A range of new measures and regulations have recently been introduced to the private rented sector, designed to protect renters and prevent people losing their home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important that you feel supported during these difficult times and know where to turn to for help. We've put together the following frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help you understand the new measures.
Do I still need to pay my rent during the pandemic?
Yes. There is no ‘rent holiday’ during this period, and you should continue to pay the rent in full wherever possible and abide by all the other terms of your tenancy during the COVID-19 outbreak to the best of your ability.
It is important to always prioritise rent payments, and to pay as much as you are able to afford. This may involve looking at your current expenditure and reducing any payments for non-essential items.
I’m going to struggle making the rent. What can I do?
You should speak with your landlord as soon as possible. Be open and honest about your financial difficulties and see if you can negotiate an alternative payment arrangement e.g. your landlord may accept a reduced payment and/or agree to any arrears being paid off at a later date.
If your financial difficulties are due to a change in employment or earnings, you may qualify for Universal Credit or other forms of support to meet your housing costs. You can:
You can also access further advice and support by visiting:
Can my landlord still evict me?
Increased protections are in place to ensure that you will not lose your home during this period. If your landlord wants to start possession proceedings, in most instances they must now serve you with 6 months’ notice. This requirement is in force until 31st March 2021 but may be extended further.
However, in some serious cases the notice period can be shorter e.g. notices served in relation to anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse or high rent arrears (where at least 6 months’ rent is unpaid). At the end of the notice period, a landlord cannot force a tenant to leave their home without a court order (which they will need to apply for).
However, new legislation is currently in place - until at least 21st February 2021 - to ensure bailiffs do not enforce eviction notices (certain exceptions apply). This means you can only lose your home in the most serious of circumstances: illegal occupation, anti-social behaviour, an unoccupied property following the death of a tenant and serious rent arrears (greater than 6 months’ rent).
The same protection also applies to homeowners, with a temporary suspension on the enforcement of mortgage lender repossessions.
Existing laws protect you against an illegal eviction or harassment. Your landlord cannot use violence, or threat of violence, to evict you, but must follow prescribed legal procedures including serving notice and applying to court for a possession order - see further advice on harassment and illegal eviction.
The measures introduced by government should protect most tenants from eviction during this time, but anyone still faced with homelessness should speak with us as soon as possible.
Will my landlord still carry out repairs?
Yes, your landlords’ repair obligations have not changed, and they should still ensure that your home is kept in good repair and free from hazards.
You should inform your landlord as soon as possible if you have a problem so they can take the appropriate action. Government guidance on working safely in people’s homes has been published, setting out the circumstances in which landlords or contractors can safely visit properties to carry out inspections or repairs.
Do I need to provide access?
Yes, unless you are self-isolating you should allow landlords and trades people access to your home in order to carry out repair work or inspections. This includes:
- Routine inspections, including annual gas safety checks
- Essential and non-essential repairs and maintenance
- Planned maintenance activity inside and outside the home.
Services should be designed to allow a 2-meter distance to be maintained (wherever possible) and hygiene procedures should be followed.
However, if you are self-isolating, no repair work should be carried out in your home unless it is to remedy a direct risk that affects your safety or the safety of your household. In these essential cases, arrangements should be made to avoid any face-to-face contact, for example when answering the door.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people can permit landlords and contractors access to carry out routine repairs and inspections, provided the latest guidance on social distancing and working safely in people’s homes is followed (external link).
If you are self-isolating and your gas safety check is due, you should inform your landlord. The safety check can be delayed until after your isolation period has ended. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you should inform your landlord so they can make arrangements for the appropriate social distancing to be maintained during the visit.
I am due to move home. Can this still go ahead?
You are free to move home, whether buying or renting, providing that this is undertaken in line with public health advice and the relevant COVID-19 legislation. Please be mindful that the process of finding and moving into a new home will be different as those involved will have to adapt practices and procedures to minimise the risk of spreading the virus as much as possible.
Moving home is not appropriate if you pose a direct risk of transmitting COVID-19, for example those within their isolation period. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable,, you should carefully consider your personal situation, and the circumstances of your move, before going ahead. You may wish to seek some medical advice.