New guidance on renting possession and moving

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With a few exceptions notices to tenants in England given from 29 August 2020 to at least 31 March 2021 must be at least six months for most grounds, including Section 21 notices, the Government has reminded landlords in updated guidance published this week.

Understanding the possession action process: guidance for landlords and tenants

lists the exceptions where a shorter notice period may be provided. These include those in relation to anti-social behaviour (including rioting), abuse, making false statements and where a tenant has accrued rent arrears to the value of over six months’ rent.

In Wales, notices to tenants given from the 26 March to 23 July must be at least three months for all kinds of notice. Notice periods given on or after 24 July 2020 to at least 31 March 2021 must be at least six months, other than for grounds relating to anti-social behaviour which remain at three months.

No eviction notices are to be served until 11 January at the earliest and, given the 14 day notice period required, no evictions are expected to be enforced until 25 January 2021 at the earliest, according to COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities, which has also been updated.

The only exceptions to this are the most serious circumstances: illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in social housing, where a property is unoccupied following the death of a tenant and extreme rent arrears equivalent to nine months’ rent with any arrears accrued since 23 March discounted.

Also updated is Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

People looking to move home will be able to continue with planned moves and with property viewings, according to the guidance. Meanwhile estate and lettings agents, removers, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes will be able to continue working.

However the guidance encourages all parties involved to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate. Also, it may become necessary to pause all home moves locally or nationally for a short period of time to manage the spread of coronavirus.

‘If you are about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications of COVID-19 with your legal professional and consider making contractual provisions to manage these risks’.

  • New regulations mean tenants can build almost 18 months of rent arrears without any sanction, complained the National Residential Landlords’ Association this week.

The rules say that until 11th January 2021, possession orders by the courts related to rent arrears can only be enforced where the arrears amount to nine months or more of rent built before 23 March. Anything built since then would be disregarded.

The NRLA said the Government had missed an opportunity to help tenants in financial difficulty due to Covid-19 and its new regulations do nothing to address the rental debt being accumulated since the beginning of the pandemic.

‘In trying to arrive at a compromise, the Government has failed to help those in genuine need whilst rewarding those whose arrears have nothing to do with the pandemic, and in some cases are wilfully not paying their rent’, said NRLA chief executive  Ben Beadle.

‘This is doing nothing to help those tenants who are trying to do the right thing and seeking to pay off their debts. Instead of prolonging the problem with short-term fixes, the Government needs to urgently bring in a financial package to enable tenants to pay off rent arrears’.

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