In these unprecedented times, Axiom Stone Solicitors will, in common with other businesses, be following the Government's official advice on social distancing and social isolating.

Public health measures must have the highest priority and, as a result, some staff will be working from home. Also, our offices will be closed to visitors.

However, we wish to reassure existing and potential clients that we will continue to provide the highest levels of service.

Please be assured we have a robust business continuity plan in place that is designed to minimise the impact on our service to you.

In addition, please continue to contact us electronically or by phone in relation to the progress of your matters or on any issues of concern to you.

Until further notice, service of claim forms, application notices and all other court documents and contractual notices must be made to our head office only (we shall not accept service through any other means). Our head office address is at Axiom Stone Solicitors, Axiom House, 1 Spring Villa Road, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 7EB. We ask that all other correspondence be sent by email to the relevant member of Axiom Stone Solicitors. In the event that service of court documents or contractual notices is attempted by post, courier, DX, or fax to any address other than that of our Head Office, we cannot provide any assurance that they will be received or processed. We are grateful for your understanding at this time.

We will update this information regularly on our website (Please see COVID-19 Updates Here) and via social media.

Finally, we urge everybody to follow the official advice on fighting the virus outbreak so enabling you to stay safe and well.

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COVID-19: Residential Premises

In response to the CoVD-19 pandemic, the Government has made various changes designed to prevent the tenant/mortgagor from becoming homeless:

  • In relation to tenants, landlords are required to give 3 months’ notice (pre-Covid a s.21 notice need only give 2 months and a s.8 notice need only give 2 weeks where it relates to arrears) if they intend to seek possession. The requirement to give 3 months will apply until 30 September 2020, but could be extended further
  • All possession proceedings in the courts are suspended and no action taken with regard to possession – initially until 30 June 2020, but this has now been extended to 23 August 2020.
  • A temporary ban on the service of statutory demands until 30 June 2020
  • A suspension of bankruptcy proceedings until 30 June 2020

The steps taken by the Government do not change the obligation to pay rent/mortgage nor any interest which is payable.The tenant/mortgagor remains liable for this and it should be paid in the usual way. However, the Government has encouraged tenants to speak with their landlord/lender if they are having difficulty in meeting their rental/mortgage payments, with a view to working together to put in place (if possible) a rent payment scheme/mortgage holiday.

What can a landlord do?

The landlord may wish to agree a payment plan, however:

  • If this is not possible, then he could issue proceedings for arrears of rent out of the Money Claim Centre. However, this does not give the landlord possession and could result in the tenant having a County Court Judgment which would affect their credit rating and potential ability to pay in the future
  • He could serve a notice pursuant to s.21 and/or s.8 pursuant to the Housing Act 1988. The notice(s) must give a date no earlier than 3 months prior to the service of the notice. Once the moratorium is lifted, the Landlord may then be able to issue proceedings for possession.

What can a lender do?

A lender should, where possible, agree a mortgage holiday. If this is not possible, the lender may still instruct an LPA Receiver. However any such action is not encouraged by either the Government or, where the mortgage is regulated by the FCA.  Alternatively, the lender cold wait until the moratorium is lifted and apply for possession in the usual way.

The future

The Government is considering:

  • A form of pre-action protocol to be put in place once the moratorium is lifted. This could potentially delay the issue of proceedings
  • a duty for landlords to act in good faith and to consider other solutions, such as flexible payment plans, before issuing possession proceedings

On 19 June 2020, the Government announced that it will be making an amendment to the Corporate Insolvency and Government Bill extending the temporary ban on the use of statutory demands and winding up petitions until 30 September 2020.

Summary

A landlord/lender can still take action, However, any such action is not encouraged by the Government or, in relation to lenders, the FCA.  Should the landlord/lender wish to apply for possession once the moratorium is lifted, it may take some time for the proceedings to progress through the county courts. 

With regard to landlords, there is a concern that:

  • Pre-action protocols will result in additional legal costs and further delays in being able to obtain possession
  • The landlord may be required to serve the pre-action protocol letter before serving a s.21 and/or s.8 notice and failure to do so could result in possession not being granted
  • Landlords acting in “good faith”, may result in landlords being required to accept a payment plan which may have a financial effect on their cashflow and, where applicable, ability to pay their lender

Meanwhile, landlords must ensure that they maintain the property occupied by the tenant and carry out any necessary repairs as otherwise he could be in breach of the terms of the Tenancy Agreement and also s.11 of the landlord & Tenant Act 1985.

 


 

This article is not a substitute for legal advice.  Should you require assistance in relation to property litigation issues, please contact a member of Axiom Stone’s Property Litigation team:

Toby Matthews, Senior Associate Tel No. 0203 827 6107 Email: TM@axiomstone.co.uk

Mira Arezina, Associate Tel No. 0203 827 6100 Email: MIA@axiomstone.co.uk