Help for rental tenants in Jersey during Covid-19
19 May 2020
The Government of Jersey introduced temporary Regulations to protect residential tenants during the Covid-19 pandemic, which came into effect on 10 April and will remain in place until 30 September 2020.
Covid-19 (Residential Tenancy) (Temporary Amendment of Law) (Jersey) Regulations 2020 (the "Regulations")
Existing tenants and termination of tenancies
Under the Regulations, tenants experiencing financial hardship because of Covid-19, cannot be evicted for failing to pay rent or other bills.
If notice to end a tenancy has already been given, either by the landlord or tenant, and due to the Covid-19 outbreak the tenant can no longer vacate the accommodation, then the tenant may remain and the tenancy will continue as a periodic or new fixed-term tenancy.
In the current circumstances, a periodic tenancy may only be ended by the tenant or where the tenant and the landlord both agree to bring the tenancy to an end. A landlord may not end a periodic tenancy during this period unless the tenant agrees.
Tenants have the opportunity to extend their tenancies if they are due to come to an end before 1 October 2020. Any fixed-term tenancy due to end before the same date may also continue as a periodic tenancy, unless agreement is reached for another fixed-term tenancy or to bring the tenancy to an end.
Payment of rent
The landlord cannot charge interest or any other fee on any late payments and may not increase rents, including in circumstances where the notice of a rent increase was issued before the Regulations came into force. Any rent increase may only come into effect after 30 September 2020. If the landlord increases the rent payable during this period, they will be liable to a fine of up to £10,000.
Any tenant experiencing financial hardship due to a reduction in income caused by Covid-19 should write to their landlord with evidence of the same and an agreement should be reached on how to manage any rent arrears.
After 30 September 2020, landlords will be able to deal with any rent arrears in the usual way, being the serving of a notice for a breach of tenancy and applying to the Court in order to evict the tenant. However, landlords are encouraged to try to reach an arrangement with the tenant to deal with any rent arrears.
Breaches of tenancy agreement
If the tenant is in breach of their tenancy agreement for reasons other than the failure to pay rent or other sums due, the landlord may issue the tenant with a notice. The notice should inform the tenant that they are in breach and must remedy that breach within seven days. If the tenant fails to do so, the landlord can apply to the Court in the usual way to terminate the tenancy agreement and seek to evict the tenant. It must be noted however, that these cases will not be heard by the Court until some date in the future.
Under the Regulations, where a landlord and prospective tenant have reached an agreement about a residential tenancy, whether or not the tenancy agreement has been signed, the prospective tenant has not yet taken occupation of the premises and the premises are no longer available with vacant possession because of an existing tenant continuing occupation due to Covid-19, then:
- the landlord should notify the prospective tenant as soon as possible;
- the landlord must reimburse the prospective tenant any sum paid to secure the tenancy; and
- the landlord and prospective tenant are released from any obligation to each other.
These Regulations provide significant protection for tenants during these uncertain times. Landlords and tenants are encouraged to act reasonably and maintain an open dialogue throughout the duration of the pandemic. The Minister for Children and Housing has issued guidance in relation to the termination of tenancies, rental payments and eviction for arrears of rent or other sums due to the landlord caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. The guidance is available here.