CORONAVIRUS: LATEST INFORMATION FOR RENTERS

Each day, the situation for renters in the UK changes as the Government issue new announcements about how things are changing in the light of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). These announcements are often vague, unclear, and difficult to apply to our own situations.

ACORN will be updating this page every week day with clear, up-to-date information about renters’ rights in the UK, so that you can stay informed. Updates will generally be made at around 7pm.

Evictions

 

The Coronavirus bill passed on the 25th March 2020 and changed the amount of notice landlords have to give tenants before applying to court to evict them to 3 months if served after 27th March 2020. This applies until the 30th September 2020.

On the 27th March the courts also announced a 90 day pause on all active eviction proceedings. They may decide to extend this 90 day period, but if not, then proceedings will be able to recommence on the 25th June.

 

What does this mean?

If a landlord wants to evict a tenant, they need to send them a letter which asks the tenant to leave by a certain date. Depending on the tenancy you have and the reason the landlord wants to evict you, the date in the letter would normally be 2 weeks or 2 months in the future. This new legislation means that the date you are given will be 3 months in the future. If the tenant does not leave by the date stated in the letter, the landlord can then apply to the courts for an order to evict them and ask the court to instruct a bailiff to carry out the eviction.

The decision to halt current eviction proceedings has come from the courts. The courts have said that they will not hold any hearings that could result in someone getting eviction for at least 90 days. If your case has already been through the court system and you are issued a letter with the time and date that a bailiff will be coming round then you should contact the bailiff (their details will be on the letter). Lots of bailiffs are not operating at the moment so you should check if they are intending to carry out the eviction.

You can find further advice on what to do if you are or have been issued with an eviction notice here.

You should also check if your eviction notice is valid which you can do here.

A landlord cannot end a tenancy in the first 6 months via a Section 21 notice, if the rent is unpaid a landlord may be able to begin eviction proceedings before 6 months.

If rent is unpaid it must be 2 months or more in arrears for a court to be bound to order possession, under Ground 8 of the Housing Act. Less than 2 months arrears and it is a judge’s discretion to order possession and evict the tenant.

 

Pre-action Protocols?

The Government website has also said it is working on changes that will mean that private sector landlords must comply with the pre-action protocol that currently applies to social landlords. The pre-action protocol is the steps social landlords need to prove they have taken in order to take an eviction case to court and include, amongst other things, early communication around problems and trying to agree repayment plans for arrears. We don’t know if this will be part of future legislation but you can find information on pre-action protocols here.

 

 

Paying Rent

 

If you are unable to pay your rent you should contact your Landlord and let them know.

Landlords can apply to their bank for a mortgage holiday for 3 months if their tenant is unable to pay the rent. This is just a 3 month break. Mortgage holders will still need to repay any payments they miss. Banks may either keep the length of the mortgage the same, in which case monthly mortgage payments will increase, or they may extend the length of time people have to pay off their mortgages, in which case the mortgage payments should stay the same.

The emergency Coronavirus Bill does not legislate around repayment plans but the government website has the following information:

 “Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available. In the first instance they should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment, and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme. However we have also put specific measures in place:

  • We are working with the Master of Rolls to strengthen the pre-action protocol requirement and also extend this to the private rented sector. This will help landlords and tenants to agree reasonable repayment plans where rent arrears may have arisen.
  • We have already made £500 million available to fund households experiencing financial hardship.”

We will update this web page if any further information comes to light on this.

 

 

Lodgers and People in Temporary Accommodation

 

The halt on eviction proceedings announced on the 27th March also covers people in temporary accommodation, people with ‘licence agreements’ and people in employment accommodation. You may have a tenancy and not a license, if you have sole occupation of a property a court may find you to have a tenancy and not a license. A tenancy has more protection than a license. We recommend you contact Shelter if you are not sure what sort of agreement you have.

Claiming Housing Benefit

 

You can get advice on how to claim housing benefit here. You can also get advice through Turn2Us: https://www.turn2us.org.uk/

The Government has increased the local housing allowance (which is the maximum amount people can claim for housing costs in their area). If this amount does not cover all of your rent then you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment from your local council to cover the shortfall. You should contact your local council to see if you are eligible.

 

Repairs

 

Landords are still legally obligated to carry out emergency repairs and essential health and safety repairs must be carried out. If your landlord is refusing to do repairs you should contact your local council’s environmental health officer.

 

 

Moving house

 

As of Wednesday 13th May, new lockdown regulations tabled by the Government mean that moving home is now allowed again, as well as visiting estate agents and letting agents. Viewings are also permitted again. Anyone who has already bought a new home is now able to visit it to prepare it for moving in. The property markets in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, remain shut. There, home viewings are not permitted under lockdown regulations, and their land registries are either running a reduced service or are not registering transactions.

 

 

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