09 April 2020

Government of Jersey introduces temporary legislative amendments and COVID-19 Guidance for Jersey landlords and tenants

The Government of Jersey has approved official COVID-19 Guidance relating to rent and other payments for landlords and tenants of commercial and residential property during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Guidance issued by Senator Sam Mézec, Minister for Children and Housing, in relation to residential property, dovetails with the approval today of the Covid-19 (Residential Tenancy) (Temporary Amendment of Law) (Jersey) Regulations 2020. These Regulations make temporary amendments to the Residential Tenancy (Jersey) Law 2011 during the COVID-19 Period, which has been initially approved as ending 30 September 2020.

The Guidance issued by Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham in relation to commercial property is separate to the Guidance issued in relation to residential property, and is not linked with any required changes to legislation.

The full details of the Guidance for commercial property and residential legislative amendments have been published on the Government of Jersey website. The issued Guidance is intended to promote good conduct and reasonable behaviour from both landlords and tenants during the COVID-19 period by seeking to minimise interference in the normal contractual relationships between parties and acknowledging that flexibility and pragmatism need to be shown during these exceptional times.

Approved by the States Assembly today, the guidelines for both commercial and residential property come into immediate effect and will last throughout the COVID-19 period.

Carey Olsen's Jersey property partner Chris Philpott, along with other representatives of the Property Working Group of the Jersey Law Society, worked with the Government of Jersey in relation to the preparation and introduction of the guidelines issued, including their overriding principles.

The changes to the Residential Tenancy Law introduce measures to prevent tenants from being evicted due to financial hardship caused by coronavirus, introduce a suspension on rent increases to protect tenants from additional financial hardship and enable tenants to extend their tenancies during the coronavirus outbreak should they so wish. The legislative changes are to be interpreted in line with the Guidance issued in connection with residential property.

The Guidance for commercial property sets out clear recommendations that both landlords and tenants should abide by in circumstances where either party is unable to meet its obligations under a lease due to demonstrable financial hardships. It outlines options for the parties to consider once a claim of financial hardship has been evidenced and which would form the basis of a temporary voluntary arrangement to be agreed between the parties. These options include both partial and complete deferral of any sums due under the lease, a partial or complete waiver of any sums due or possible early termination by agreement.

Chris Philpott said: "These are extraordinary times and Carey Olsen is pleased to have played its part by supporting the Government of Jersey in bringing forward these guidelines that will provide a framework to help both landlords and tenants of residential and commercial property navigate through a period of great uncertainty.

"The Guidance requires all parties to act in an open, transparent and reasonable manner in order to meet the obligations and expectations set out within it. It is expected that the Courts will shortly be issuing practice directions supporting the Guidance and confirming that they may consider how parties conduct themselves in line with the Guidance on any future proceedings relating to rent arrears, lease cancellations and consequential orders for possession and eviction."