Housing advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)

National lockdown: what’s changed?

Councils must try to find you somewhere safe to stay if you're sleeping rough.

Evictions are now on hold until after 21 February 2021 except in limited circumstances.

Landlords are still responsible for repairs and safety checks. You can ask them to delay work if you're self isolating, shielding or if the repairs could wait.

You can still move home and view properties unless you're self isolating.

Last updated 08 January 2021

Information on this page

Eviction and being asked to leave

Most evictions are paused until after 21 February 2021

All section 21 evictions are on hold until after this date.

You can only be evicted by court bailiffs before then in very limited circumstances.

When can evictions still take place?

Evictions by bailiffs may still go ahead if:

  • you have at least 6 months' rent arrears

  • there has been antisocial behaviour

This can only happen if there has already been a court hearing.

Court hearings can go ahead but there's a backlog of cases. You will get a letter with the date if you have to go to court.

Bailiffs must give you 2 weeks' notice of an eviction date.

If you're a lodger living with a resident landlord, you could be evicted more easily without a court order once your notice period or agreement ends.

Get legal advice if you get letters about eviction from your landlord or the court

What if my landlord pressures me to leave?

You can and should stay in your home, especially if you have nowhere else to stay.

Don't be pressured into signing documents from the landlord that contain a date for you to leave.

Get legal advice before giving up your home voluntarily, even if eviction seems unavoidable.

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

Find out what you can do about illegal eviction.

Most tenants are entitled to 6 months' notice

Since 29 August all section 21 notices and most other eviction notices must give at least 6 months' notice.

But you could be given a shorter notice in some cases. For example, if:

  • you have more than 6 months' rent arrears

  • you're facing eviction for antisocial behaviour

Notices from before 29 August 2020 could still be valid depending on the notice type and when you were given it.

Check the notice rules if you're a:

How soon could I face eviction?

For most tenants there are 3 stages to eviction:

  1. notice

  2. court action

  3. eviction by bailiffs

Your landlord can only start court action after the notice period ends.

If you've not had notice yet, this probably won't be until the summer at the earliest.

The courts are still open but there's a backlog of cases and the legal process could take several months.

You could be at risk of eviction before the summer if either:

  • your landlord has already started court action

  • you get a shorter notice because of high rent arrears or antisocial behaviour

Always open letters or emails from the court.

When the court can stop an eviction

With a section 21 eviction, the court can usually only stop the process if there's a problem with the notice.

If your landlord needs to prove a legal reason for eviction, such as rent arrears, the court can sometimes let you stay in your home if you keep to certain conditions.

Find out when you can ask the court to stop or delay an eviction if you're a:

Rent, benefits and money problems

Mortgage payment holidays are extended until 31 March 2021

Lenders are extending the offer of payment holidays to people who are struggling to pay their mortgage because of coronavirus.

You can apply for a payment holiday unless you've already had 6 months' of payment deferrals since March.

Find out more about how to deal with mortgage arrears.

Only ask for a payment holiday if you really need one. Your mortgage payments will normally increase after the holiday ends.

If you can't afford your rent

Speak to your landlord about your situation. They could be sympathetic and might accept late rent or agree a rent reduction.

Use our template letter to help negotiate a rent reduction.

You should also:

  • check what benefits you can get

  • look at discretionary housing payments

Find out how to get help with rent.

You may qualify for a £500 single payment if you're losing income because NHS Test and Trace have told you to self isolate and you can't work from home.

Test and Trace Support Payments are made by local councils. Your council may have other emergency assistance on their website.

Find out how to apply for a Test and Trace Support Payment on GOV.UK

If you agreed a rent reduction and your landlord is asking for backdated rent

Check text messages, emails or letters to see what was agreed.

If it's not clear that your landlord agreed to write off the underpayments, you should try and agree an affordable repayment plan.

If rent arrears are building up

You should:

  • get debt advice

  • prioritise your rent payments

  • make a repayment agreement

Find out more about how to deal with rent arrears.

If you are a council or housing association tenant, your landlord should contact you when you fall into arrears and offer support to claim benefits or discretionary housing payments.

If you're renting privately, you should look for somewhere more affordable to stop the debt building up. But you have the right to live in your home without disturbance even if you owe rent.

If you stay

Your landlord can start the eviction process. The process could take several months. You don't have to leave straight away.

Your landlord can ask the court to order you to repay the arrears. If your landlord takes steps to enforce the order this can affect your credit rating.

Find out how to rent with a poor credit history.

If you leave

You should only leave if you have somewhere to go. For example, if you sign a tenancy agreement for a new home.

If you decide to move in with friends or family, check how long you can stay there before giving up your tenancy.

Once you've found somewhere else to live, contact your landlord to agree an end date to your tenancy or give notice that you're leaving.

Try and reach an agreement over any rent arrears, as your landlord could still take you or your guarantor to court if you owe them money.

Your landlord may be willing to compromise. For example, they may let you leave your tenancy early or write off some of your arrears.

If you move out without ending your tenancy legally, you could still be liable for rent after you leave.

Help from the council if you have rent arrears

Ask your council for help before giving up your tenancy.

The council should assess your financial situation and help you find somewhere else to live if your home has become unaffordable.

The council might provide a small grant or loan to pay off arrears if your landlord is willing to let you stay and you can afford the rent moving forward.

The council could decide you're intentionally homeless if you ask them for help after leaving a tenancy when you could have stayed there. This affects the help you get.

Finding a home

How can I find somewhere I can afford?

Search online to get an idea of rents in your area and what's available.

Private landlords usually ask for a deposit and at least 1 month's rent in advance.

Landlords might ask for a guarantor or extra rent in advance if you:

  • claim benefits or have a low income

  • owe rent at a previous address or have a poor credit history

Find out about upfront costs and checks if you're renting privately.

What if agents won't accept me because I'm on benefits?

No DSS policies and adverts are unlawful discrimination but you can still be asked to pass an affordability check.  

Find out how to show you can afford the rent.

Use our template letter to challenge DSS discrimination.

Should I sign a fixed term tenancy agreement?

Many private tenancies start with a fixed term agreement.

You can ask for a break clause to be included if you think you might want to leave early.

For example, if you're worried that your situation might change because of coronavirus or for other reasons.

A break clause lets you or the landlord bring the agreement to an early end.

How can I apply for a council or housing association home?

There's usually a waiting list for council and housing association properties in the area. 

Check your local council's policy on their website to find out:

  • who can apply

  • who gets priority

Find out how to apply to the housing register.

There's a housing shortage in most areas.

You're not guaranteed an offer, even if you're in a priority group.

Help if you become homeless

Can I get emergency housing if I need to leave my home?

The council must usually provide emergency housing if they think you have nowhere safe to stay and that you may be in priority need.

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 if you're at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions or your age.

Check who's at higher risk on the NHS website.

Find out more about who qualifies for emergency housing and how to apply.

What if the council won't help?

You may have to stay with friends or family in the short term.

The council must look into your situation and help you find somewhere to live, even if you don't qualify for emergency housing.

Sometimes councils get things wrong. For example, by refusing emergency housing when you're entitled to it or not helping in other ways.

Read our guide to find out more about:

  • how the council must help

  • what you can do if they get things wrong

If you're sofa surfing or running out of options, you could also search for hostels on Homeless Link.

What if I'm already on the streets or sleeping rough?

You can still contact the council even if they've not helped much in the past. You may be seen as vulnerable now, especially if you're over 55 or have underlying health conditions.

You could also contact Streetlink. They can pass your location and description to local outreach teams who may be able to help you access emergency housing or hostels.

What if I need to self isolate but I've nowhere to stay?

Call or email the council's homeless team if you've nowhere safe to self isolate and either:

  • you have symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus

  • you've been told to self isolate by NHS staff or a council officer

What if I'm at risk of domestic abuse or violence?

You count as homeless if you're at risk of abuse or violence, even if you have somewhere to stay.

The council must usually help with emergency and longer term housing if you have children with you, or you're in priority need.

Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 if you're a woman experiencing domestic abuse

Find other domestic abuse helplines and support services.

What happens next if I'm in emergency housing?

You can usually stay in emergency housing until the council decide if you qualify for longer term housing.

The council must write to you once they've made a decision. This can take up to 3 months but could be much quicker.

Find out more about next steps in emergency housing.

If an outreach team or charity has helped you into emergency housing since the outbreak, speak to them about what happens next.

Some people may get support to move in to longer term housing even if they don't qualify under the usual rules.

Restrictions, repairs and moving home

Can my landlord delay repairs?

Landlords have the same responsibilities for repairs during coronavirus but there may be delays in getting work done.

Government guidance says that unless you're self isolating the following can still take place in all areas:

  • any repairs including non urgent work

  • planned maintenance and inspections

Landlords and contractors must follow public health guidance about working safely in people's homes and social distancing.

Annual gas safety checks remain an important legal requirement. Gas Safe Register has more coronavirus guidance.

Can I refuse access if I'm worried?

Your landlord must give you notice of any visits. They shouldn't just turn up.

If you're self isolating, no one should come into your home unless it's to fix a serious problem that puts you at direct risk of harm.

Government guidance says that landlords should respect that some tenants will want to be cautious.

If you don't want people in your home, you could ask for any non urgent work to be postponed. For example, if:

  • minor repairs could wait

  • you're at higher risk from coronavirus

Find out more about access to your home and when you can refuse.

Can I move home?

You can move home during the national lockdown.

You shouldn’t get help to move from people outside your household or support bubble unless absolutely necessary.

You will have to delay a move if someone is self isolating in your home or at the property you're moving to.

Government guidance says everyone should be flexible and prepared to delay a move if needed.

Talk to your landlord if you've agreed a move out date or given notice but now need to delay.

What if I don't want viewings in my home?

You don't have to allow viewings if it's not mentioned in your tenancy agreement.

If your contract says you must allow viewings, discuss your concerns with the landlord or agent. For example, if you're at higher risk from coronavirus.

You could offer to show the property to new tenants through a virtual viewing on your phone. Or you could arrange to be out when a viewing takes place.

Government guidance says that tenants' safety should be the first priority. Viewings should only happen where you're leaving the tenancy voluntarily, or have already moved out.

Viewings must not take place if anyone in your home is self isolating.

Find out more about access for viewings at the end of your tenancy.

What if I need to end my tenancy early?

You might want to end your tenancy early if your circumstances have changed. For example, if you can no longer afford the rent and have somewhere else to go.

You'll normally need to either look for a break clause in your contract or come to an agreement with your landlord.

Use our guide to find out how to end a fixed term tenancy early.

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

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