An Update on Possession Claims During Coronavirus

By Sam Cook

Partner

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (the Act) which came into force on 26 March 2020 substantially affected the ability for landlords to obtain possession of property in England and Wales.

With the law often changing as a result of the ongoing pandemic, here is a helpful summary of the law as it currently stands in relation to the possession of both commercial and residential property.

Commercial Property

Section 82 of the Act restricted the landlord’s ability to forfeit a lease during the relevant period for non-payment of rent. Whilst the relevant period was initially due to end on 30 June 2020, this was further extended to 31 March 2021.

However, given the current lockdown, this could again be extended and we will need to await to see as and when the government provide supplementary advice on this.

Further, changes have been made regarding the unpaid rent that must be outstanding before the commercial rent arears recovery procedure can be used. From 25 December 2020, at least 366 days’ rent must be outstanding.

Residential Property

The Act has extended the notice periods for most residential possession notices to six months, subject to several exceptions, such as contractual tenancies which have different notice periods. The relevant period for this extension to notice periods, mainly section 21 and section 8 notices is due to expire on 31 March 2021.

Although possession orders can now be obtained (subject to procedural changes) following the uplift on the stay in possession proceedings in September 2020, a possession order cannot be enforced. The ban on evictions was due to be lifted on 11 January 2021 but this has been further extended until 21 February 2021.

Evictions currently can only proceed where the court is satisfied that the notice, writ or warrant relates to a possession order made against trespassers, or on the grounds of anti-social behaviours, nuisance or death of the tenant. Further, if there are substantial rent arrears to the equivalent of at least six months’ rent then it is possible for a possession order to be enforced.

Therefore, unless one of the above exemptions applies, evictions will not be carried out until at least 21 February 2021 but given the current infection rates, this might be further extended. Nevertheless, after 21 February, evictions may still not be carried out where the property is in an area subject to Tier 2, 3 or 4 local lockdown restrictions.

If you are a landlord or tenant and require any assistance with the matters dealt with in this article please contact us on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.