The third set of COVID-19 FAQs (FAQ 9 to FAQ 13 inclusive) are now available. These latest FAQs focus on residential tenancies e.g. where Managing Trustees grant or take a tenancy of a Manse or other residential premises. The COVID-19 outbreak is making it very difficult for both tenants and landlords to fulfil their obligations under the tenancy agreement and these FAQs pick up on some of the common challenges facing Managing Trustees.
Please note that new legislation came into force in England, Wales and Scotland as these FAQs were being drafted together with new and amended Government guidelines. Particular reference is made to the new legislation in Wales and Scotland in FAQs 12.2 and 12.3.
We will keep these FAQs updated but please note that the situation evolves each day and the guidance is subject to further changes in Government guidelines over the coming weeks. The “updated” date at the top of the COVID-19 FAQs page on TMCP’s website indicates when the FAQs were last updated. If you are unsure whether something has changed, please contact us (see below).
TMCP Legal have worked closely with Sintons LLP, one of the Panel Solicitor firms, who offered to help so we could get as much information as possible to Managing Trustees in a short period of time. Please also refer to the article “Payment of rent: concerns raised by tenants” for details of the assistance being offered to Managing Trustees by Sintons LLP and TMCP to document temporary variations to tenancy agreements.
The residential tenancy COVID-19 FAQs cover the following questions:
FAQ 9 - Residential Tenancies – Rent queries due to COVID-19
- One of our Manses is currently let on a residential tenancy (an AST). The tenant has contacted our local Minister to say that they have lost their job due to coronavirus and can no longer afford to pay the rent. We want to play our part during these difficult times. Can we agree not to collect rent during the current crisis or to reduce the rent temporarily? (FAQ 9.1)
- One of our tenants has contacted our local Minister to say that they have been forced to accept a pay cut and their partner has lost their job due to coronavirus. We have considered what we can agree to, given the tenant’s circumstances; what they can still continue to pay us with the help announced by the Government and the need to protect the best interests of the charity. Do we have to document this formally? (FAQ 9.2)
FAQ 10 - Residential Tenancies – Impact of COVID-19 on new tenancies
- Over the last month or so, we have been finalising a new residential tenancy (AST) of one of our Manses. Our new tenant should be moving in this week but can this still happen due to COVID-19? (FAQ 10.1)
- We will not need to use one of our Manses for the foreseeable future and had considered letting it out on a residential tenancy (AST). Is this still a possibility due to COVID-19? Can we enter into a new AST? (FAQ 10.2)
- One of our Manses is currently vacant as our new minister has been unable to join the Circuit from overseas. We would like to be able to offer accommodation to Health Service workers who may need to live away from home due to family members self-isolating for example. Is this possible? (FAQ 10.3)
FAQ 11 - Residential Tenancies – Impact of COVID-19 on tenants moving out of residential rented accommodation at the end of a tenancy
- We have been letting out one of our Manses for a while now but will need it from August to house our new Minister and her family. The tenancy is due to end imminently but the tenant has contacted us to say this may not be possible. What can we do? (FAQ 11.1)
FAQ 12 - Residential Tenancies – Impact of COVID-19 on evictions and notice periods
- What are the new rules on serving notice on tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak? (FAQ 12.1)
- What are the new rules on serving notice on tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak in Wales? (FAQ 12.2)
- What are the new rules on serving notice on tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak in Scotland? (FAQ 12.3)
- We have been having difficulties with one of our tenants who, amongst other issues, has repeatedly failed to pay rent. The tenant refused to move out when we served a notice seeking possession and we were forced to issue court proceedings for eviction. A hearing has been listed. We have heard that residential tenants will now be protected from eviction until the end of the current crisis, where does this leave our current court case? (FAQ 12.4)
- We have been having difficulties with one of our tenants who, amongst other issues, has repeatedly failed to pay rent. We were just about to serve a notice seeking possession before COVID-19 took hold. We have heard that residential tenants will now be protected from eviction until the current crisis ends, can we still serve notice on the tenant? (FAQ 12.5)
FAQ 13 - Statutory requirements placed on residential landlords
- We let out a number of residential properties in our Circuit and the annual gas safety checks fall due over the next month or so. Will we be in breach of the gas safety requirements if we are unable to obtain gas certificates due to COVID-19? (FAQ 13.1)
- A tenant in one of our Manses has raised concerns about damp. Immediately before the COVID-19 outbreak, we had arranged for a contractor to carry out work which we hoped would address the problem. Can the works go ahead? (FAQ 13.2)
- We had agreed a new tenancy before the restrictions surrounding COVID-19 came into force. We were working through the statutory requirements placed on landlords with our agent including works required to ensure the property meets the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard Regulations (MEES) and the gas safety test. Where do we stand given the social distancing requirements? Can we access the property to carry out the works? Will our gas inspector still carry out the test? (FAQ 13.3)
If you have any specific questions not covered in the FAQs or need any further assistance then do not hesitate to contact us by email or by phone using the telephone numbers which you will have at the foot of emails received from members of the Legal Team.
Managing Trustees are also encouraged to refer to the external links set out in the “External Links” section of the COVID-19 page for helpful guidance from the Government and the Methodist Church in Great Britain (https://www.methodist.org.uk/coronavirus/).
We continue to wish you and yours well and hope you all stay safe at this difficult time.