The Coronavirus Act 2020 has been welcomed by most tenants as “an Act from heaven”. Under the Act, landlords will not be able to commence possession proceedings in court unless they have given their tenant a three-month notice (subject to review). All court action for eviction is on hold since the 25th of March 2020, bailiff won’t execute eviction orders, courts won’t hear eviction cases until at least the end of June nor will they issue eviction orders for matters already on the roll. Landlords, on the other hand, are worried that they may lose rental income and spend lots of money on legal fees chasing rental arrears triggered by the Coronavirus Act.
What is the best step for landlords to take now?
It is of paramount importance for landlords to note that evictions have not been stopped completely, the have been temporarily suspended only. Landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together, but eviction notices can still be sent. If a landlord wishes to institute eviction claims, we advise them to send the relevant notices now, so that when courts resume processing eviction claims, your notice will have matured. Serving a notice now speeds up the process and gives the landlord enough time to comply with the law. Landlords should also take notice that the government has added a new type of form to be used for eviction notices up until the 30th of September 2020, or until further notice is given. You can find the form here. We will help you try and make sure that your eviction notice is valid. If you issue a notice that is non-compliant with all the requisite details, the court may not consider it. This, in practice, means starting serving the notice all over again and starting over the notice period. This may not make economic sense to you especially if you have a troublesome tenant. We are advising landlords who wish to evict tenants, to issue the mandatory notices now, so that the notice time runs early.
What happens to possession proceedings that had already commenced?
These proceedings have been put on hold until the expiry of the three month period regardless of the stage they had reached. We advise landlords to review notices that they had already sent out, to ascertain whether or not they comply with all statutory requirements. It would be unenviable to realise that the notice you sent is invalid and have to send a new one all over again.
What has been of the eviction orders that had already been granted but not yet executed?
Well, execution has literally been paused until the expiry of the 3 month period. Bailiffs are not allowed to enforce eviction orders up until the end of June, at least for now.
Conclusively, landlords have not been doomed by the Coronavirus Act of 2020. Their rights still are still recognised and respected. It is only evictions that have been temporarily suspended. Landlords are still expected to act in terms of agreements as far as other matters in the agreement are concerned, the same is also expected of tenants.