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What are my rights/obligations as a result of the Coronavirus Act?

The Government has now brought the Coronavirus Act 2020 into force. This act implements a number of temporary changes to the way the private rented sector operates.

The following key points are taken from government guidance published in March 2020:

  • Until 30 September 2020, most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings.
  • There is a suspension of housing possession cases in the courts – this affects new or existing claims for possession for a 90 day period from 27 March.
  • Landlords are strongly advised not to commence new notices seeking possession during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so.
  • Nobody can be removed from their home because of the virus.
  • Landlords are not obliged to provide alternative accommodation for tenants if others in the property contract the virus.
  • Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live - it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.
  • Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed.
  • Planned inspections may be more difficult at this time. However, that is no reason to allow dangerous conditions to persist.
  • Enforcement is to take action such as a prosecution or serve a civil penalty where a notice or order has been served and not complied with. In Mid Devon, this activity may be delayed, working with landlords and allowing longer periods for compliance.
  • In Mid Devon, where an inspection has been carried out and serious hazards have been identified (category 1 hazards), a notice or order will still be served but with longer start dates and compliance dates to take account of the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Landlords will not be unfairly penalised where COVID-19 restrictions prevent them from meeting compliance dates but should keep the local authority informed of serious delays or issues.
  • Where reasonable, safe for you and in line with other Government guidance, you should allow local authorities, landlords or contractors access to your property in order to inspect or remedy urgent health and safety issues.
  • Urgent health and safety issues are those which will affect a tenant’s ability to live safely and maintain mental and physical health in their home. This could include (but is not limited to):
    • If there is a problem with the fabric of the building, for example the roof is leaking
    • If the boiler is broken, leaving a tenant without heating or hot water
    • If there is a plumbing issue, meaning there are no working washing or toilet facilities
    • If the white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken, meaning tenants are unable to wash clothes or store food safely
    • If there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door
    • If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair
  • Inspectors or maintenance workers can still visit blocks of flats and multi-occupied properties for essential or urgent work such as inspecting and testing fire alarm and emergency lighting systems.
  • Specific advice for work being carried out in people’s homes can be found at GOV.UK - Work carried out in people’s homes
  • If you are not able to gain access to the property due to restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19, or are not able to engage a contractor to carry out the necessary work, we recommend you document your attempts to do so and all correspondence with your tenants.
  • Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability.
  • Landlords and tenants should work together to agree an affordable rent repayment plan if their tenants fall into rent arrears.
  • If a tenant is worried about being evicted and not having anywhere else to go, they should speak to the local authority.
  • Note: if you require advice on individual cases, or you are worried you may have been illegally evicted, contact should be made to a free, impartial advice service such as Citizens Advice or Shelter.

See MHCLG - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants for comprehensive advice.

If you're a landlord...

See our What the Coronavirus Act means for landlords page to find out what the government guidance means for you specifically, and to watch our webinar video brought to you in partnership with Ashford’s LLP Solicitors.

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