How will the Coronavirus Act 2020 affect renters?

Advice for those renting during the coronavirus pandemic.

Parliament has now put in place emergency legislation, the Coronavirus Act 2020, to protect renters in residential houses or flats from eviction for any reason for the next three months.

This includes protection for any tenants who do not pay rent over the next three months during the coronavirus period.

This legislation will be in place until 30 September 2020.

How will this impact you if you’re renting your home?

People who rent a residential home or flat will not be forced to leave their homes for the next three months, even if they do not pay their rent.

Any notice served relating to regular shorthold tenancies and many other kinds of private sector and housing association residential tenancies must have a three-month notice period.

Any residential tenant with rent arrears could still have a notice to quit served on them, but this notice will have a three- month period, which means that a tenant in this situation could not have court proceedings brought against them for three months.

The government has ensured that it is able to make this notice period longer if needed. That means we may see this postponement of evictions in place for a longer period. depending on how long the coronavirus period continues.

The Master of the Rolls announced on 27 March 2020 that all ongoing possession claims within, or about to enter the Court system will be put on hold for 90 days. This may also be extended. This will have the effect of postponing possession proceedings where notices have already been issued before 27 March 2020.

What happens if you do not pay your rent?

If residential tenants do not pay their rent during this three-month period, no provisions are included to release tenants from liability to pay the rent and interest may accrue on unpaid rent.

Under the new legislation, many renters could end up with large rent arrears, but come out of the three-month period with no means of paying it off, and they would still be able to be evicted after the period of protection expires.

Landlords and tenants are being encouraged to work together and put payment plans in place to address this issue. 

What should you do next if you currently rent?

Where residential tenants can afford to continue to pay their rent, it should be paid. 

If residential tenants cannot afford to pay all their rent but could pay a proportion, the tenants should have a discussion with their landlords to see if a reduced rent could be agreed. This will prevent a build-up of rent arrears over the three- month period. 

If residential tenants cannot pay their rent, they do not need to worry about being evicted during the next three months in light of the statutory protection in place.

But tenants should think ahead to the future and work together with their landlord to discuss payment plans for payment of any rent arrears accrued over the three-month period to avoid the risk of eviction once the three months have passed. 

The government is encouraging landlords and tenants to work together through this difficult and unprecedented time.

A potential positive is that landlords and tenants may communicate better going forward which could result in improved landlord and tenant relationships in the future.