Housing advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)

Information on this page

This page is checked regularly. 

Last update 18 May 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.

You won't have to attend Jobcentre Plus or medical assessments during the outbreak.

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.

Tax credits

You may be able to stay on tax credits even if you're off work or on reduced hours due to coronavirus.

Find out from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) when you can stay on tax credits and what the effects of claiming universal credit are.

Your tax credits will end automatically if you apply for universal credit. 

Sometimes you won't have a choice about claiming universal credit.

Housing benefit

Report any change in circumstance to the housing benefit department at the council. 

Your benefit will usually increase if you report an income drop promptly. 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 25 June 2020 due to coronavirus.

You should stay in your home even if you've already had notice or your landlord applied to court before the outbreak.

During this time new eviction rules mean that:

  • bailiffs won't evict you
  • landlords can't get an eviction order

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

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.

Domestic abuse

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.

See GOV.UK for full guidance on moving home during the outbreak.

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.

See detailed government guidance on GOV.UK

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.

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 self isolating or at high risk, government guidance says that your landlord should only send someone if there is a serious problem that puts you at risk.

You can ask your landlord to postpone non urgent repairs.

Read more about the rules on access to your rented home for repairs during the outbreak.

What if other people in shared housing aren't following social distancing?

You and any other residents shouldn’t have people to visit who don’t normally live with you.

If you’re concerned other people in your shared home aren’t observing social distancing, you could refer them to the government’s stay at home guidance.

You could also ask your landlord to speak to them if they won’t change their behaviour.

Mortgage payment problems

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.

Last updated 18 May 2020 | © Shelter

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