28 March 2021.
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.

Tenant payment plan

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 landlord’s frequently asked legal questions.

Customers also have access to additional templates and guides on www.dasbusinesslaw.co.uk which can be accessed 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?

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 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.

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 proactive 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: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-landlord-right-to-rent-checks

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 measures 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 if you have coronavirus:

“Moving home is not appropriate whilst you pose a direct risk of transmitting coronavirus. People who have coronavirus or are self-isolating with their family member should not leave their home to either move home, or undertake property viewings.”

The full government update can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

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.

Tenant payment plan

Visit DAS Businesslaw  How to register

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

The government has extended ‘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.

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.

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.