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Last night the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government issued a press release stating that a decision has been made by the Master of the Rolls that the court service is suspending all ongoing housing possessions action as of today, 27 March 2020.

This means that any cases currently in the court system, or which are about to go into the court system, cannot progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.  This suspension will initially last for 90 days but can be extended if needed. It will apply to all possession actions relating to private and social renters, mortgagee cases and even those with less formal arrangements such as licences which are covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (the Act). Whilst residential leasehold interests were not specifically referred to in the announcement, it is clear that the suspension will also afford protection to leaseholders, including people who occupy under shared ownership leases.

However, the suspension does appear to exclude those who are not covered by the Act, for example, lodgers or those who are housed in hostel accommodation.

Of course, tenants and leaseholders remain liable for rent throughout this period.  Therefore, in order to avoid a potentially greater problem in a few months, it would be prudent for landlords and tenants to try to work together to see if short-term rent payment arrangements can be put in place.

Landlords must also continue to ensure that any health and safety standards are maintained although where general repairs are not urgent the landlord and tenant are encouraged to agree between them that these can be done at a later date.