As stated in the Report which accompanied the draft Regulations when they were put before the States Assembly (sitting virtually) for approval, the Regulations are designed to sustain residential tenancies and protect tenants by:
- preventing tenants from being evicted due to financial hardship caused by coronavirus;
- introducing a suspension on rent increases to protect tenants from additional financial hardship; and
- enabling tenants to extend their tenancies during the coronavirus outbreak should they so wish.
The Regulations amend the Residential Tenancy (Jersey) Law 2011 (the “Law”) by introducing a new Part 3A, to remain in force until 30 September 2020. The key provisions of Part 3A are summarised below:
New Article 7A – termination of residential tenancies
- Where a fixed term tenancy expires, it is automatically converted into a periodic tenancy unless the landlord and the tenant agree a new fixed term or agree that the tenancy has expired.
- Existing periodic tenancies, and those entered into on or after the coming into force of the Regulations, can only be terminated by the landlord if the landlord and the tenant agree. Under the Law prior to its amendment by the Regulations, a landlord could unilaterally terminate a periodic tenancy by serving not less than 3 months’ notice.
- In the case of a notice to terminate a periodic tenancy served by a landlord or a tenant prior to the coming into force of the Regulations, but where the specified termination date has not yet passed, the tenant can give notice to the landlord that he or she wishes to remain in occupation and the tenancy continues as a periodic tenancy.
- Where a tenant has received notice of termination of a periodic tenancy and the specified termination date has passed, if the tenant is unable to vacate the premises as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the tenant can remain in occupation of the premises and the tenancy continues as a periodic tenancy.
New Article 7B – prospective residential tenancies
Where a landlord and a tenant have reached agreement about a residential tenancy, whether or not the tenancy agreement has been signed, the tenant has not yet taken occupation of the premises and the premises are no longer available with vacant possession because an existing tenancy is continuing (due to the amendments made by Article 7A):
- the landlord must notify the tenant as soon as practicable;
- the landlord and the tenant are released from any obligation to each other; and
- the landlord must reimburse to the tenant any sum paid to secure the tenancy.
New Article 7C – suspension of rent increases
- A landlord must not increase rent due under a residential tenancy agreement, or make a variation of a tenancy agreement subject to an increase in rent, for any period before 1 October 2020.
- Where a rent increase was notified before the Regulations came into force but have not yet taken effect, the rent must not increase for any period before 1 October 2020.
- Where a tenancy agreement is renewed and includes a clause allowing for an increase in rent, the rent must not increase for any period before 1 October 2020.
- Any landlord who breaches these restrictions on increasing rent is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of up to GBP10,000.
New Article 7D – failure to pay rent because of financial hardship
- Where a tenant has failed to pay rent or any other sum due under a tenancy agreement and has notified the landlord that this is as a result of financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak (and provided appropriate supporting evidence in line with guidance prescribed by the Minister) the tenant’s non-payment does not constitute a breach for which the landlord may apply to the Court for an order under Article 12 of the Law for cancellation of the tenancy agreement and eviction of the tenant.
- The landlord cannot impose any financial penalty, or charge interest or any other fee, for the non-payment.
- However, the above does not remove the tenant’s liability to pay the unpaid sum and the Court retains the power to require the tenant to pay interest if it determines that the non-payment was not due to financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
New Articles 7E and 7F – Ministerial guidance and orders
- The Minister must issue guidance in relation to the termination of tenancies, rental payments and payments and eviction for arrears of rent or other sums due to the landlord caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance has now been published and is available here.
- The Minister may, by Order, amend Articles 7A to 7E and may make further provision in relation to the termination of residential tenancy agreements, increases in rent and failure to pay rent or other sums due to the landlord.