Can my landlord evict me during the Covid-19 pandemic?
The landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors have had lots of worried calls from tenants wanting to know if their landlord can evict them during the Covid-19 pandemic and what they can and should do. In this blog we look at the latest guidance on evictions and coronavirus.
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If you need legal advice about eviction concerns then the landlord and tenant team at OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form for a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment.
Can my landlord evict me?
Firstly, a landlord has got to follow the correct procedural steps to evict a tenant. Those procedural steps apply whether or not there is a global pandemic. However, the government has introduced some safeguards from eviction for tenants during the Covid-19 lockdown.
If your landlord doesn’t follow the correct procedural steps to evict you then they will commit a criminal offence so it is best for both landlords and tenants to follow the right steps. The fact that we are living through a coronavirus pandemic doesn’t mean that a landlord can ignore these steps or that your eviction won't be an illegal act for which they could be charged with a criminal offence.
The landlord and tenant team get asked ‘’what is an illegal eviction?’’ but the answer depends on the type of tenancy agreement you have. In general, it is an illegal eviction if your landlord:
Makes you leave your rented property without giving you any notice and potentially without first getting a court order
Prevents you getting back into the property, for example, by changing the locks whilst you are temporarily out of the property.
If you are worried about your landlord‘s actions and think that they might be trying to evict you without following correct procedure then it is best to take legal advice.
Can a lodger be illegally evicted?
You may have read in the papers stories about National Health Service staff and other key workers being asked to leave their lodgings because their landlord is worried that their lodger poses a greater risk of carrying Covid-19 because of their contact with members of the public. Not only could these landlords face adverse publicity they may also be engaged in an illegal eviction. That is because whilst a landlord doesn’t need a court order to evict a lodger (rather than most types of tenant) a landlord does need to give reasonable notice. A period of reasonable notice will be longer during coronavirus because of the public health issues and government guidance.
Covid-19 and changes to the eviction rules
The government has responded to the Covid-19 crisis by issuing new Covid-19 legislation and rules on eviction of those renting property by:
Extending the notice period for evictions
Suspending eviction court action.
The relevant new law is contained in schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020.
What does the Coronavirus Act say about evictions and possession proceedings?
These new rules in schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act apply from the 26 March 2020 until the 30 September 2020. The government has said that the end date of the 30 September 2020 could be extended depending on the progress of the government’s efforts to contain Covid-19.
The new law says that:
landlords who wish to start possession proceedings to evict a tenant who has an assured tenancy or assured shorthold tenancy must still first give their tenant notice under section 8 or section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. The notice informs the tenant of the landlord's intention to bring possession proceedings in the future
For notices served under section 8 between the 26 March and the 30 September 2020 the notice must specify a three month notice period before commencing possession proceedings
For notices served under section 21 between the 26 March and the 30 September 2020 (that previously required less than three months' notice of possession proceedings) the notice must now specify a period of three months.
The new legislation is complimented by a Court Practice Direction that stays (or puts on hold) possession proceedings for up to three months and applies to all claims for the possession of land, including agricultural, commercial, and mortgage actions.
Who do the Covid-19 eviction rule changes apply to?
The new legislation and rules on eviction apply to you if you are:
A private tenant of a property who , under the law, is entitled to a section 21 or a section 8 possession notice
A council tenant
A housing association tenant
A regulated tenant.
If you are not sure if your tenancy falls into the new rules it is best to take legal advice from a landlord and tenant solicitor so you know where you stand legally. You should not leave the property without first taking legal advice.
Lord Chief Justice Guidance on eviction and possession proceedings
On the 19 March 2020 the Lord Chief Justice to judges in the Civil and Family courts
issued guidance on Covid-19 and the civil and family courts.
In relation to possession proceedings, the Lord Chief Justice said:
‘’It is likely that the emergency legislation will affect this area of work. But it is obvious that particular sensitivity is needed irrespective of that. Applications to suspend warrants of possession should be prioritized.
‘’Block listing of possession claims is inappropriate at this time because it would be difficult to maintain appropriate social distancing.
‘’Judges dealing with any possession claim during the crisis must have in mind the public health guidance and should not make an order that risks impacting on public health’’.
On general court issues during the coronavirus outbreak the Lord Chief Justice said:
‘’We have an obligation to continue with the work of the courts as a vital public service, just as others in the public sector and in the private sector are doing. But as I have said before, it will not be business as usual.
‘’Yesterday’s announcement that schools will be closing three weeks early coupled with the need for those over 70 and with health problems to stay at home will have an immediate impact on the ability and willingness of people to attend courts and tribunals…….
‘’The rules in both the civil and family courts are flexible enough to enable telephone and video hearings of almost everything. Any legal impediments will be dealt with….
‘’The default position now in all jurisdictions must be that hearings should be conducted with one, more than one or all participants attending remotely. That will not always be possible. Sensible precautions should be taken when people attend a hearing.
‘’I would urge all before agreeing to adjourn any hearing to use available time to explore with the parties the possibility for compromise.
What happens if I received notice before the 26 March 2020?
The new law contained in the Coronavirus Act 2020 applies to notices issued after the 26 March 2020. If you received notice before the 26 March 2020 it is best to seek legal advice but the Court Practice Direction and the Lord Chief Justice’s statement and guidance should help you.
You should not leave your rented property without first taking legal advice even if notice was given prior to the 26 March 2020 as your landlord may then need to secure an order to evict you and at the present time the court has said that evictions should be considered in light of public health advice. The public health advice is to stay home.
Covid-19 is having a devastating impact on many people’s lives; their physical and mental health as well as creating financial and other worries, such as housing. If you are worried about losing your home and possession proceedings because of coronavirus it is best to take legal advice so you know what your new legal rights and your options are.
If you need legal advice about your tenancy or any aspect of landlord and tenant law, or need representation in possession proceedings then the friendly and efficient landlord and tenant team at London based OTS Solicitors can help you. Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete ouronline enquiry formto arrange a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment.