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Boris Johnson has announced plans to protect private renters from eviction amid concerns that those affected by the coronavirus may fall behind with rent payments. This follows the Government’s announcement that home owners affected by the pandemic will be able to take a three month break from mortgage re-payments, without the threat of possession proceedings. Emergency legislation is due to be unveiled shortly, setting out the steps the Government plans to take to prevent private renters from eviction.

It is understandable that many renters will be concerned that, should they be forced to self-isolate or take unpaid leave, they may be unable to afford to pay rent and are worried they may be swiftly evicted from their homes. However, until the details of the Government’s plans are unveiled, private renters may find some comfort in the knowledge that it is not as quick and easy to evict most tenants as it may seem.

The majority of private renters in England and Wales will have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). This means that, as the law currently stands, in order to evict tenants for non-payment of rent, there must be at least two months’ unpaid rent and a landlord must serve a notice under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, giving the tenant at least one month to vacate the property. A landlord must then apply for a court order for possession. If the tenant remains in the property beyond the date specified in the court order, the landlord must then apply for a warrant of possession. A landlord cannot re-enter a property and evict a tenant without a warrant of possession.

Many landlords may also have questions about what the Prime Minister’s announcement will mean for them, considering his promise that the legislation will protect private renters while avoiding ‘passing on the problem’. Private landlords and property companies will likely be concerned about the prospect of having to forgo rent for an indefinite period of time, especially while their obligations under the lease continue.

Renters and landlords across the country no doubt eagerly await the emergency legislation with anticipation.

For further information regarding this topic please contact Emma Gregory, Joanna Osborne or any other member of our Property Litigation team.

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