Landlords and coronavirus

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Landlord and Tenant solicitor, David Paull, offers guidance to landlords during the coronavirus crisis.

We offer specialist legal advice to landlords throughout Devon, Somerset and the whole of England & Wales.

We are often contacted by landlords whose tenants have failed to pay the rent. The impact of COVID-19 means that many more landlords will be presented with this issue in the coming weeks and months.

Get specialist legal advice early

In all legal disputes it is important to get specialist legal advice as early as you can in order to maximise the options open to you and minimise the financial impact. This has never been more important as the law is changing fast during the coronavirus crisis and it is vital that worried landlords receive up to date advice.

We specialise in both residential and commercial property disputes, not only in Devon and Somerset but nationwide. We can advise you on how best to resolve the problems you are facing in accordance with the latest laws that have been brought in to tackle the effects of coronavirus.

Free case assessment

The first step is to contact us for a free case assessment. We will then advise you on what steps you can pursue and the funding options available.

Once a case assessment has been carried out and funding arrangements agreed then we will then be in a position to set about resolving the dispute.

Commercial landlords and coronavirus

A commercial lease will usually include a forfeiture clause in the event that rent is not paid within a certain time period, allowing forfeiture by peaceful re-entry.

However the Cornavirus Act 2020 provides for a moratorium ending on 30 June 2020, subject to any further extension, to prevent landlords from forfeiting leases of commercial property for rent arrears.

A landlord is unlikely to want to take steps to end a lease in current market conditions as liability for business rates would then usually fall on them and it would be likely impossible to find a replacement tenant.

Once lockdown ends then it will be advisable to seek advice on your ability to terminate a lease and the options for compromise, including negotiating a surrender.

Residential landlords and coronavirus

The Government has announced that any existing possession claims and fresh possession claims will not be able to be brought for at least three months. This is to prevent residential tenants from being evicted during the coronavirus crisis.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

However the wording of the Coronavirus Act 2020 only extended the usual 14 days for Section 8 Notices and two months for Section 21 Notices to three months, which would delay any future claims for possession given the extended notice periods before a claim for possession can be brought.

The Act does not prevent existing possessions claims from proceeding, but that has been addressed by an update to the Civil Procedure Rules (which is set out below) so that any existing possession claims under CPR Part 55 will be suspended for 90 days.

PRACTICE DIRECTION 51Z: STAY OF POSSESSION PROCEEDINGS, CORONAVIRUS

This Practice Direction supplements Part 51

  1. This practice direction is made under rule 51.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”). It is intended to assess modifications to the rules and Practice Directions that may be necessary during the Coronavirus pandemic and the need to ensure that the administration of justice, including the enforcement of orders, is carried out so as not to endanger public health. As such it makes provision to stay proceedings for, and to enforce, possession. It ceases to have effect on 30 October 2020.
  2. All proceedings for possession brought under CPR Part 55 and all proceedings seeking to enforce an order for possession by a warrant or writ of possession are stayed for a period of 90 days from the date this Direction comes into force.
  3. For the avoidance of doubt, claims for injunctive relief are not subject to the stay in paragraph 2.

[Updated: Friday, 27 March 2020]

As things stand we would recommend keeping an open dialogue with tenants to see if a practical solution can be found to get everyone through lockdown. However, the financial impact on landlords is likely to be considerable and further guidance from the Government is awaited as to what help will be available to them.

If you require advice on your options then please give us a call. Please remember that the legal landscape is changing fast and it is more vital than ever to seek up to date advice from lawyers who specialise in the field.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

All claimants have an obligation to consider alternative dispute resolution (also known as ADR) which includes making written offers to settle and mediation. Given the constraints of lockdown, we have found that remote mediation by video conferencing can be successful in resolving disputes.

Landlords and coronavirus – We are are to help

We represent landlords throughout Devon, Somerset and beyond. If you would like a free case assessment or wish to discuss your case then contact our free helpline on 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]