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13 November 2020
The States of Jersey enacted the COVID-19 (Residential Tenancy) (Temporary Amendment of Law) (Jersey) Regulations 2020 in an attempt to address the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The regulations temporarily amended certain provisions of the Residential Tenancy (Jersey) Law 2011, applying to all residential tenancies with effect from 10 April 2020. The regulations offered protection to residential tenants by:
The regulations remained in force until 30 September 2020. As of this date, landlords and tenants must manage leases in the normal way under the law.
While the temporary support mechanisms have lifted, people may still be facing financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic. The best course of action in these cases is to speak up as soon as possible and find out what options are available. While landlords have regained the ability to evict tenants for breaching their lease (ie, failing to pay rent or other sums payable) by serving notice for a breach of tenancy, the Royal Court encourages landlords and tenants to come to agreements between themselves to manage rent arrears and outstanding sums due under the terms of the lease.
Where a dispute results in legal action, the Royal Court will consider both the landlord's and tenant's attempts to reach a compromise and generally whether both parties have acted reasonably. Tenants must ensure that they keep their landlord informed in writing of any difficulty that they may have in paying rental or other payments as a result of a reduction in income caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, providing copies of any appropriate evidence of their financial hardship.
Should evictions be necessary, it is essential that landlords follow the correct legal process. A tenant can be evicted from a property only where an order of eviction has been made by the Royal Court and served by the Viscount's Department. Failing to comply with the correct procedure is an offence.
Landlords can now increase the rent due under a lease for any period falling after 30 September 2020 (where rent reviews are provided for in the lease). Where tenants are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they should discuss their financial position with their landlord and try to negotiate a reduction or deferral in the rent increase.
A tenancy may now be extended only if both the landlord and tenant agree in writing that it will continue. This means that:
Written notice to end a periodic tenancy issued by a landlord will be effective only after 30 September 2020 (ie, the earliest that a landlord can seek to end a periodic tenancy is 31 December 2020).
Commercial leases remain governed by a different regime and tenants and landlords should seek specific advice on any commercial tenancy arrangement affected by the pandemic.
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