Housing advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Last update 23 October 2020

Eviction and being asked to leave

From 21 September, the courts start to deal with evictions again

The eviction ban has ended but you're unlikely to lose your home immediately.

The legal process could take several months.

For most tenants there are 3 stages:

  1. notice
  2. court action
  3. eviction by bailiffs

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 on your situation. An adviser can explain where you are in the process and help with the next steps.

From 29 August, most tenants are entitled to 6 months' notice

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

  • 4 weeks' notice if you have rent arrears of more than 6 months
  • little or no notice if 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:

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 sign any documents from the landlord which contain a date for you to leave by. 

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.

How soon could I face eviction?

Your landlord can only start court action once your notice period ends.

If you've not had notice yet, this probably won't be until spring 2021 at the earliest.

But you could be at risk of eviction before spring 2021 if either:

  • you got a valid notice before 29 August
  • your landlord started court action before or during the eviction ban
  • you get a shorter notice because of high rent arrears or antisocial behaviour  

Always open letters and emails from the court. They will tell you:

  • important dates and deadlines
  • how to get free legal help from the court duty scheme

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.

You should return your defence form and attend the hearing if there is one. 

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

Bailiffs can now carry out evictions again in some areas

You should get at least 2 weeks' notice of the eviction date from the bailiffs.

The eviction should be delayed if you live in an area with tier 2 or 3 lockdown restrictions.

Get urgent legal advice on your situation.

Rent, benefits and money problems

This advice is for renters. If you are struggling to pay your mortgage find out how to deal with mortgage arrears.

If you can’t afford your rent

You should:

  • check what benefits you are entitled to 
  • look at discretionary housing payments
  • get help with bills and council tax
  • see if there are any grants you can claim
  • get help with food and essentials if you need it

Find out how to get help with rent.

If you’re losing income because you’re self isolating contact your council to ask about the Test and Trace Support Payment. Councils can issue payments of £500 if you are eligible.

Talk to your landlord

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

Use our template letter tool to help negotiate a rent reduction.

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

Check what was agreed. It helps if you have something written down that shows you agreed not to pay back your rent. Text messages and emails count.

Keep trying to negotiate with your landlord. If this doesn’t work, get advice.

If you have rent arrears that are building up

Double check you're getting all the help with rent that you can.

You should:

  • look at debt advice options
  • prioritise your rent payments
  • make a repayment plan

Find out more about how to deal with rent arrears.

If your rent arrears continue to increase you may think about finding somewhere else to live.

If you stay

Your landlord can start the eviction process. You don’t have to leave straight away. 

They can ask the court to make an order for you to repay the arrears. If they take 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 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 to 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.  

Our page for private renters claiming benefits includes:

  • advice on showing you can afford the rent
  • a template letter to help you 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 to 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 out about 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

What if my landlord wants to send someone to do repairs?

You can allow your landlord or a contractor to carry out repairs and inspections in your home unless either:

  • you're self isolating
  • you live in a tier 2 or 3 lockdown area

In these situations, no one should come into your home unless it's to fix a serious problem that puts you at direct risk of harm.

In tier 1 areas, you can ask your landlord to postpone any non urgent repairs if you have concerns. For example, if a health condition puts you at higher risk from coronavirus.

Your landlord must give you notice of any repairs or inspections. Anyone carrying out work in your home must follow social distancing and hygiene rules.

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

What if I'm moving home?

You can move home in all areas, even where tier 2 or 3 lockdown restrictions are in place.

You will have to delay a move if someone is self isolating: 

  • in your home
  • at the property you're moving to

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

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

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, or in a tier 2 or 3 lockdown area.   

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 tenant safety should be the first priority if your landlord wants access for viewings. 

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

Last updated 23 October 2020 | © Shelter

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