As you’re no doubt aware, in March the government brought in measures effectively preventing landlords from evicting tenants during the coronavirus lockdown. This was originally intended to run until this month, but the government has now extended the moratorium on evictions until 23rd August 2020.
What Does This Mean for Me?
One expected announcement that hasn’t materialised is that tenants would be granted “rent holidays” like the “mortgage holidays” being offered by lenders. This means that tenants are still obliged to pay rent due, but that, in effect, you must now give at least three months’ notice of either a Section 8 or Section 21 eviction.
If your tenant fails to pay their rent, you can still give notice of a possession claim, and you’ll be able to seek a possession order from the court if they fail to vacate. However, landlords are being advised to negotiate a repayment plan with the tenant, if possible. Although this isn’t currently compulsory, it’s likely that the courts will take into account whether negotiation has been attempted.
What Can I Still Do?
If you’ve been unable to set up a repayment plan with a tenant who owes more than eight weeks’ rent, you’re perfectly entitled to issue a Section 8 notice. However, it’s unlikely the case will be heard yet by the courts, which are generally operating on a skeleton staff, if they’re open at all. In addition, all bailiff visits have been suspended, so any order couldn’t be enforced yet.
Nevertheless, there are still good reasons for taking the process as far as you can now. The courts are currently expected to be reopening in late August, and they’re likely to have a massive backlog. If your claim is well advanced, you may be at an advantage.
In addition to new claims, any claim that already existed before 26th March can still go ahead, though there are likely to be severe delays in the court process. This is particularly important if you’ve issued a Section 21 notice. These expire after six months, so you’ll need to have lodged your claim with the court by then.
Is there Any Help Available?
If you have tenants who are failing to pay their rent, this could have serious consequences on your finances. The best recourse might be to take advantage of the mortgage holidays announced by the government, which include buy-to-let mortgages. While you’ll need to negotiate this with your lender, all lenders are under instruction to treat mortgage-holders fairly and with compassion. This might give you a breathing space to ride out the storm.
You’re very welcome to get in touch with me if you want to discuss further your options in recovering unpaid rents during the coronavirus crisis.