Information on this page
- Rent, benefits and money problems
- Eviction and being asked to leave
- Help if you're homeless
- Domestic abuse
- Ending a tenancy and moving home
- Repairs and access to your home
- Mortgage payment problems
This page is checked regularly.
Last update 10 July 2020
Rent, benefits and money problems
What should I do if I can’t afford my rent?
Look at financial help available like benefits and speak to your landlord.
Your landlord could be sympathetic and might accept late rent or agree to a rent reduction.
Use our template letter tool to help negotiate a rent reduction.
Claiming universal credit or other benefits
Universal credit may not be your best or only option. You should check whether claiming other benefits may put you in a better financial position.
Use our universal credit guide to find out:
- if you should claim universal credit or something else
- how to start a universal credit claim
- how much you might get
- how to get an advance
- where to find information on statutory sick pay and furloughing
You have to wait at least 5 weeks for your first universal credit payment, but you can usually get an advance.
Find out about other options to get help with rent.
Help with bills, council tax and food
If you need help with essentials read our Cash in a crisis page.
Can my private landlord increase my rent during the coronavirus outbreak?
Your landlord can only increase your rent if they follow the correct procedure.
Can tenants stop paying rent because of the outbreak?
You can only pause your rent payments if your landlord agrees. There is no payment break or holiday for renters.
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.
If you're already on benefits and your income has decreased
Use the entitledto benefits calculator to check how your income drop affects your existing tax credits and benefits.
Depending on your situation you may have to either:
- report your income drop and stay on your existing benefits
- apply for universal credit if you don't have enough to live on
Citizens Advice have information on when you have to claim universal credit instead.
Working tax credit
You may be able to stay on tax credits if you're furloughed, shielding, or if you've had to reduce your hours or stop work temporarily due to coronavirus.
You're treated as still working your normal hours in these situations and don't need to report the reduced hours.
But you should report the change if you lose your job, are made redundant or stop trading as a self employed person.
Your tax credits will end automatically if you apply for universal credit.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has more information about staying on tax credits and how a universal credit claim affects this.
You can't usually make a new claim for housing benefit.
If you already get housing benefit, report any drop in income to the council. Your housing benefit will usually increase.
Apply for a discretionary housing payment if your full rent still isn't covered.
Read our guide on dealing with housing benefit changes.
Eviction and being asked to leave
Most tenants can't be evicted at the moment
All court action for eviction is on hold until at least 23 August 2020.
The ban on evictions was due to end in June but this has now been extended.
During this time:
- bailiffs won't evict you
- landlords can't get an eviction order
You should stay in your home even if you've already had notice or your landlord applied to court before the outbreak.
If you're a lodger who lives with your landlord, the rules are different.
What are the rules for lodgers?
If you live with your landlord, you're entitled to either:
- stay until the end of your agreement
- reasonable notice before you have to leave
Your landlord won't need to get a court order once your agreement or notice ends.
But they shouldn't insist that you move out during the lockdown unless you can do so safely.
What if my landlord pressures me to leave?
You can and should stay in your home.
It's illegal for your landlord to:
- harass you
- lock you out of your home, even temporarily
- make you leave without notice or a court order
Get help from the council or the court if your landlord stops you accessing your home.
Can my landlord give me notice during the lockdown?
Your landlord can give you notice but they can't make you leave.
From 26 March 2020, you're entitled to at least a 3 month notice period if you're a:
- council or housing association tenant
- private renter who gets a section 21 or section 8 notice
The 3 month notice period doesn't apply to lodgers and some people in temporary housing.
What if I had notice from my landlord before 26 March?
Your notice may still be valid.
But your landlord won't be able to get an eviction order while the court eviction process is on hold.
You don’t have to leave when the notice ends. Your tenancy continues if you stay in your home.
Find out more about the eviction process if you're a:
Help if you're homeless
Where can I get help if I'm homeless?
Contact Streetlink if you're sleeping rough or know someone who is. Homeless outreach teams are working to help people into accommodation.
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.
Can I get emergency housing if I'm homeless?
The council must provide emergency housing if they think you have nowhere safe to stay and that you may be in priority need.
You must also meet the immigration and residence conditions.
Priority need means:
- you have children with you
- you're pregnant
- you're a care leaver under 21
- something else makes you vulnerable
You're likely to be vulnerable and in priority need if you're at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus, especially if you have been told that you need to shield.
Check who's at higher risk from coronavirus on the NHS website.
If you have slept rough in the past, the council should look at whether your age or health conditions put you at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus.
What if I'm on the streets or sleeping rough during the outbreak?
From 26 March, the government asked councils to provide emergency accommodation for anyone on the streets without a place to stay.
Councils and outreach teams have arranged emergency housing for some people who may not qualify under the usual rules.
This emergency response is ending in some areas but you should still ask the council about it if you are on the streets, especially if there's a local lockdown in your area.
What happens next if I'm in emergency housing?
You can usually stay in emergency housing while the council look into your situation and decide if you qualify for longer term housing.
The council must write to you once they decide how they must help.
Our guide to homeless help from the council has more information on:
- homeless assessments
- who qualifies for longer term housing
- asking for a review of a council decision
If an outreach team or charity helped you into emergency housing during the outbreak, speak to them about what happens next. Some people will get support to move in to longer term housing even if they don't qualify under the usual rules.
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.
Read our advice on how to use the Silent Solution system and other options for help and support.
Domestic abuse helplines are still operating
If you are unsafe in your home because of domestic abuse there is still help available during the outbreak.
Call The National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
The charity Refuge have contingency plans to keep refuges and community-based services running.
Women’s Aid is still operating webchat and email support. They have a helpful list of other support available.
Male victims of domestic abuse can call the Men's Advice Line for help and support.
Find more advice and contact numbers for other services if you are homeless or need to move out because of domestic abuse.
Ending a tenancy and moving home
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:
Moving home during the coronavirus outbreak
From 13 May you can move home within England if you can do so safely.
You must still follow public health guidance.
You should not move home if you're self isolating.
If you're at higher risk from coronavirus due to health reasons, discuss the move with your GP first.
What if I need to delay a move because of coronavirus?
Don't sign a contract or agree a tenancy start date until you're sure you can move in.
Try to negotiate a new start date if you've already signed an agreement, so you don't have to start paying rent before you can move.
You may also need to negotiate with your existing landlord or let them know if you can't move out by a planned date.
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 should continue to work together and show flexibility.
Can I view a new property?
Viewings in person are now allowed if they can be done safely.
Initial property searches should still be done online.
It's usually a good idea to visit a rented property in person before you sign a contract.
You shouldn't view a property in person if you're self isolating or you have symptoms.
What if I don't want viewings in my home?
Your landlord or agent can't legally let themselves in without your permission if you rent the whole property.
If there's a term in your tenancy agreement which says viewings can take place, ask your landlord to be reasonable in the circumstances.
Government guidance suggests that during viewings people who live there should go out, and that the property must be thoroughly cleaned afterwards. You could argue that this is an unreasonable disturbance for a private renter.
You could offer to show the property to new tenants through a virtual viewing on your phone if you don't want people in your home before you move out.
It can be harder to prevent viewings if you rent a room in a shared house.
In a shared house or house in multiple occupation (HMO), the landlord or agent can usually access shared areas and spare bedrooms without your permission. They should still listen to your concerns and follow the government guidance.
If you're showing symptoms or self isolating any physical viewings of your home should be delayed.
Repairs and access to your home
What if my home needs repairs?
Landlords have the same responsibilities for repairs during the coronavirus outbreak.
They might not be able to get the problem fixed during the usual timescales but shouldn't delay repairs unreasonably.
Anyone who comes to carry out repairs should follow government guidance on social distancing.
What if a gas safety inspection is due?
Annual gas safety checks are still an important legal requirement.
Your landlord should rearrange any gas safety checks that are due if they cannot go ahead safely because someone in your home is at high risk or self isolating.
What if I don't want anyone to come to my home?
You normally have to allow your landlord access to carry out repairs.
If someone in your home is shielding or self isolating, government guidance says repairs should only be carried out if there's a serious problem that puts you at risk.
You can ask your landlord to postpone non urgent repairs.
Read more about access to your rented home for repairs during the outbreak.
What if other people in shared housing aren't following social distancing?
People from 2 households can now meet inside as long as they observe social distancing. Anyone in your support bubble counts as part of your household.
If you’re concerned other people in your shared home aren’t observing social distancing, you could refer them to the government’s guidance.
You could also ask your landlord to speak to them if they won’t change their behaviour.
If you live somewhere where there's a local lockdown, check with your council what social distancing guidelines you need to follow.
If you're shielding or particularly vulnerable to infection for health reasons and can't shield effectively in shared housing, you can speak to your local council to see if they can help with alternative housing.
Mortgage payment problems
Repossessions are on hold
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said that mortgage lenders shouldn't start or continue court action for repossession until at least 31 October 2020.
This means they must not apply for a repossession order or ask bailiffs to evict you.
You may be able to use this time to sort out payment problems and avoid losing your home.
I'm worried about paying my mortgage. What can I do?
Check if you have insurance that will cover your mortgage payments. For example, mortgage payment protection insurance or through your current account.
You can ask your lender for a 3 month payment holiday if you're struggling to pay because of coronavirus. You can ask for this at any time until at least 31 October.
The missed payments will be added to the cost of your mortgage. This normally means your monthly payments will increase.
Ask your lender about other options. For example, switching to a lower interest rate.
Read our guide on how to deal with mortgage arrears.
I've come to the end of a payment holiday. What happens now?
If you can afford to pay your mortgage you'll be asked to do so.
Speak to your lender if you still can't afford to make full payments. They should offer you further support. This could include another 3 month payment holiday.
If you have a suspended possession order
Taking a payment holiday may mean that you've breached the suspended order.
Ask your lender for confirmation in writing that they won't apply for bailiffs to evict you because of the breach. Get advice if they refuse.
Last updated 10 July 2020 | © Shelter
If you need to talk to someone, we’ll do our best to help