Following on from our blog on Monday regarding the Coronavirus and its impact on the private rented sector, it is abundantly clear that the pandemic is causing unprecedented worry to both landlords, letting agents and tenants.
There appears to be a lot of speculation and panic about what the government will do to help tenants. We will continue to blog and provide informed updates at this difficult time with a view to putting an end to some of the worrisome speculation.
Below is a short note on the current position:
First-tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber)
Yesterday the First-tier Tribunal (Housing and Property Chamber) decided to postpone all scheduled hearings and case management discussions from today, 19 March 2020.
The Tribunal is not presently in a position to confirm when cases will be heard. Orders will be issued from the Tribunal setting a provisional date of 28 May 2020. This is a requirement of the Tribunal process but this will not be the date when the case will be heard. That date will be notified when the situation is more certain. We are currently contacting existing clients who are affected by this decision.
Proposed temporary legislative changes
A draft official report of a Parliamentary meeting held yesterday confirms the intention to pass legislation to amend the existing rent arrears ground for eviction under the Private Residential Tenancy. Currently, it is an eviction ground if a tenant has been in arrears for 3 or more consecutive months. The ground is mandatory if the tenant has equal to or greater than one month’s rent at the beginning of the day when the Tribunal first considers the application and provided non-payment of rent isn’t a consequence of a delay or failure in the payment of a relevant benefit. The change proposed is to “increase that rent arrears period from the current three months to six months”. We have not yet had sight of the draft legislation but will blog as and when this becomes available.
What does this mean for landlords?
We understand landlords will be alarmed by this temporary measure. There will be some who will take advantage of the situation. However, the reality is most tenants will be equally alarmed by the thought of being unable to pay their rent. We continue to recommend effective dialogue with tenants at this time. Tenants who lose income may be entitled to Universal Credit which can cover housing costs. You should urge affected tenants in this situation to seek advice.
Furthermore, landlords should make contact with their lenders to investigate options available to them in terms of payment holidays and other financial measures available.
For more information or advice, contact our Private Rented Sector team.