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Covid-19: Protection for tenants

This content applies to England

Emergency measures in place to protect tenants during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, including the stay to possession proceedings and evictions.

Extension of the minimum notice period

The following tenants have the right to extended notices:

  • assured shorthold (including starter tenancies)[1]
  • assured[2]
  • secure[3]
  • flexible[4]
  • introductory[5]
  • demoted[6]
  • regulated (protected)[7]

The relevant notice forms have also been amended.[8]

Extended notice period

For notices served between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020 inclusive of, the minimum notice period was three months.[9]

For notices served between 29 August 2020 and 31 March 2021 inclusive of, the minimum notice period is six months, unless exceptions apply (see below).[10]

The 'Technical guidance on eviction notices' document which forms part of the updated government Guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities contains a table summarising the minimum notice requirements for each tenancy.

Exceptions

From 29 August 2020, in circumstances such as anti-social behaviour, domestic violence or rent arrears, the tenant will be entitled to the following notice:

Standard pre-extension notice period

Where the landlord is seeking possession on the grounds listed below, the notice period will revert to the standard length for each tenancy, meaning the extension will not apply:[11]

  • the discretionary ground for anti-social behaviour for secure tenancies, whether with or without other grounds (ground 2 in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1985)
  • the absolute ground for anti-social behaviour for secure tenancies (section 83ZA of the Housing Act 1985)
  • anti-social behaviour grounds for assured and assured shorthold tenancies (grounds 7A or 14 in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988)

In this section, references to a secure tenancy include flexible tenancy where possession is sought in the fixed-term.

For more information about the appropriate notice period, see Notices.

Two weeks' notice

Two weeks' notice period applies where the tenancy is assured and possession is sought on the grounds of offence committed at a riot, domestic violence  or acquiring the tenancy as a result of a false statement (grounds 14ZA, 14A and 17, Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 respectively).[12]

Four weeks’ notice

The notice period is four weeks where:[13]

  • at least six months’ rent is unpaid (all tenancy types listed above)
  • the tenancy is regulated/protected and the landlord is seeking possession for anti-social behaviour (Case 2, Schedule 15 to the Rent Act 1977)
  • the tenancy is secure and the landlord is seeking possession for a conviction for an offence committed at a riot, domestic violence or acquiring the tenancy as a result of a false statement (grounds 2ZA, 2A and 5, Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1985 respectively)
  • the tenancy is an introductory or demoted and the landlord is seeking possession for reasons related to anti-social behaviour or domestic violence

In this section, references to a secure tenancy include flexible tenancy where possession is sought in the fixed-term.

Three months’ notice

The notice period is three months’ where the:[14]

  • grounds for eviction relate to the tenant’s immigration status (in practice, where a tenant has failed the right to rent check)
  • tenancy is an assured tenancy and possession is sought following the death of the former tenant (ground 7, Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988)

Section 21 notice: prescribed form and time limits

From 29 August 2020, assured shorthold tenants are entitled to a minimum six months' section 21 notice. Section 21(4D) of the Housing Act 1988 has been amended to extend the period in which the landlord can start possession proceedings from six to ten months after the service of a section 21 notice.[15]

From 2 September 2020, landlords must use the updated form 6A which reflects the six-month minimum notice period and the ten-month time limit for taking court action.[16]

For more information, see Assured shorthold tenancies: section 21 notices.

Shared owners 

Paragraph 1.4 of the government guidance for landlords and tenants confirms that most shared owners are protected by the Coronavirus Act 2020. For information about mortgage difficulties, see Mortgage arrears possession process.

Who is not covered?

The following occupiers do not have the rights to an extended notice:

Where a possession order and/or a warrant is required, any court action is likely to be suspended (see 'Suspending all possession proceedings' below).

Suspension of possession proceedings and reactivating proceedings

On 21 August 2020, the government announced that the stay to possession proceedings under Part 55 would continue until 20 September 2020. On 22 August 2020, rule 55.29 of the Civil Procedure Rules was amended to provide for possession proceedings that started on or before 19 September 2020 to be stayed until 20 September.[17] Initially, the stay applied from 27 March 2020 until 25 June 2020, and was later extended until 23 August 2020.[18]

Covered by the stay:

  • applications for a possession order, including variations
  • applications to enforce a possession order by a warrant or a writ
  • appeals of possession orders[19]

Not covered by the stay:

  • claims for injunctions (injunctive relief)[20]
  • claims against trespassers to which rule 55.6 CPR applies
  • applications for interim possession orders (IPO) against squatters
  • applications for case management directions where the parties are in agreement

The stay protected all tenants and contractual licensees with basic protection. However, excluded occupiers, including lodgers and those in interim accommodation awaiting a decision on their homeless application, did not benefit from the stay because they are excluded from the right to a court order.

Reactivation of possession proceedings

Following the ending of the stay on possession proceedings on 20 September 2020, claimants and defendants can apply to reactivate proceedings from 21 September 2020. See Covid-19 Reactivation of possession proceedings for details.

For more information about how possession proceedings are affected, see Court and tribunal hearings. Further information is also available on Gov.uk.

Evictions: stay of enforcement action

Evictions are paused until after 21 February 2021.[21] This follows a pause on evictions between 17 November 2020 and 11 January 2021.[22]

The pause on evictions was originally announced on 5 November 2020.

Unless one or more of the exceptions listed below apply, between 17 November 2020 and 21 February 2021 it is not possible to:

  • execute a warrant or writ of eviction
  • deliver a notice of eviction.

Due to the requirement to give 14 days notice of eviction, in practice evictions cannot take place until after 8 March 2021.

Possession orders on rent arrears grounds after 11 Jan 2021

Eviction of secure, assured or regulated tenants can go ahead if both of the following criteria apply:[23]

  • the notice, warrant or writ relates wholly or partly to a possession order made on the grounds of rent arrears
  • at the time when the warrant is applied for rent arrears were equal or greater than six months' worth of rent.

For the purpose of calculating the amount of rent arrears, any amount accrued prior to the application for a warrant is included.[24] A claimant relying on this exception should state the amount of arrears in the application for a warrant.

Possession orders on rent arrears grounds until 11 Jan 2021

Eviction of secure, assured or regulated tenants could go ahead if both of the following criteria apply:[25]

  • the notice, warrant or writ relates wholly or partly to a possession order made on the grounds of rent arrears
  • at the time when the possession order was granted rent arrears were equal or greater than nine months’ worth of rent.

For the purpose of calculating the amount of rent arrears, any amount accrued after 23 March 2020 is disregarded.[26]

Further exceptions for assured tenancies

Eviction can go ahead if the notice writ or warrant relates wholly or partly to an order for possession of an assured tenancy made on the grounds of:[27]

  • anti-social behaviour
  • nuisance or annoyance, illegal or immoral use of the property
  • domestic violence
  • obtaining the tenancy by false statement
  • death of an assured tenant

Where a writ or warrant is executed on the ground of the assured tenant’s death, the person executing it must take reasonable steps to ensure the property is unoccupied.[28]

Further exceptions for secure tenancies

Eviction can go ahead if the notice, writ or warrant relates wholly or partly to an order for possession against a secure tenant made on the grounds of:[29]

  • anti-social behaviour
  • nuisance or annoyance, illegal or immoral use of the property
  • domestic violence
  • obtaining the tenancy by false statement

Further exception for regulated (protected) tenants

Eviction can go ahead if the notice, writ or warrant relates wholly or partly to an order for possession made against a regulated (protected) tenant on the grounds of nuisance and annoyance.[30]

Exception: trespassers

Evictions can go ahead if the writ or warrant relates to an order for possession made against a trespasser pursuant to a claim to which rule 55.6 (service of claims against trespassers) of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 applies.[31]

For details of the stay and exceptions, check the Understanding the possession action process: A guide for private landlords in England and Wales guidance.

Repairs and safety

Landlords' obligations
During the coronavirus pandemic, the statutory repairing obligations remain unchanged. Works and inspections should be carried out in line with the current public health advice.

The revised non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants  contains the latest advice on how landlords can meet their repairing obligations safely during the Covid-19 pandemic, including where the tenant is self-isolating. The guidance changes regularly.

Local authority enforcement and inspections
The local authorities' powers and duties in relation to enforcement of housing standards remain unchanged during the coronavirus pandemic.

The non-statutory guidance for local authorities advises on how enforcement interventions can be safely carried out during the Covid-19 pandemic, including where the tenant is self-isolating. The guidance changes regularly.

Gas safety
The Gas Safe Register (GSR) guidance currently states that GSR inspections will take place following social distancing guidelines.

The revised non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants advises that if the tenant is self-isolating, the gas safety check may be postponed until it is safe to carry it out, unless there is a direct risk to the tenant or their household.

Moving home

The guidance on moving homes advises on how to move home safely and what to do if someone is self-isolating or is clinically extremely vulnerable. The guidance lists a number of safety precautions aimed at minimising the risk of infection, including holding virtual viewings and conducting inventory and other checks when the property is unoccupied. The guidance changes regularly.

The government has published guidance on obtaining Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) during the pandemic. The requirement to produce an EPC still applies and where a landlord fails to comply, it could invalidate a section 21 notice.

Moving home in the social housing sector
The updated non-statutory guidance for social landlords advises that when facilitating allocations and transfers, it may be necessary to adjust working practices in line with the government's advice on social distancing. The guidance lists steps the local authority may consider taking, including discussing the tenant's health, vulnerability and arrangements for moving and avoiding moving tenants who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or who are self-isolating, subject to exceptions, usually on safety grounds. The guidance advises that tenants who are anxious about moving or are unable to move should not be put under undue pressure to do so.

Right to rent checks

The Home Office has published guidance for private landlords on conducting right to rent checks during the coronavirus pandemic. Landlords are not required to see original documents and are advised to accept scanned copies or photographs of the original documents sent via email or a mobile app and arrange to check the prospective tenant's identity via a video call. The guidance also provides information on retrospective checks once the COVID-19 emergency measures end.

Mobile home sites, hotels and B&Bs

The updated guidance for accommodation providers advises how to safely run a business in accordance with the local restriction tiers, in force from 2 December 2020.[32]

The ministerial letter dated 4 November 2020 confirmed that during the national lockdown, caravan and park home sites were to remain open for those using them as their main residence.

For information about the rights of mobile home owners and renters, visit the Mobile homes section.

For information about the provision of accommodation for homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic, visit the Homelessness page in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and housing section.

Gypsy and Traveller communities 

On 10 November 2020, the Communities Minister wrote to local authority chief executives to highlight the fact that local interventions and support for the Gypsy and Traveller communities may be necessary again, due to some members of these communities being particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. The first letter was published on 30 April 2020.

People in need of care and support

Local authorities have been given powers to temporarily suspend a number of duties under the Care Act 2014, including duties to carry out and review care and support plans, and meet eligible care needs.[33] However, these duties must still be carried out if a failure to do so would result in a breach of human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Department of Health & Social Care has published guidance that advises, among other things, that local authorities would still be expected to respond as soon as possible to requests for care and support, so that they do not infringe on the individual's human rights, and that the purpose of the temporary easements is to ensure the best possible care for people during the pandemic, therefore they should be implemented only where it is necessary to do so.

The government has issued guidance aimed at local authorities and those who fund their care via direct payments. The guidance emphasises the need for contingency plans where care assistants are unable to provide care and for considering requests to pay close family members to provide care if deemed necessary.

Further guidance on adult social care and Covid-19 is available from Gov.uk.

For general information about Care Act 2014 and housing, including information on how to challenge decisions and (lack of) provision of services under the Care Act 2014, visit the section Housing with care and support.

[1] s.21(1) Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 7(a) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Schedule to Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms)(England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by para 12(2) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; ss.21(4),(4E) Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 7(b)-(c) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Schedule to Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms)(England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by para 12(2) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[2] s.8 Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 6 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Form No.3 Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by paras 11-12(1) Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[3] ss.83 and 83ZA Housing Act 1985, as amended by paras 3 and 4, Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Part 1-2 Secure Tenancies (Notices) Regulations 1987 SI 1987/755 as amended by para 10 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[4] s. 107D Housing Act 1985, as amended by para 5, Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[5] s.128 Housing Act 1996, as amended by para 8 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[6] s.143F Housing Act 1996, as amended by para 9 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[7] s.5(1) Protection from Eviction Act 1977, as amended by para 2(1)(-2) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; ss. 4A-4F Rent Act 1977, as inserted by para 2(3) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[8] see paras 10-12 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(10)-(11) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; reg 2 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Wales) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1044 (W.233).

[9] see Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020 before 29 August 2020.

[10] Regulated/protected: paras 2(2) and 2(3) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(3) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; secure: para 3 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(4) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; flexible: para 5 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(5) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; assured: para 6 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; assured shorthold para 7 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(7) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; demoted: para 9 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(9) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914; introductory: para 8 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(8) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914. In addition, regulation 2 of The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914 suspends the application of the extended minimum period in certain circumstances.

[11] reg 2 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[12] reg 3(6) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[13] reg 3 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[14] reg 3 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[15] s. 21(4D) Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 7 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 3(7) The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/914.

[16] regs 1(2), 3 and 4(1) The Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment) and Suspension (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/924.

[17] r. 55.29 Civil Procedure Rules 1998, as amended by r.2(a)-(b) Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 5) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020/889.

[18] Practice Direction 51Z, 27 March 2020, as amended by the 120th Practice Direction, 20 April 2020; Arkin v Marshall [2020] EWCA Civ 620; r. 55.29 Civil Procedure Rules 1998, as amended by r. 2(a)Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 2) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020 SI 2020/582.

[19] Hackney LBC v Okoro [2020] EWCA Civ 681.

[20] University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust v MB [2020] EWHC 882 (QB).

[21] reg 2 The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15

[22] reg 2(1) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290.

[23] reg 2(3) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15

[24] reg 2(4) The Public Heath (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15

[25] reg 2(3)-(4) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290; secure: ground 1 Schedule 2 Housing Act 1985; assured: ground 8, 10 or 11 Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988; regulated (protected): case 1 of Schedule 15 Rent Act 1977.

[26] reg 2(4)(b) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290.

[27] reg 2(2)(b)-(e) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290; grounds 7A, 14, 14A, 17 Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988; reg 2(5) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290; ground 7 Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988; reg 2(2)(d) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15.

[28] reg 2(6) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290; reg 2(6) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15.

[29] reg 2(2)(b)-(e) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290; reg 2(2)(c) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15; section 84A and grounds 2, 2A, 5 Schedule 2 Housing Act 1985.

[30] reg 2(2)(e) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290; reg 2(2)(e) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15; case 2 of Schedule 15 the Rent Act 1977.

[31] reg 2(2)(a) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290; reg 2(2)(a) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15.

[32] see The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1374.

[33] s.15 and Part 1 of Schedule 12 Coronavirus Act 2020; reg 2 Coronavirus Act 2020 (Commencement No. 2) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/388.

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