From 26 March 2020 and in accordance with The Coronavirus Act 2020, the government’s emergency legislation, landlords will have to give all residential tenants three months’ notice if they intend to seek an order for possession of their property.  

This extended period of notice will apply until at least 30 September 2020 and applies to all notices served pursuant to the Rent Act 1977 and the Housing Acts 1985, 1988 and 1996. 

We commented on the legislation before it received Royal Assent here and noted that the legislation fell short of the government's announcement to introduce a “radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus.”

However, the Master of Rolls has stepped in, and with the Lord Chancellor's agreement, the court service will from today, 27 March 2020 suspend all ongoing housing possession action.

This suspension will initially last for 90 days (but can be extended) and will apply to and protect all private and social tenants, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and will apply to both England and Wales. 

The result of the suspension is that cases currently in the court system or any about to be issued cannot 'progress to the stage where someone could be evicted'. 

Further guidance will be required as it is not clear from the brief guidance issued by MHCLG late on 26 March whether existing claims for possession will be adjourned for 90 days or whether they can proceed to hearing, but any order for possession will be suspended for a minimum of 90, nor is it clear what will happen to possession orders already in force where landlords have applied for evictions or those cases where there is an eviction date in the diary. 

The  MHCLG does however stress that tenants remain liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available and initially they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty paying the rent.