Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has bolstered the rights of renters impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. New guidance has been published along with the updating of some previous guidance.

Landlords must give six months’ notice to quit to renters in England – which means tenants can remain in their homes until at least March.

The only exceptions are serious cases, where tenants are involved in anti-social behaviour or fraud.

Jenrick also announced the courts will start hearing the backlog of possession proceedings from Monday (September 21).

However, bailiffs will not evict renters if a neighbourhood is subject to local lockdown rules.

The courts will prioritise cases to deal first with rogue tenants responsible for anti-social behaviour, criminal activity or piling up rent arrears that would leave a landlord with unmanageable debt.

Any proceedings started before August 3 will be delisted unless the landlord activates the case, and even then, a hearing will be put on ice for at least four weeks.

To support a hearing, landlords must tell the courts how coronavirus has affected the tenants. Cases without a coronavirus statement will be adjourned until the report is available.

Guidance Published

On 21 September 2020, new guidance has been published and previous guidance has been updated.

The guidance which is now relevant to evictions including serving notice include:

We have created an article which summarises briefly the above mentioned guidance.

Christmas eviction truce

Tenants also have a Christmas eviction pause, with no evictions in England or Wales until the New Year. The exact dates of the truce have yet to be published.

“We have protected renters during the pandemic by banning evictions for six months – the longest eviction ban in the UK. To further support renters we have increased notice periods to six months, an unprecedented measure to help keep people in their homes over the winter months,” said Jenrick.

“It’s right that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable renters and ensuring landlords whose tenants have behaved in illegal or anti-social ways have access to justice. Our legislation means such cases will be subject to shorter notice periods and then prioritised through the judiciary’s new court processes.”

The housing secretary added that according to independent research 87% of tenants have paid rent in full since the start of the pandemic, with 8% agreeing reduced terms with their landlords.

Rent arrears

Under the new possession rules, landlords can give four weeks’ notice if rents are more than six months in arrears, but six months’ notice if the arrears are for fewer than six months.

This could allow landlords with tenants with four or five months of arrears to wait until six months has passed to reduce the notice period from six to one month.

What notice should landlords give?

This is the latest list of notice periods covering all circumstances from the Housing Ministry (applies to England):

Ground Pre-coronavirus Act 2020 notice period: until 26 March 2020 Modified notice period: 26 March 2020 – 28 August 2020 Modified notice period: from 29 August 2020
Mandatory (judge must award possession if ground met)
1: Landlord wants to move in 2 months 3 months 6 months
2: Mortgage repossession 2 months 3 months 6 months
3: Out of season holiday let 2 weeks 3 months 6 months
4: Let to student by an educational institution 2 weeks 3 months 6 months
5: Property required for use by minister of religion 2 months 3 months 6 months
6: Demolition / redevelopment 2 weeks 3 months 6 months
7: Death of tenant 2 months 3 months 3 months
7a: Serious anti-social behaviour 4 weeks (periodic tenancy) 3 months 4 weeks (periodic tenancy)
1 month (fixed term tenancy) 1 month (fixed term tenancy)
7b: No right to rent in the UK 2 weeks 3 months 3 months
8: Serious rent arrears at time of service of notice and possession proceedings 2 weeks 3 months (a) 4 weeks where arrears are at least 6 months
(b) 6 months where arrears are less than 6 months
Ground Pre-coronavirus Act 2020 notice period: until 26 March 2020 Modified notice period: 26 March 2020 – 28 August 2020 Modified notice period: 29 August 2020 – 31 March 2021
Discretionary (judge can decide whether to award possession if ground met)
9: Alternative accommodation available 2 months 3 months 6 months
10: Some rent arrears at the time of service of notice and possession proceedings 2 weeks 3 months (a) 4 weeks where arrears are at least 6 months
(b) 6 months where arrears are less than 6 months
11: Persistent late payment of rent 2 weeks 3 months (a) 4 weeks where arrears are at least 6 months
(b) 6 months where arrears are less than 6 months
12: Breach of tenancy agreement 2 weeks 3 months 6 months
13: Tenant deteriorated property 2 weeks 3 months 6 months
14: Nuisance/annoyance, illegal/immoral use of property None- proceedings may be commenced immediately after service of notice 3 months None – proceedings may be commenced immediately after service of notice
14A: Domestic abuse (social tenancies only – where victim has permanently left the property) 2 weeks 3 months 2 weeks
14ZA: Rioting 2 weeks 3 months 2 weeks
15: Tenant has deteriorated furniture 2 weeks 3 months 6 months
16: Employment 2 months 3 months 6 months
17: False statement 2 weeks 3 months 2 weeks

Source: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – September 21, 2020

Eviction Law Change FAQ

How the coronavirus pandemic has affected serving possession notices has constantly changed, leaving many landlords baffled by what they can and cannot do to take back a rented home.

Here are the answers to some of the most asked questions about serving Section 21 notices and taking possession of a property.

Has the government published a detailed explanation of the new rules?

Yes, an in-depth guide called Technical guidance on eviction notices was uploaded on September 21, 2020. Earlier editions are available online, so check you have the latest update from the government web site.

Another guide Understanding the possession action process: A guide for private landlords in England and Wales was published on September 17, 2020.

What is a coronavirus report a judge will want to see?

The possession papers must include a statement about how the tenant has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

For instance, if they have lost their job and cannot afford the rent, this should be highlighted.

Similarly, if they have not had financial difficulties but have built up rent arrears, this should be mentioned too.

When can I expect a court to list a possession case?

This is still unknown. Although the courts will start hearing cases from September 21, 2020, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick has made clear the ‘most egregious’ cases will be heard first.

This could mean waits of up to a year, including the six months’ notice, for many new possession filings.

As a footnote, a Section 21 notice served after August 29, 2020, is valid for 10 months from the date the tenant receives the paperwork– up from the former validity period of six months.

How soon can I serve a Section 21 notice?

Landlord cannot serve a Section 21 notice until at least four months after the original tenancy started.

Is this the new normal for landlords?

Probably – the government intends to change the law to give more safeguards and security to renters and it’s possible the current notice periods could stay in force when the temporary measures end or sometime after.