Whilst the Coronavirus Act 2020 currently prevents commercial landlords from obtaining possession against their tenants for non-payment of rent, this does not apply to other breaches of lease terms. Ray Woodward, Senior Associate in our dispute resolution team, outlines what landlords can do during lockdown to obtain possession if tenants are breaching other terms of lease.
- Obtain an injunction
It may still be possible to obtain an injunction against a tenant if urgent repairs have not been taken. However, it can be expected that courts are likely to prioritise urgent matters during lockdown.
- Serve a ‘Section 146 Forfeiture Notice’
Landlords can also serve a ‘Section 146 Forfeiture Notice’ to tenants who are in breach of other covenants. However, the landlord will need to consider what a “reasonable period” actually is in order to require the tenant to remedy the breach. This is especially in light of the other COVID-19 restrictions in place as builders or tradespersons may be more difficult to employ on an urgent basis.
- Seek possession from trespassers
Additionally, the COVID-19 restrictions on seeking possession do not apply to trespassers. Therefore, possession may be sought against persons occupying land or property without any lawful authority. Nor do the restrictions apply to those who have remained in occupation following the termination of a licence or a common law tenancy.
- Pursue debt claims
Landlords are able to pursue debt claims against tenants for unpaid rent. However, it should be noted that enforcement agents, such as bailiffs, cannot be employed to distrain on goods due to social distancing restrictions, for instance.
In the present circumstances, there is little doubt that the courts will carefully scrutinise any attempt by a landlord to secure possession for other reasons than non-payment of rent. Therefore, landlords should always give their tenants clear and reasonable opportunities to remedy any breaches of the lease terms before taking action and clear legal advice should be sought in advance to ensure success.