If you have any questions for the housing team or want some advice on housing issues, contact us today on 01392 256854 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can my landlord evict me because of coronavirus?
An eviction is illegal if your landlord has not followed the correct legal procedures to evict you. An eviction is likely to be illegal if your landlord has used threats or harassment to force you to leave or has physically prevented you from getting into your home, for example by changing the locks while you are out.
A landlord will normally need to get a court order to legally evict you, however this may not be required if you are a lodger, a council or housing association tenant, or in emergency accommodation provided by the council. If you’re a lodger, your landlord still needs to follow the correct process. They don’t need to go to Court but you’re usually entitled to reasonable notice. If you are on a licence to occupy you should seek advice immediately as you may be less protected.
If you are a tenant facing eviction, we can help to determine whether your landlord is acting legally, take steps to stop an illegal eviction and, if necessary, help you to recover your belongings and deposit.
What do the new rules on eviction mean during lockdown?
The new rules do two things:
- extend the notice period for evictions
- suspend eviction court action
All court proceedings for eviction are on hold until at least 23 August 2020 (recently extended from 25 June 2020), regardless of when your landlord applied to court.
This means most tenants can’t be evicted before the end of June at the earliest. You should stay in your home if your landlord gives you notice or asks you to leave.
Most tenants will get 3 months’ notice before their landlord can apply to court. This applies if you get notice on or after 26 March 2020.
This includes private tenants who get a section 21 or a section 8, secure, introductory and flexible council tenants, housing association tenants and regulated tenants.
If you had notice from your landlord before 26 March, you should stay in your home. You don’t have to leave at the end of your notice.
It is your legal right to stay until your landlord gets a court order and a bailiff’s warrant. They can’t do this at the moment because court action for eviction is on hold.
Rent payment problems
Can tenants stop paying rent because of the coronavirus outbreak?
There is no payment break or holiday for renters. You can only pause your rent payments if your landlord agrees. Some landlords can apply for a break in mortgage payments if their tenants are struggling to pay rent due to coronavirus, but this won’t always be possible. They will still have to make up missed payments later. If you’re struggling to pay rent arrears, then speak to your landlord. They may agree to rend reduction or accept rent late. Try and get any agreement in writing.
If you have experienced a change in your financial circumstances you may now be eligible for assistance from Housing Benefit which you can contact your local council about or Universal Credit.
I am a student and my union has suggested that I could seek a reduction or waiver of rent from my landlord on my student property. Is a landlord obligated to reduce or waive rent because of Covid-19?
You are legally liable to pay your rent under your contract. Unless agreed with your landlord in writing or your contract grants authority for such a variation, you should not stop paying and doing so would go against government advice. We have been forwarded some template letters from student guilds and universities, which you are welcome to send to your landlord. BUT … sending this letter does not grant you the authority to stop making your rent payments.
Under contract law, force majeure clauses ordinarily could offer a route to ending or varying the contract (depending on the express wording of the clause), but these are very rare in tenancy agreements. Without this, the landlord must agree to the any proposed reduction or suspension and they are not obligated to do so. The only other option would be reliance on the doctrine of contract frustration if the landlord takes you to court but historically cases involving tenancies have been unsuccessful. A successful frustration argument will entirely depend on the facts and the standard is quite high on the person attempting to prove that frustration has occurred (the student in this scenario). Relying on this doctrine can be risky and costly. Frustration will also have the effect of ending the contract entirely and you cannot use it to simply vary the terms to allow a lower/no payment for the lockdown period.
Without the necessary authority to reduce or suspend payments, you are going to build up substantial rent arrears. Your private landlord could raise a debt claim against you, potentially leaving you with a County Court Judgement (CCJ). This will have serious implications to your financial health and status going forward, as the CCJ will remain registered against you for six years from the date of judgement.
Can my private landlord increase my rent during the outbreak?
Your landlord can only increase your rent if they follow the correct procedure.
What help can I get if I’m homeless?
If you’re sleeping rough or know someone who is, homeless outreach teams are working to help people into accommodation. Contact Streetlink or your council for help from your local outreach team.
Contact your council if you are homeless during the outbreak or if you know someone who needs help. Councils are working to find accommodation for homeless people.
You can contact your council even if you have been turned down for help in the past. You may not be able to visit councils in person if they have closed buildings but you can usually contact them by phone and email.
Moving home/Ending a tenancy
What if I need to move home during the lockdown period?
The government’s stay at home guidance makes it clear that people should stay in their homes for the next 3 weeks except in very limited circumstances. Additional guidance on moving home during the coronavirus outbreak says that homeowners and renters should follow public health advice and delay the move where possible.
If you’re renting privately and planned to move during this time, you’ll probably need to postpone the move. You should negotiate with both your old and new landlord regarding the start and end dates of both tenancies. For example, if you’ve already signed a tenancy agreement, you could negotiate a new start date so you don’t have to start paying rent before you can move.
Your current tenancy will usually continue as a periodic tenancy if your fixed term contract ends as long as you still live there.
I am a landlord. Can a tenant move into my property?
Letting agents and landlords should be aware of and follow government guidance on coronavirus and renting, which explains these protections in greater detail, and make sure tenants are aware of this guidance.
- Private landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where it has been determined that they are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding.
- In other cases, where viewings can proceed, they should be conducted in line with the guidance on viewings earlier in this document.
- Any visits to a property must be made in accordance with government’s guidelines on working in other people’s homes and social distancing.
- If possible, necessary repairs, gas and electrical safety checks should be conducted in the period between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. If this is not possible and visits are needed to an occupied property, this should be done by appointment with measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit.
- Landlords should make every effort to abide by gas and electrical safety requirements, which continue to be of great importance for tenants’ safety. This may be more difficult due to restrictions associated with the coronavirus outbreak, for example where a tenant has coronavirus symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding. Under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach. See further Health and Safety Executive guidance on how to deal with specific circumstances. Letting agents may also want to consider obtaining landlord and tenant consent for inventory clerk appointments to also occur before a tenant moves in or after a tenant moves out during vacant periods if possible.
- Letting agents and landlords should take steps to ensure any properties are prepared ready for new tenants, this may include cleaning to minimise any potential spread of the virus in line with government advice.
- Letting agents and landlords should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed while broader measures remain in place, taking care to follow government advice on social distancing to minimise possible spread of coronavirus.
Can I leave my tenancy early because of coronavirus?
You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if either your contract has a break clause or you negotiate an early end to the agreement with your landlord
Your landlord may be sympathetic to your request to leave if they understand your reasons. For example, if you need to move urgently because you or a family member are sick or need support.
Mortgage arrears and repossession
I’m worried about mortgage arrears. What should I do?
Mortgage lenders have announced they won’t apply to court to repossess homeowners for 3 months starting from 19 March. They will also allow a 3 month payment holiday for those struggling to cover their mortgage because of coronavirus. Be aware that this option may mean your monthly mortgage payment goes up after the payment holiday ends. Check if you have insurance that will cover your mortgage payments instead. For example, mortgage payment protection insurance or through your current account. Some mortgage providers are introducing other support for customers whose income is affected by the coronavirus outbreak including no fees for late payments and switching to a lower interest rate. Speak to your lender as soon as possible.
Landlord access to your home
Can my letting agent still go ahead with visits and inspections?
Your agent should postpone all non-essential visits such as routine tenancy inspections, viewings towards the end of your tenancy.
What if I need repairs or a gas safety check is due?
Landlords have the same responsibilities for repairs during the coronavirus outbreak. You should report repairs by phone, email or online. They might not be able to get the problem fixed during the usual timescales but shouldn’t delay repairs unreasonably. Annual gas safety checks remain an important legal requirement. Your landlord should rearrange any gas safety checks that are booked in over the next 3 weeks if they cannot go ahead safely.
I am at risk of domestic abuse. Can I get help?
If you are in immediate danger you should call 999. If you cannot safely talk out loud or make noise you can use The Silent Solution system. Try and whisper if it’s safe to do so. You may also be asked to cough or tap to answer questions. If you can’t make any sound stay on the line. If you are on a mobile you will hear an automated police message that begins “you are through to the police” and lasts 20 seconds. Press 55 after this. You will be transferred to your local police force who will give you instructions. If you are on a landline you don’t need to press 55. You’ll be automatically put through to a police call handler if you don’t make any sound.
Are domestic abuse helplines still operating?
There are a number of agencies available to help you.
- National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
- Women’s Aid – advice and ways to find local support.
- DAHA – list of national and local support services.
- Advocate – pro bono legal help by barristers (can take direct requests during the Covid 19 emergency)
- Rights of Women – family law advice and support
- Galop (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people) – 0800 999 5428
- Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327
- RCJ CAB – legal advice and assistance, including family
- Advice Now – Video guide to applying for an injunction for domestic abuse and links to advice and support.
Can I leave my property to get away from domestic abuse during lockdown?
Yes. Moving to a friend’s/family address for several days to allow a ‘cooling off’ period following arguments at home is likely to be considered a reasonable excuse to leave the home according to CPS guidance.
At the moment leaving might feel particularly difficult and you might be worried about having to leave your home in an emergency. If possible, pack an emergency bag for you and your children and keep it somewhere safe. Try to include essential things such as medication, identification, money or cards. Essential clothing for you and your children.
Due to self- isolation staying with family and friends might not be an option. You might be finding it harder to secure a refuge. The Local Authority has a responsibility to give you information about your housing rights.
Can I get my partner out of the property because of domestic abuse?
A Domestic Violence Protection Order can remove a perpetrator from the residence and from making contact with the survivor for up to 28 days. An Occupation Order is an injunction which removes an abusers’ rights to reside in the family home.