The government have announced measures to protect renters and strengthen the safety net during the crisis which will be of great relief to thousands across the country. However, many are still unable to pay their rent, with housing benefit too low and the wait for Universal Credit leaving many at risk of increased debt. More needs to be done.
This is a national emergency and it’s right that government is treating it like that. But we will keep pressing them to ensure people have safe and secure homes to get through it. To achieve this, we need to:
Increase housing benefit to cover the cost of average rents
Guarantee people can get help from day one by ending the five-week wait for people claiming benefits
Ensure no one is evicted or becomes homeless during the crisis
Provide support to homeless families cramped in one-room or shared temporary accommodation, who are unable to follow government guidance on self-isolation
Now more than ever people need a safe and secure place to call home.
Support our call for action to help those facing urgent housing issues at this time.
Through our helpline, we’re still hearing from people who are worried about how they’ll pay the rent, whether they could be made homeless, or if they’ll be stuck in unsafe housing. And the situation could get much worse.
Some Questions Answered:
Can my landlord evict me straight away because of coronavirus?
It’s illegal for your landlord to evict you without following the proper steps.
Illegal eviction is a criminal offence – coronavirus doesn’t change this.
It’s likely to be an illegal eviction if your landlord:
makes you leave without notice or a court order
locks you out of your home, even temporarily
You can get help from the council or the court if your landlord prevents you accessing your home.
What if I’m a lodger?
Your landlord still needs to follow the correct process even if you live with them.
They don’t need to go to court but you’re usually entitled to reasonable notice before you can be made to leave.
What if I’ve had notice from my landlord?
You should stay in your home.
Evictions take time and you don’t have to leave at the end of your notice.
Most tenants who get a notice between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 will be entitled to 3 months’ notice before their landlord can apply to court.
private tenants who get a section 21 or a section 8
secure, introductory and flexible council tenants
housing association tenants
What if my landlord has already applied to court?
All court proceedings for eviction have been suspended for 90 days from 27 March 2020.
That means your landlord can’t apply to court for an order to evict you.
If they have already applied to court then your case will be put off until after the 90 days.
The court will tell you when any new hearing is but this may take some time.
Rent payment problems
I’m worried about rent arrears. What should I do?
Speak to your landlord if you’re struggling to pay rent.
They could be sympathetic especially if you’ve lost your job or seen your income reduce suddenly.
They might agree to a rent reduction or to accept rent late. Get any agreement in writing.
Buy to let landlords may get mortgage payment holidays if their tenants have financial problems due to coronavirus. Your landlord’s mortgage payments will normally increase after a payment holiday.
Find out more about how to deal with rent arrears.
Benefits and other financial help:
I need to claim benefits. Where do I start?
You could qualify for benefits or statutory sick pay if you lose your job or can’t work because you’re sick or self isolating.
You could also get benefits if your pay goes down because of the coronavirus outbreak.
A good way to work out what you could claim is to use an online benefits calculator.
See Citizens Advice for more information on:
statutory sick pay
benefits if you’re self employed
Can I get universal credit to help with rent during the coronavirus outbreak?
You can usually get universal credit if you or a partner you live with:
are working age
meet the immigration and residence conditions
have a low household income or no money coming in at all
Universal credit includes a housing element. It won’t always cover your full rent.
You can’t get universal credit if both you and your partner are pension age.
Find out how to claim housing benefit if both you’re pension age.
How do I apply for universal credit?
You may not need to apply for universal credit if you qualify for different benefits.
Use the entitledto benefits calculator before you apply to:
check what you could claim
get an estimate of how much
If you already get benefits or tax credits, read more information from Citizens Advice about when an income drop or other change means you have to claim universal credit instead.
You can apply for universal credit on GOV.UK
Contact Citizens Advice if you need help with the online process.
Call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 if you:
can’t apply online
need a universal credit advance
can’t access your universal credit account once you’ve set it up
You can usually get a universal credit advance within a few days if you can’t wait 5 weeks for your first payment. An advance must usually be repaid over the next year.
You won’t have to attend Jobcentre Plus or medical assessments for at least the next 3 months due to the outbreak.
I get some housing benefit but now I’ve lost my job. How can I pay my rent?
You should report the change to the housing benefit department at the council.
Your benefit will usually increase if you report an income drop promptly.
Sometimes you might need to move on to universal credit instead.
Read our guide on dealing with housing benefit changes
Apply for a discretionary housing payment if you get either:
universal credit housing element
Can I get help with gas and electricity bills?
Speak to your energy supplier if you’re struggling financially or in arrears with gas or electricity bills. You could get support including:
reduced bills or debt repayments
a temporary break in your bills or debt arrangements
If you have a pre payment meter they may be able to, for example:
arrange for someone else to top up your meter
add credit to your account automatically
send you a pre loaded top up card
You may need to leave your meter box unlocked if you need someone else to top it up.
Disconnections of pre payment meters are suspended.
Can I get emergency help with food?
Contact your local food bank if you need help with food. If you regularly use a food bank, contact them if possible to check if there are any changes to their service.
You can search for your local food bank and find out about support available during the coronavirus outbreak on the Trussell Trust website.
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.
The guidance has more information for homeowners who were due to move.
If you’re renting privately and planned to move during this time, you’ll probably need to:
postpone the move
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.
Landlords, agents and tenants will need to work together and show goodwill in order to comply with the public health guidance over the coming weeks.
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
you negotiate an early end to the agreement with your landlord
If you want to leave as soon as possible you’ll probably have to negotiate.
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.
Read more information about:
how to end a fixed term tenancy early
what happens if you leave without ending your tenancy
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. These may include:
no fees for late payments
switching to a lower interest rate
Speak to your lender to find out what support they’re offering.
Read our guide on how to deal with mortgage arrears.
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
Tell your agent you can’t allow access to your home at the moment because of government coronavirus guidance.
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. Further guidance is expected from the Gas Safe Register.
Read about access to your rented home for repairs.
Find out more about Shelter and how to contact them here: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/coronavirus?fbclid=IwAR2fospK4qVNwTELo7I9CH841y-kHFYgn4jpXib2VcfSnX_9aqIZOEZZjO0