The Government introduced urgent legislation on Monday 23 March, placing a freeze on residential rent increases for tenants. The new legislation also provides for greater protection for tenants against having their tenancies terminated in the wake of COVID-19. This legislative change was outlined by the Government as being important to ensure tenancies are sustained and to reduce the prospect of homelessness during the pandemic.
Increases in rent are prohibited for the next six months. However, the protection for tenants against terminations poses to be a little more complicated. Landlords will not be able to terminate existing tenancies unless one of the following limited and specific, justified reasons exist where:
• A tenant causes substantial damage to the premises;
• A tenant assaults or threatens to assault the landlord, their family or the neighbours;
• Tenants abandoning the property; or
• A tenant is 60 days behind in rent – which is increased from 21 days.
The Tenancy Tribunal will act as a check to ensure the limited and specific termination grounds are being used lawfully. On their assessment of a tenancy termination, the Tenancy Tribunal will need to consider fairness and whether the tenant is making reasonable efforts to pay their rent.
Tenants will still be able to terminate tenancies as usual, however the Government is encouraging tenants not to do so unless it is absolutely necessary. Landlords will not be able to evict tenants because either they, or their family, wish to move into the tenanted property. The Government’s focus is to ensure as little disruption as possible and to keep everyone in stable housing during the pandemic.
If you are having any issues as a tenant, or you need advice as a landlord of a property, and what these changes may mean for your situation, then please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced Property Team lawyers at TODD & WALKER Law.