Housing advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)

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This page is checked regularly. 

Last update 14 August 2020

Eviction and being asked to leave

Most tenants can't be evicted at the moment

Evictions are paused during the coronavirus outbreak.

From 24 August 2020 the courts start to deal with evictions again.

Before this date:

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

How long will an eviction take?

The eviction process takes time.

Your landlord must give you a 3 month notice and then apply to court.

The courts and bailiffs have a backlog of cases and will write to you about your case.

You may be able to ask the court to stop the eviction, especially if you rent from the council or a housing association.

The court can't usually stop an eviction if you rent privately and your landlord follows the correct legal process. The court can stop an eviction if your landlord gives you an invalid notice.

Find out more about the eviction process if you're a:

What if the bailiffs were due before the coronavirus outbreak?

You may be closer to an eviction date being set if your landlord got a possession order or the bailiffs were due before the outbreak.

Court bailiffs start operating again from 24 August.

They must send you a notice 2 weeks before you're due to be evicted.

You may be able to ask the court to stop the eviction.

Get urgent legal advice on your situation if you haven't done so already.

What if my landlord pressures me to leave?

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

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.

What if my landlord gives me notice to leave?

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

You don't have to leave when the notice ends. Your tenancy continues if you stay in your home.

Your landlord must apply to court if they still want you to leave. 

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.

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.

Housing benefit

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.

Dealing with 'no DSS' policies

You can complain if a letting agent won't allow you to view or rent a property because you get universal credit or housing benefit

Use our template letter to make your complaint.

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.

Find out other reasons you could be vulnerable and in priority need.

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.

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 or you have symptoms.

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.

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 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 any non urgent repairs if you have concerns. For example, if you’ve been shielding.

If you live in an area where a local lockdown means you are still advised to shield, no one should visit your home unless a serious problem puts you at risk.

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.

Mortgage payment problems

Repossessions are still on hold

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said that mortgage lenders must not start or continue court action for repossession until at least 31 October 2020.

Although the courts will start to deal with evictions again from 24 August, lenders aren't allowed to go to court for a repossession order or ask bailiffs to evict you.

If your lender applied to court before the coronavirus outbreak your case should still be on hold.

Contact your lender if you've received a letter from the court with a date for a hearing. They should apply to have it adjourned until after October.

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 14 August 2020 | © Shelter

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