Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the government has taken many unprecedented measures to support the economy in every way. The Coronavirus Act 2020 includes various reliefs that were not available in the current legislation to handle this unprecedented event.

Among the measures included are some tighter rulings against landlords if they try to evict their tenants for failure of paying rent during the relevant period.  

The “relevant period” means the period

  • beginning with the day after the day on which the act was passed and

  • ending on 30 September 2020.

Below is a summary of some of the major changes within the act.

Schedule 29 includes the following changes for residential properties:

  • For a valid notice to quit from tenancy by a landlord or a tenant of a let dwelling, the notice period is extended from four weeks to three months.

  • To finish a statutory tenancy, there are more conditions inserted, listed below.

Section 3 of the Rent Act 1977 (terms and conditions of statutory tenancies) is to be read as if after subsection (4) there were inserted: 

“(4A) Proceedings for an order for a landlord to obtain possession of a dwelling-house as against a statutory tenant may not be commenced during the relevant period (see paragraph 1(1) and (2) of Schedule 29 to the Coronavirus Act 2020) unless:

a) the landlord has given the statutory tenant a notice of intention to commence possession proceedings

b) the notice period is a period of at least three months and

c) the proceedings are commenced on or after the intended date for commencing proceedings.

But the above proceedings may be commenced without compliance with subsection (4A) if the court considers it just and equitable to dispense with the requirement to comply.

A notice of intention to commence possession proceedings in relation to a dwelling house and a statutory tenant, is a notice that – 

a) is in writing

b) describes the statutory tenancy

c) states the address of the dwelling-house, the name of the statutory tenant, and the name and address of the landlord

d) states that the landlord intends to commence proceedings to obtain possession of the dwelling-house as against the statutory tenant

e) states the ground or grounds on which the landlord intends to seek possession of the dwelling-house, and the reason or reasons why the landlord believes the ground or grounds to be applicable

f) states the date on or after which the landlord intends to commence the possession proceedings

g) explains that the landlord is prohibited from commencing those proceedings in reliance on the notice unless that date falls at least three months after the date on which the notice is given, and until that date. This notice may be given by leaving it at, or sending it by post to, the dwelling-house to which it relates.

Statutory tenancy means a lease granted to a tenant of residential property, which cannot be terminated unless certain conditions, imposed by statute, have been satisfied.

  • For assured shorthold tenancies, Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (recovery of possession on expiry or termination of assured shorthold tenancy), the notice period is increased from two months to three months.

  • For assured tenancies, Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (recovery of possession on expiry or termination of assured shorthold tenancy), the notice period is increased from two months to three months.

  • For flexible tenancies, Section 107D of the Housing Act 1985 (recovery of possession on expiry of flexible tenancy), the notice period is increased from two months to three months.

Further possible changes

Apart from the above changes enacted, the government reserves the right to make further changes (by statutory instrument) in the notice period from three months to up to six months, which will be more likely if the impact for coronavirus is worse than anticipated.

For more information, read COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords and tenants.