The Government has just announced emergency legislation to do the following:
- Stop any new possession claims (social and private tenancies) being issued at court for the next three months (at least).
- Introduce a new pre-action protocol for possession claims, to apply after the three months (or whenever) which will apply to private as well as social tenancies to strengthen its remit and to “support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.”
The three month mortgage payment holiday already announced for homeowners will be extended to buy to let mortgages. At the end of the three months (or however long) landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish repayment plans, taking into account tenant’s individual circumstances.
Oh and “The government will also issue guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible”, which I think we can probably treat as at best an exhortation to be nice, and we know how well such guidance has usually worked.
The Bill to enact this is not available yet (as at 6.30 pm on 18 March).
Some immediate questions and thoughts…
What about existing possession claims? (on which see a post to follow).
Will this extend to any possession claim, including against licensees, or limited to Rent Act/ Housing Act 1985/Housing Act 1988 only?
Will the new protocol apply to rent arrears claims only? Or would it even extend to section 21 claims?
Is the new protocol going to be a lasting thing, or time limited for a ‘post crisis’ period? It sounds like it would be a good thing as a permanent protocol.
And, what about some additional funding to local authorities to fund tenancy relations officers and enforcement? It seems likely that this will lead to a rise in attempted illegal evictions.
We will be looking at the legislation in detail when it is published, but it has to be said that in the current situation, this sounds like a good thing.