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 on the Island. The regulations temporarily amended certain provisions of the Residential Tenancy (Jersey) Law 2011, applying to all residential tenancies with effect from 10 April 2020 and remained in force until 30 September 2020. The regulations offered protection to residential tenants by:

-           allowing tenants to extend existing leases if necessary

-           removing the landlord's ability to terminate a lease on 3 months' notice

-           preventing evictions of tenants for failing to pay rent if facing financial hardship caused by COVID-19

-           introducing a suspension on rent increases

These regulations came to an end on 30 September 2020 and from 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 and the best course of action in these cases is to speak up as soon as possible and find out what the options are. While landlords have regained the ability to evict tenants for breaching their lease (i.e. failing to pay rent or other sums payable) by serving notice for a breach of tenancy, landlords and tenants are encouraged by the Court to come to agreements between themselves to manage rent arrears and outstanding sums of money due under the terms of the lease.

Where a dispute results in legal action, the Court will consider both the landlord's and tenant's attempts to reach a compromise and generally whether both parties acted reasonably. Tenants must ensure they keep their landlord informed in writing of any difficulty they may have in paying rental or other payments as a result of a reduction in income caused by the coronavirus outbreak, providing copies of any appropriate evidence of their financial hardship.

It is essential that should evictions be necessary that landlords follow the correct legal process. A tenant can only be evicted from a property where the Court has made an Order of Eviction and the Order has been served by the Viscount's Department. Failing to comply with the correct procedure is an offence.

Landlords are also now able to 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 COVID-19, 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 only be extended if both the landlord and tenant agree in writing that it will continue. This means that:

-           any fixed-term tenancy ends on the date stated in the lease

-           any periodic tenancy will end on the tenant giving one month's written notice or the landlord giving three months' written notice

Written notice to end a periodic tenancy issued by a landlord will only be effective after 30 September (i.e. the earliest a Landlord could seek to end a periodic tenancy is 31st December 2020).

For clarity we highlight that commercial leases remain governed by a different regime and tenants or landlords should seek specific advice on any commercial tenancy arrangement impacted by the pandemic.

For advice on any of these issues email or call 01534 514056.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.