Tips for avoiding possession claims during COVID

Coronavirus has caused suffering and social and economic chaos. With unemployment on the rise and redundancies expected, it’s no surprise that tenants are struggling to pay rent.  Residential landlords have also been impacted by legislation which has prevented them from taking possession of properties. Increasingly as a litigation solicitor I am being asked by both residential landlords and tenants what measures they can take to avoid the stress and expense of protracted legal proceedings? These tips may seem straightforward, but in times of stress it is easy to forget to do the simple things.

  • Be transparent and open: it might seem obvious but discussing the difficult issues openly and immediately with the other party, is likely to result in them being more sympathetic to your circumstances and willing to explore options and find solutions to avoid court action.
  • Communicate: keeping the other party informed is key to finding solutions and settling disputes. It does not matter whether you phone, text, meet or email the other party. If in doubt, specify that the discussions are on a ‘Without Prejudice’ basis. This means that the communications are purely to achieve settlement of the dispute and neither party can rely on them as evidence of the other party’s liability.
  • Do your research: make enquiries with lenders to see if you can get a payment holiday on any loans or credit cards. Check if you can claim any welfare benefits or crisis funding from charitable organisations and discuss sharing the shortfall with any guarantor.
  • Temporary solutions: can you terminate or extend the tenancy or offer reduced payments on the condition that the shortfall is repaid at an agreed date? Ensure the arrangement is in writing and signed by both parties.
  • Essential works and access: if essential works are required to the property, explain the urgency for the works and the risks. Inform the occupiers of the guidance and measures in place to reduce transmission and discuss whether parts of the property can be avoided to protect isolating or shielding persons.
  • Be prepared: collate all the correspondence and evidence in case you need to disclose it to the other party. Provide explanations for the breaches and reassurance why the problem will not happen again. Don’t make excuses. Be willing to accept blame and apologise for some things in order to reach a resolution.
  • Seek out help: Can the Police or Local Authority provide any assistance?
  • Note-keeping: Record the meetings, make contemporaneous notes of what was discussed, save voicemails, text messages and emails so that the parties can refer to these if the matter proceeds to court.


If in doubt, take legal advice to ensure you are following the correct procedure. Money well spent can save you on wasted costs and time in the long term. Following these tips may help you find a mutually acceptable solution.

Patricia Wollington is a litigation solicitor based at the London City office of Wellers Law Group  To contact Patricia please call 020 7481 2422 or email at

For our Surrey offices please call 01372 750100 and ask for Craig Batko.