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Covid-19: Protection for tenants

This content applies to England & Wales

This page explains what emergency measures are in place to protect tenants during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

exclamationFrom 27 March 2020 to 20 September 2020, ongoing possession proceedings were suspended to protect tenants and homeowners from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. See COVID-19 and housing for full details.

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 the Notices section.

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:[14]

  • the grounds for eviction relate to the tenant’s immigration status (in practice, where a tenant has failed the right to rent check)
  • the 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 the Mortgage payment problems page.

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, do 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 the page Court and tribunal hearings. Further information is also available on Gov.uk.

Repairs and safety

Landlords' obligations
During the coronavirus pandemic, the landlords’ statutory repairing obligations remain unchanged, however delays in carrying out the work required may be inevitable. The revised non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants includes the following advice:

  • tenants should inform their landlord early about any problems in the property
  • unless the tenant is shielding or self-isolating, they can allow their landlord or the landlord's representative access to the property for the purpose of routine inspections, repairs and planned maintenance
  • no work should be carried out in the homes of those who are shielding or self-isolating, unless it is necessary to remedy a direct risk to them or the household
  • tradespeople can visit people’s homes to carry out any work or maintenance provided they follow the guidance for professionals working in people’s homes
  • nobody can be removed from their home because of the virus
  • landlords are not responsible for providing alternative accommodation for tenants if others in the property contract the virus.

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 that:

  • local authorities should update their enforcement policies and should seek legal advice if they think they may not be able to comply with their legal duties
  • where in-person inspection is not possible, for example because the tenant is self-isolating, the authority may consider relying on photographs, video or live broadcasting
  • if the living conditions are extremely hazardous, alternative accommodation might be considered as an alternative to emergency remedial action
  • non-urgent or not legally required enforcement may be delayed until the restrictions on public movement are lifted.

Gas safety
The Gas Safe Register (GSR) guidance currently states that GSR inspections will only take place in high risk scenarios.

The revised non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants emphasises the importance of gas safety checks and advises that landlords should take all reasonable steps to carry out the annual checks. If the tenant is shielding of self-isolating, the check may be postponed until it is safe to carry it out, unless there is a direct gas safety risk to the tenant.

Ministerial letter to social housing tenants
On 18 May 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and the Local Government published a ministerial letter to tenants in the social housing sector which summarises the recent changes and safety measures, including those impacting on maintenance, repairs and gas safety checks.

Moving home

In  May 2020, the government revised its guidance on moving homes to reflect the current position that people can move home if they wish to do so, however certain procedures are to be implemented in order to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus. The guidance is based on the current strategy of staying alert and safe.

Private landlords and letting agents are advised not to conduct viewings where tenants are:

  • symptomatic
  • self-isolating
  • clinically extremely vulnerable and shielding.

Where viewings can go ahead, safety precautions include:

  • not holding open house viewings
  • limiting any physical viewings to members of one household at a time
  • limiting the number of persons to those for whom it is absolutely necessary to attend
  • bringing hand sanitiser to viewings
  • when viewing a property, avoiding touching surfaces, including handles
  • keeping internal doors open during a viewing and disinfecting surfaces after each viewing
  • vacating the property for the duration of the viewing
  • practising social distancing.

The guidance advises against undertaking activities associated with moving home if a person has COVID-19 or is in self-isolation. Those in vulnerable groups who wish to move should carefully assess their position and consider seeking medical advice before deciding whether to proceed.

When preparing properties for new tenants, landlords should consider steps such as cleaning that would minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus.

The government had 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 also advises that:

  • tenants who are anxious about moving or are unable to move should not be put under undue pressure to do so
  • before proceeding with the move, landlords should discuss tenants' health, vulnerability and arrangements for moving
  • landlords should avoid moving tenants who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or who are self-isolating, subject to exceptions, usually on safety grounds.

If a tenant who is shielding because they have been notified they are in the clinically extremely vulnerable group has to move, the landlord should seek advice from the local Public Health team.

A ministerial letter dated 18 May 2020 highlights the importance of social housing tenants familiarising themselves with the current guidance on moving homes before proceeding with the move.

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 current guidance for accommodation providers confirms that from 4 July 2020 guest accommodation providers can reopen, unless the area is subject to a local lockdown.

Before 4 July 2020 businesses providing holiday accommodation, including hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, caravan parks, boarding houses and short term lets should have stayed open where they were providing accommodation to people who were homeless, would have been homeless, or there was a specific need for the business to remain open, for example they were housing people who had been flooded out of their homes or under emergency accommodation provision arranged by public services.

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 30 April 2020, the Communities Minister wrote to local authority chief executives to highlight the fact that some members of Gypsy and Traveller communities may require additional support due to being particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and to outline the steps to mitigate the risks.

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.[21] 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.

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 People in need of 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.

[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] 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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