Covid-19: Protection for tenants

Emergency measures were put place to protect tenants during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, including extended notice periods and a stay on evictions.

This content applies to England

End of temporary protection for renters

Temporary measures to protect tenants were put in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

These included:

  • a stay on possession proceedings between 27 March and 20 September 2020

  • a stay on evictions between 17 November 2020 and 31 May 2021

  • extended notice periods between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2021

These measures have now ended.

The government retains the power to require landlords to serve longer notices up to 25 March 2022.[1]

Enforcement agents must still follow guidance on evictions where someone in the household is self-isolating or has coronavirus symptoms.

Evictions where an occupant has symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating

Government guidance for tenants confirms that enforcement agents (bailiffs) should not carry out evictions if they are made aware that the tenant or anyone the tenant lives with:

  • has coronavirus symptoms

  • has tested positive for coronavirus

  • is awaiting coronavirus test results

  • is self-isolating following advice from the NHS

Tenants should use the court contact details provided on the N54 notice of eviction to inform the bailiffs about their circumstances, including when the symptoms started and how long they have been self-isolating for. The eviction will be rescheduled with a minimum of 14 days’ notice.

Bailiffs have no power to force occupiers to take a COVID-19 test.

Extension of the minimum notice period between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2021

Notice periods for most types of tenancy were temporarily extended between 26 March and 30 September 2021.

The relevant period specified in the Coronavirus Act during which landlords can be required to serve a longer notice has been extended to 25 March 2022.[2] This means the government can choose to reintroduce longer notice periods at any time before that date.

The following tenants had the right to extended notices:

  • assured shorthold (including starter tenancies)

  • assured

  • secure

  • local authority flexible

  • local authority introductory

  • demoted

  • regulated (protected)

The minimum notice periods were:[3]

Four months for notices served between 1 June 2021 and 30 September 2021.

Six months for notices served between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021.

Three months for notices served between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020.

Exceptions

Landlords could serve shorter notices if the reason for possession related to:

  • rent arrears

  • failing a right to rent check

  • tenant’s conduct, including anti-social behaviour and domestic violence

The rules varied depending on the tenancy type. For detailed information on the exceptions for each tenancy type see the section Notices in possession proceedings.

Use the tenancy status checker if you are not sure what type of tenancy the occupier has.

The Guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities contains a table summarising the minimum notice requirements for each tenancy.

Shared owners 

Paragraph 1.4 of the government guidance for landlords and tenants confirmed that most shared owners were protected by the Coronavirus Act 2020.

Occupiers who are not covered

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

Stay on evictions between 17 November 2020 and 31 May 2021

Regulations provided that evictions were paused between 17 November 2020 and 31 May 2021.[4]

Between 17 November 2020 and 31 May 2021, unless one or more of the exceptions listed below applied, it was 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, most evictions could not take place until after 14 June 2021.

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

Enforcement of possession orders on rent arrears grounds after 11 Jan 2021

Eviction of secure, assured or regulated tenants could go ahead between 11 January 2021 and 31 May 2021 if both of the following criteria applied:[5]

  • the notice, warrant or writ related wholly or partly to a possession order made on the grounds of rent arrears

  • at the time when the warrant was 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 was included.[6] A person relying on this exception should state the amount of arrears in the application for a warrant.

Enforcement of possession orders on rent arrears grounds until 11 Jan 2021

Eviction of secure, assured or regulated tenants could go ahead between 11 January 2021 and 31 May 2021 if both of the following criteria applied:[7]

  • the notice, warrant or writ related 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.[8]

Enforcement of possession orders made under the section 21 procedure

Possession orders made under the section 21 procedure for assured shorthold tenancies were subject to the pause on evictions even if there were rent arrears at the time the possession order was made, or if arrears accrued since.

The High Court held that a landlord could not rely on the exception for substantial rent arrears in a case where the possession order was made under section 21 and a money judgment was granted for arrears at the same time. At the point of the claimant's application for a declaration from the court that the exception applied to the case, the arrears stood in excess of 21 months' rent. The claimant had made an application to amend the claim to include grounds 8, 10 and 11 (rent arrears), but no decision was made on the application by the district judge during the possession hearing, as section 21 was made out.[9]

Further exceptions for assured tenancies

Eviction could go ahead if the notice writ or warrant related wholly or partly to an order for possession of an assured tenancy made on the grounds of:[10]

  • 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 was executed on the ground of the assured tenant’s death, the person executing it must take reasonable steps to ensure the property is unoccupied.[11]

Further exceptions for secure tenancies

Evictions could go ahead if the notice, writ or warrant related wholly or partly to an order for possession against a secure tenant made on the grounds of:[12]

  • 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 could go ahead if the notice, writ or warrant related wholly or partly to an order for possession made against a regulated (protected) tenant on the grounds of nuisance and annoyance.[13]

Exception: trespassers

Evictions could go ahead if the writ or warrant related 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.[14]

See Guidance on understanding the possession action process for more information.

Stay on possession proceedings between 27 March 2020 and 20 September 2020

Possession proceedings were stayed between 27 March and 20 September 2020.

Initially the stay applied from 27 March 2020 until 25 June 2020, and was later extended until first 23 August 2020 then 20 September 2020.[15]

Covered by the stay were:

  • applications for a possession order, including variations

  • applications to enforce a possession order by a warrant or a writ

  • appeals of possession orders[16]

Not covered by the stay were:

The stay protected all tenants and contractual licensees with basic protection.

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.

Repairs and safety during the coronavirus pandemic 

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.

The current government recommendation is to follow the Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread guidance, as well as the guidance on working safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Local authority enforcement and inspections

Local authority 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 has been updated regularly in line with the current coronavirus safety measures.

Moving home during the coronavirus pandemic 

On 22 July 2021 the government published an updated version of the guidance on moving homes that reflects the current coronavirus-related safety advice.

The requirement to produce an EPC still applies and where a landlord fails to comply, it could invalidate a section 21 notice. The specific guidance on obtaining Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) during the pandemic applied between 2 April 2020 and 23 July 2021. The current government recommendation is to follow the Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread guidance, as well as the guidance on working safely during the coronavirus pandemic when carrying out any work associated with obtaining an EPC.

Moving home in the social housing sector

The guidance for social landlords was withdrawn on 22 July 2021.

Right to rent checks during the coronavirus pandemic

The temporary coronavirus-related right to rent safety measures have been extended until 5 April 2022.

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 can 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 currently advises that landlords do not have to carry out retrospective checks once the emergency measures end and that a right to rent check carried out in line with the adjusted guidance between 30 March 2020 and 5 April 2022 provides a defence against a civil penalty. New guidance is expected to be published before 6 April 2022.

Mobile home sites, hotels and B&Bs

The updated guidance for accommodation providers advises how to run a business and adhere to the current coronavirus-related safety measures.

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.

See Mobile home occupiers for information about the rights of mobile home owners and renters.

For information about the provision of accommodation for homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic, see Covid19: homelessness.

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.

Reducing the risk of Covid-19 in shared accommodation

People living in shared accommodation are directed to the Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread guidance. There is additional guidance in place for occupiers with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infection.

Between 10 March 2021 and 30 July 2021 the guidance for people living in shared or overcrowded accommodation applied.

People in need of care and support

Local authorities were temporarily given powers to suspend a number of duties under the Care Act 2014 during the coronavirus pandemic. These included duties to carry out and review care and support plans, and meet eligible care needs.[18] These powers were removed from 16 July 2021.[19]

Care funded by direct payments

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.

Last updated: 1 October 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    see para (1)(b)(i)(1) Schedule 29 the Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 2 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies and Notices) (Amendment and Suspension) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/994.

  • [2]

    see para (1)(b)(i)(1) Schedule 29 the Coronavirus Act 2020, as amended by reg 2 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies and Notices) (Amendment and Suspension) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/994.

  • [3]

    para 1(1)(b)(i) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020 as amended by reg 3(2) 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 2021 SI 2021/284 and reg 2(2) and reg 2 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/564; reg 3 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/564.

  • [4]

    reg 2(1) The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/1290, reg 2 The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/15, from 22 February 2021 The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021; as amended by The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 SI 2021/362.

  • [5]

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

  • [6]

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

  • [7]

    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.

  • [8]

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

  • [9]

    The Corporation of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond v Prescott and Byrne [2021] EWHC 283 (QB)

  • [10]

    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.

  • [11]

    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.

  • [12]

    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.

  • [13]

    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.

  • [14]

    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.

  • [15]

    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 and r.2(a)-(b) Civil Procedure (Amendment No. 5) (Coronavirus) Rules 2020/889.

  • [16]

    Hackney LBC v Okoro [2020] EWCA Civ 681.

  • [17]

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

  • [18]

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

  • [19]

    reg 4 The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Early Expiry) Regulations 2021 2021/856. }