The Covid-19 pandemic has created upheaval for almost all businesses and individuals. Many landlords and tenants are experiencing financial hardship. To protect commercial and residential tenants from losing their premises during the pandemic, the government has brought in various emergency measures. Landlords and tenants have also worked together to find a way through the challenges presented by this unprecedented situation.
Here are the key areas where law and practice has changed to date as a result of the pandemic.
Commercial landlords: temporary changes of law
- Forfeiture moratorium: the government has placed a moratorium on forfeiture proceedings for commercial leases. The moratorium initially lasted until 30 June 2020 but has since been extended to 30 September.
- CRAR: the Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery regime (CRAR) has been amended. In normal times, CRAR rights can be exercised when there are 7 days’ worth of rent arrears. The government amended this in April to require 90 days’ worth of rent arrears. From 24 June, 189 days’ rent must be outstanding, i.e. at least two quarters’ worth of rent.
- Insolvency law changes: the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act became law on 26 June. It restricts landlords’ ability to issue serve statutory demands and issue winding-up petitions as a means of recovering rent arrears. These restrictions are expected to apply until 30 September.
Commercial landlords: practice and policy changes
- Mortgage payment holidays: mortgage lenders have been offering three-month payment holidays to buy-to-let landlords where this is needed due to Coronavirus-related hardship. The scheme has now been extended to 31 October, meaning that new applications for a payment holiday can be made until this date and lenders may agree to an extension of an existing payment holiday.
- Rent concessions: rent continues to be payable by tenants, even if they are unable to trade from their premises, but many landlords have been adopting a pragmatic approach and instituting temporary measures such as a rent reduction or rent suspension.
- Government workplace guidance: The government’s Guidance on working safely during coronavirus will be relevant to landlords, particularly if they are responsible for shared parts of a building or estate. The guidance has been updated a number of times as the lockdown has eased, to reflect the new rules and cover additional workplaces. Landlords should insist that tenants are implementing the guidance in their workplaces.
- New Code of Practice: the “Code of Practice for commercial property relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic” has been agreed between the government and many significant bodies in the property sector, including the British Property Federation and the British Retail Consortium. It is a voluntary code which aims to encourage landlords and tenants to work together to keep viable businesses operating during the pandemic. It applies until 24 June 2021.
Residential landlords: temporary changes of law
- All ongoing residential possession proceedings have been suspended by the courts. Initially the suspension was for 90 days from 27 March. It now applies until 23 August.
- Until 30 September 2020, the minimum notice period to be given when seeking possession of premises from residential tenants is increased from two months to three months.
Residential landlords: practice and policy changes
- The government has produced Covid-19 Guidance for Landlords and Tenants covering rent, possession proceedings, access to property for repairs and health and safety.