Ahead of the government introducing the bill for emergency Coronavirus related measures later this week, Labour have published a draft bit of legislation which addresses the position of (most) renters where they fail to pay rent due to effects of the coronavirus, with the aim of the Govt incorporating it.
The draft legislation is here. (Full disclosure, I had a bit of a hand in this, together with Justin Bates of Landmark Chambers who did by far the biggest part of it.)
The effect would be that for assured, assured shorthold, secure or Rent Act tenants, where there was failure to pay contractual rent that was in any way related to the effects of the coronavirus during a designated period, this would not count as rent lawfully due for the purposes of the relevant rent arrears grounds of possession.
This would not stop the money being owed to the landlord eventually (although there is also an embargo period on when the landlord could start to seek it by a money claim), but it would mean those specific arrears would not count for rent arrears possession claims, now or in the future.
Where the tenancy may be subject to a section 21 notice, this draft does not stop potential service and proceedings under s.21, as it is impossible to establish the reasons for a section 21 (and some uses of it may be for such things as recovering an abandoned property).
However, what happens with possession claims in general, including section 21 based claims, over the next weeks and months, we will have to see. If the courts close (and the Grenfell Inquiry was suspended today – 16 March) then things may grind to a halt in the meantime anyway.
Be safe out there, everyone. These will be difficult times.