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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Landlords and coronavirus

In this section you'll find information and updates related to coronavirus that are relevant to the laws on letting a property.

The UK's response to coronavirus is changing regularly and often very quickly. While we'll continue to make every effort to keep this page up to date, there may be short periods where what you read here is not the latest information available. Where possible we've tried to provide links to official sources, so you can check the current situation.

Changes to court rules for possession claims (England & Wales)

Due to the pandemic, most claims for possession and claims to enforce possession orders were 'stayed' (paused).

Temporary court rules were introduced to allow landlords to resume these claims. These rules remain in place for all claims that were started before 1 December 2021.

For claims started on or after 1 December 2021, the court procedure rules are – mostly – back to the pre-pandemic position. For example:

  • Cases are scheduled based on when the claim was made, rather than prioritised based on the circumstances.
  • Review hearings (and the preparation needed before attending them) are no longer required.

The one matter that remains from the temporary court rules is that you must still send a Notice of the effect that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the tenant.

Notice of the effect that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the tenant

This is a written notice stating what you know about the effect that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the tenant and any of their dependants (i.e. children or other people in their care). You'll need to provide it in the following situations, even if there are no effects or if you haven't been able to find out.

  • At any possession hearing (i.e. under the section 8 or section 21 procedure) – you must bring 2 copies of the notice to the hearing, and give a copy to the tenant at least 14 days before the hearing.
  • When sending a new claim to the court using the accelerated (section 21) possession procedure.

Note: Government possession process guidance says that you should also send this notice when starting a new claim with claim forms N5 and N119 (i.e. having previously sent the tenant a section 8 notice). However, this advice contradicts the official court procedure rules, so it's unclear if you strictly need to send it in this situation or how the court will react if you don't. It will be safer to send it anyway, as there's no harm in doing so.

The notice is required for any claim issued until at least 30 June 2022. You can use our document Possession claim notice: effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the tenant to create the notice.

Government guidance

The government has issued guidance for landlords for possession claims and the new court procedure. It includes information such as how long the court process may take, what to do if your tenant is in rent arrears or engaged in anti-social behaviour, and what you need for a possession hearing and the possible outcomes.

Pre-action requirements for rent arrears claims (Scotland)

Where tenants are in rent arrears, new regulations require landlords to take certain steps before raising claims for possession or applying for eviction orders. The requirements will apply where the landlord has raised proceedings at, or made an application to, the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland on or after 6 October 2020 and is set to continue as a pre-possession requirement in the future.

Required information

You must give the tenants clear information about:

  • The terms of the tenancy agreement;
  • The total amount of rent arrears;
  • Their rights regarding claims for eviction or possession (including these pre-action requirements); and
  • How they can access information and advice on financial support and debt management.

Required action

You must make reasonable efforts to agree with the tenant a payment plan for the arrears and future payments. You must also reasonably consider:

  • Any steps they take that may affect their ability to pay the rent arrears within a reasonable time;
  • The extent to which they've complied with the terms of the agreed payment (if any); and
  • Any changes to their circumstances that are likely to impact the extent to which they comply with the terms of a payment plan.

Notice period extensions

England and Wales

Due to the pandemic, temporary measures forced landlords to give tenants extra notice when sending them section 8 notices or section 21 notices. These measures ended in England on 1 October 2021 and on 24 March 2022 in Wales.

Section 8 notices

The usual notice period for section 8 notices varies depending on the grounds being used, e.g. 2 weeks for those served on the grounds of there being 8 weeks of unpaid rent.

Notice periods have now returned to their pre-pandemic levels. See our guide on Recovering possession under section 8 for information on notice periods for each ground.

Previously during the pandemic, notice periods depended on when you served the section 8 notice on the tenant (i.e. gave it to them):

England

  • Between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020 (inclusive): 3 months
  • Between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021 (inclusive): 6 months (if there were less than 6 months of rent arrears at the time the notice was given) or 4 weeks (if there were at least 6 months' arrears), with some reasons for eviction requiring less.
  • Between 1 June 2021 and 31 July 2021 (inclusive): 4 months (if there were less than 4 months of rent arrears at the time notice was given) or 4 weeks (if there were at least 4 months' arrears), with some reasons for eviction requiring less.
  • Between 1 August 2021 and 30 September 2021 (inclusive): 2 months (if there were less than 4 months of rent arrears at the time notice was given) or 4 weeks (if there were at least 4 months' arrears), with some reasons for eviction requiring less.

Wales:

  • Between 26 March and 23 July 2020 (inclusive): 3 months (whatever the grounds used)
  • Between 24 July and 28 September 2020 (inclusive): 3 months for grounds 7A or 14 (antisocial behaviour) otherwise, 6 months
  • Between 29 September 2020 and 24 March 2022 (inclusive): 6 months except if the grounds used relate to anti-social behaviour or domestic violence – the notice period in those cases returned to the pre-coronavirus position.

Section 21 notices

The usual notice period for section 21 notices is 2 months. Notice periods have now returned to this (as of 1 October 2021 in England and 25 March 2022 in Wales).

Previously in England, you must have given at least 4 months' notice if sending your tenant a section 21 notice between 1 June 2021 and 30 September 2021 (inclusive). It was 6 months' notice between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021 (inclusive), and 3 months between 26 March and 28 August 2020 (inclusive).

In Wales, 3 months' notice was required for notices that were given to tenants between 26 March and 23 July 2020. This was then extended to 6 months for notices that are given to tenants between 24 July 2020 and 24 March 2022 (inclusive).

Scotland

Notice periods returned to their pre-pandemic lengths for any notice served on or after 30 March 2022. However, if a landlord has already served a notice before then, they can't shorten the notice period by serving another one if:

  • the (first) notice is yet to expire; and
  • the new notice will contain the same ground or grounds of eviction used in the first notice.

Previously:

  • Notices served between 7 April and 2 October 2020 (inclusive) had an extended period of up to 6 months, depending on the ground being used.
  • Notices served between 3 October and 29 March 2022 (inclusive) were still subject to 6-month notice requirement in most cases, but for some grounds it was shortened. See mygov.scot for more details.

Northern Ireland

The requirement for landlords of private tenancies to give their tenants at least 12 weeks' notice to leave their property ended on 4 May 2022. However, notice periods have permanently changed as a result of the Private Tenancies Act (Northern Ireland) 2022. See our section Recovering possession in NI for more.

Gas safety checks and other repairs

Gas safety

Your health and safety obligations to your tenants haven't changed as a result of the pandemic, though they may be more difficult to carry out.

Gas safety checks should continue. That may not be possible if the tenants are self-isolating and refusing access. In those cases, make a list of all the actions you've taken to try and arrange the check, so that you can later show (if necessary) that you took all reasonable steps to fulfil your obligation.

The Gas Safe Register has published guidance for landlords on this.

Other repairs

You still have a duty to deal with urgent problems.

If the tenant household is isolating, tradespeople should not enter unless the work is an emergency repair – that means something that poses a risk to the household if left unfixed (e.g. a water leak or an unsafe structure).

Amendments to right-to-rent checks in England

Temporary changes to right-to-rent checks are in place until 30 September 2022 (extended from 5 April 2022). You can carry out checks via video calls, or view scans or photographs of documents.

After this the normal procedure will apply. You'll need to check the tenant's original documents or check their right to rent online (using the government's checking service). Note, however, that you won't need to redo any checks that you made using the temporary measures (provided you did so properly).

See GOV.UK for more.

What is the law guide

The Desktop Lawyer law guide aims to present the law to you in a comprehensive yet jargon-free and easy-to-read format. Our law guide is constantly kept up to date with changes in business and family law by our team of in house solicitors, and includes information across all the legal jurisdictions in the UK.

Our law guide is free to use. Where we provide documents related to this area of law, or where they may help you with any legal issue in this area, they will be listed to the right of this message.

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