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A renters guide during the coronavirus

If you’re in rented accommodation and facing financial difficulty there is help available. This guide will help you understand your rental rights during lockdown.

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As things change rapidly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, this guide will be updated regularly to reflect changes in rules and regulations.

What you can do if you’re struggling to pay the rent

If you have lost income as a result of the coronavirus lockdown and you’re struggling to cover your rent, you have a number of options. First of all, you should speak to your landlord and explain your financial situation.

You may want to explain that you are going to find it hard to meet your next rent payment. Remember, you’re still liable for the rent, but your landlord may be willing to compromise.

Can you get a rent payment holiday?

You don’t have an automatic right to a rent payment holiday. You’ll need your landlord’s agreement to suspend or temporarily reduce your rent. 

Both the government and the National Residential Landlords Association have said that tenants and landlords should work together to put in place a rent payment scheme. You should continue paying rent if you’re able to do so. 

If you are able to agree to a payment schedule, you may be able to pay smaller amounts over a longer period. When negotiating with your landlord, you should only offer to pay what you can realistically afford right now, according to Citizens Advice.

Your landlord may also be facing financial pressures if they need to make mortgage payments on their property.

The housing charity Shelter has put together a template letter you can use to contact your landlord if you need to negotiate a rent reduction or discuss whether you can delay payments. 

Citizens Advice has details of help available from local councils and the government.

Other help that’s available for renters

Renters might not get special help in the way mortgage holders do, but they do qualify for other more general support.

That means everything from payment breaks on credit cards and other debts, as well as grants for the self-employed and loans for business owners.

There has also been a big increase in the amount of money you can claim for housing on Universal Credit or Housing Benefit - after they raised the maximum to cover 30% of rental homes in local areas.

This means some people can now claim as much as £1,500 a month in some areas.

Then there are hardship funds distributed to councils that people might be able to apply for too.

Can your landlord evict you during lockdown?

The short answer is no. 

The UK parliament passed an emergency law on 26 March 2020 banning private and social landlords from forcing renters out of their homes for at least three months. 

This ban has since been extended. - with no evictions allowed until after March 31, and landlords told to give renters at least 6 months notice before starting proceedings.

There are a couple of exceptions that mean that a landlord does not have to give as much notice. These include:

  • Where the tenant has not paid rent for at least six months

  • Where the tenant is involved in cases of illegal occupation or anti-social behaviour

Even after the six-month notice expires, if the tenant refuses to leave, a landlord cannot just force them out without a court order.

These laws also apply to those who live in shared ownership houses. This is where a resident buys a portion of the home with a mortgage, and rents the other part of it. 

Read more on taking mortgage payment holidays

The rules for lodgers are different

Be aware that the eviction ban does not apply to landlords who have lodgers living in their home. Your landlord will not need to get a court order to evict you if you are a lodger in their home. 

If your landlord wants you out before the end of the term specified in any lodger agreement, the rules say that they have to give you ‘reasonable’ notice before you have to leave.

Shelter says that these landlords should not insist that you move out during the lockdown, unless you can do it safely. Shelter has more details on lodgers’ rights