How did the Coronavirus Act 2020 affect lettings in the last two years?

Joe Parish

By Joe Parish

28 February 2022

When the UK Government put the Coronavirus Act into place in March 2020, nobody knew how long the Act – or the pandemic – would last. Now, as the Act passes into its second year, the Government has started a call for evidence and will be reviewing the Act’s necessity, use and the possibility of its extension beyond the intended deadline of the end of March 2022. With the clock ticking, we take a look at what exactly the Act is and what impact it has had to date in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

What is the Coronavirus Act?

The Coronavirus Act of 2020 gave the Government powers to respond quickly to the progress of Covid-19 by, amongst other things, making it easier for UK citizens to access financial aid if their livelihood was threatened by the virus. The powers were temporary and designed to be applied when necessary and removed when no longer necessary.

Section 90 of the Act has, however, proved controversial, as it provides the Government with the power to extend the deadline of the Act, with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments also granted this privilege. The effectiveness of the Act is reviewed every two months.

What effect has the Coronavirus Act had on the rental market?

The Covid-19 outbreak had significant implications for households’ ability to retain their homes, particularly those who are renting. In response, the Act introduced a series of housing support measures, such as a freeze on evictions, extended notice periods for possession and financial support for those in arrears, some of which were amended and extended after March 2020.

Extended notice period for occupiers

In England, as of 1 October 2021, the extended notice period, which had been four months, has been revoked and all English notice periods have reverted to their pre-pandemic levels. In Wales, with some exceptions, a notice period of six months applies up to 24 March 2022, while in Scotland that deadline is 31 March 2022. In Northern Ireland, 12-week notice periods apply up to 4 March 2022.

Suspension of possession proceedings

As the pandemic set in, housing possessions were suspended from 27 March 2020, initially for 90 days in England and Wales, although this was then extended several times. Repossession actions in court recommenced from 21 September 2020 and the ban on eviction enforcement by bailiffs was lifted on 31 May 2021, although bailiffs have to provide 14 days’ notice and are not allowed to carry out an eviction if anyone living in the property has Covid-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.

Further, although repossession proceedings are now up and running, under the Civil Procedure Rules Part 55, the requirement to serve a notice setting out the landlord’s knowledge of the effects of the pandemic on the occupier and their dependants continues until 30 June 2022. 

This requirement applies to new and stayed claims brought on or after 3 August 2021, including claims brought after 30 November 2021, suggesting the effects of Coronavirus will be felt on the rental market well into this year.

Photo by Yaopey Yong on Unsplash

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This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions related to issues in this article, we strongly advise contacting a legal professional.
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Joe Parish

By Joe Parish

28 February 2022

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