New help for landlords and tenants navigating Covid-19

 New help for landlords and tenants navigating Covid-19

Authored by ARAG

One problem that the coronavirus pandemic has created for the private rental sector is the uncertainty surrounding eviction from rented accommodation. The Coronavirus Act included some clear measures designed to prevent evictions during the lockdown, to help stop the virus from spreading and stabilise the rental market. But this has left many landlords and tenants in limbo.

While rent is still due and arrears may be accumulating for some, the notice period for all possession proceedings has been extended to three months, and all such proceedings have been suspended until June 25. The Government has also firmly advised landlords not to issue new section 8 or section 21 notices without “very good reason” to do so.

Clearly it is in everyone’s interests for landlords and tenants to work together to reach some sort of compromise and avoid the need for formal proceedings, wherever possible. To this end, we have introduced a new process to help ARAG’s Landlord Legal Solutions policyholders to reach the best possible outcome with any tenants who may be struggling to pay their rent.

First, even if all rental payments have been made, we can provide landlords with template documents and legally sound correspondence that will enable them to initiate discussions with their tenants in a reasonable and structured way, and to create a deed of variation to reflect any changes to the terms of the rental agreement that may be agreed. If necessary, this can be followed up with support from our specialist property law firm who can help negotiate a legal agreement.

If a landlord believes that they may be in the early stages of a potential problem or there is a small amount of arrears, our approved legal specialists can help them to explore options such as repayment plans or a deed of variation, that fit their circumstances.

While trying to evict a tenant in the current circumstances would be both morally wrong and legally difficult, some tenants may want to negotiate an end to their tenancy if, for example, they need to relocate or have alternative accommodation to move into. In these circumstances, it may be possible to negotiate a deed of surrender, which would allow them to exit the tenancy on mutually agreed terms.

Even if neither the extension to 3-month notice periods nor the suspension of possession proceedings is extended, the courts are likely to have significant backlogs of work to get through. At the same time, judges are likely to look less favourably on landlords who have not acted reasonably and shown sympathy towards their tenants’ predicament. So, reaching a workable compromise with their tenants is likely to be every landlords’ best option.

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