Coronavirus legislation: eviction ban for residential tenancies

25 March 2020

As part of the UK government’s preparedness for coronavirus and the economic uncertainty it has caused, legislation is being introduced to protect tenants from eviction. All landlords should be aware that from the day after the act is passed until 30 September 2020, you will need to comply with amended notice periods for almost all residential tenancies.

The Coronavirus Bill has passed all stages of the House of Commons and is now in the House of Lords – First Reading.

Section 81: Coronavirus Bill states:

“Residential tenancies in England and Wales: protection from eviction

Schedule 29 makes provision about notice periods in relation to possession proceedings in respect of certain residential tenancies etc.”

Headlines from the provisions of Schedule 29: 

The Relevant Period” means – the day after the Act is passed and ending on 30 September 2020. The Relevant Period can be extended further by regulation.

Rent Act 1977 (i.e. tenancies granted before 15 January 1989 or after 15 January 1989 in certain exceptional cases)

  • Protected tenancies: s.5(1) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (notices to quit) is amended to read 3 months rather than 4 weeks.
  • Statutory tenancies: statutory tenancies did not require the landlord to serve a notice to quit (or any other form of notice) in order to bring possession proceedings. Therefore, s.3, Rent Act 1977 is amended by the addition of 6 subsections (ss. 4A-F). These new sections require the service of a “notice of intention to commence possession proceedings” on a statutory tenant before proceedings can be started during the "Relevant Period", unless the court considers it is “just and equitable to dispense with the requirement to comply”. The notice must be a period of at least 3 months and be in writing setting out, inter alia, the ground of possession relied upon.

Housing Act 1985

  • Secure tenancies: for all notices during the "Relevant Period", the date specified before proceedings can commence is amended to require 3 months from the date of service of the notice. This includes possession relying on the discretionary or mandatory anti-social behaviour grounds, which before could be commenced immediately.
  • Flexible tenancies: in relation to notices during the "Relevant Period", 3 months’ notice is now required where before in s.107D, 2 months was required.

Housing Act 1988

  • For assured tenancies: in relation to s.8 notices during the "Relevant Period", the time after which proceedings can be commenced is amended to require 3 months’ notice, this applies to all grounds. Although for discretionary grounds, the required notice can still be dispensed with if the court considers it “just and reasonable to dispense”. As before, the mandatory ground for rent arrears (Ground 8) requires valid notice (now 3 months rather than 2 weeks) and cannot be dispensed with.
  • Assured shorthold tenancies: s.21 is amended to read as 3 months rather than 2 months throughout the section.

Housing Act 1996

  • Introductory tenancies: s.128 is amended to provide that the court may not entertain proceedings during the "Relevant Period" for possession unless they are begun after the end of the period of 3 months beginning with the date on which the notice of proceedings is served and that date must not be earlier than the date on which the tenancy could be brought to an end by notice to quit given by the landlord on the same date as the notice of proceedings.
  • Demoted tenancies: during the "Relevant Period" s.143E is amended to require 3 months before possession proceedings can begin from the date the notice was served on the tenant, and must not be earlier than the date on which the tenancy, apart from this Chapter, could be brought to an end by notice to quit given by the landlord on the same date as the notice of proceedings.

There are also consequential amendments to the prescribed forms required for service of notices under the Housing Act 1985, and Housing Act 1988 (secure, assured and assured shorthold) to amend the times to reflect the above.