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Protection for tenants

This content applies to England & Wales

This page explains what emergency measures are in place to protect tenants during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.  


Extension of notices in the relevant period

In the relevant period between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 (inclusive of), the minimum notice period has been extended to a at least three months for the following types of tenancies:

The relevant notice forms have also been amended.[8]

The protection applies only to tenants in the groups above and only if a notice was served in the relevant period. It does not apply if a notice was served before 26 March 2020.

Para 1.5 of the government guidance for landlords and tenants confirms that the extended notice period applies to shared owners where the shared owner has one of the tenancy types above (most likely, assured). For information about mortgage difficulties, see the Mortgage payment problems page.

Who is not covered?

Tenants whose tenancy types are not listed above, occupiers with basic protection, including service occupiers and excluded occupiers, do not have the right to an extended notice period. However, where a possession order and/or a warrant is required, any court action is likely to be suspended (see 'Suspending all possession proceedings' below).

The relevant period

Currently, the relevant period is defined as between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2020. The legislation allows for further extensions.[9]

Extending the notice period beyond three months

The legislation allows for the notice period to be extended to 6 months by way of secondary regulation. However, this extension would not apply to notices already validly served.[10]

For more information about notice requirements specific to each tenancy type, see the Notices section.

Suspending all possession proceedings

From 27 March 2020, all possession proceedings have been stayed for 90 days.[11] This includes applications to enforce an order by a warrant or a writ.

If a landlord applied for possession before 27 March 2020, the case will be put on hold, regardless of what stage it is at. No new possession claims will be processed. The 90 days’ stay period may be subject to further extensions.

The stay protects all tenants and contractual licensees with basic protection, but does not apply to excluded occupiers, including lodgers and those in interim accommodation awaiting a decision on their homeless application, because they are excluded from the right to a court order.

The stay does not apply to:

  • claims for injunctions (injunctive relief)[12]
  • claims against trespassers to which rule 55.6 CPR applies
  • applications for interim possession orders (IPO) against squatters
  • applications for case management directions where the parties are in agreement.

For more information about how possession proceedings are affected, see the page Court and tribunal hearings. Further information is also available on Gov.uk.

See the section Harassment and illegal eviction for information about options when a landlord attempts to evict the occupier without following the correct legal process.

Repairs and safety

Landlords' obligations
During the coronavirus pandemic, the landlords’ statutory repairing obligations remain unchanged, however delays in carrying out the work required may be inevitable. Among other things, the government's non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants advises that:

  • landlords should only access the tenant's property if the issues are 'serious and urgent' and if this is the case, tenants should take additional precautions, such as remaining in separate rooms during the landlord's visit
  • where reasonable, tenants should allow landlords, contractors and local authorities to access their home in order to inspect or remedy urgent health and safety issues
  • nobody can be removed from their home because of the virus
  • landlords are not responsible for providing alternative accommodation for tenants if others in the property contract the virus
  • occupiers living in shared accommodation should follow the Public Health England guidance on social-distancing

The government’s guidance for trades people advises that work carried out in people’s homes can continue, provided that the person carrying out the work is well and has no symptoms of Covid-19. Workers should adhere to the official guidance, including keeping a two metres distance from any occupiers.

In line with the Public Health England guidance on social-distancing, it may be reasonable to request that any non-emergency inspection or repairs are postponed, especially if the tenant is self-isolating, as the guidance on self-isolation specifically advises against having guests. For advice on social distancing in Wales, visit gov.wales.

Local authority enforcement and inspections
The local authorities' powers and duties in relation to enforcement of housing standards remain unchanged during the coronavirus pandemic. The non-statutory guidance for local authorities advises that:

  • local authorities should update their enforcement policies and should seek legal advice if they think they may not be able to comply with their legal duties
  • where in-person inspection is not possible, for example because the tenant is self-isolating, the authority may consider relying on photographs, video or live broadcasting
  • if the living conditions are extremely hazardous, alternative accommodation might be considered as an alternative to emergency remedial action
  • non-urgent or not legally required enforcement may be delayed until the restrictions on public movement are lifted

Gas safety
The Gas Safe Register (GSR) guidance currently states that GSR inspections will only take place in high risk scenarios.

Ministerial letter to social housing tenants
On 18 May 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and the Local Government published a ministerial letter to tenants in the social housing sector which summarises the recent changes and safety measures, including those impacting on maintenance, repairs and gas safety checks. 

Moving home

On 13 May 2020, the government revised its guidance on moving homes to reflect the current position that people can move home if they wish to do so, however certain procedures are to be implemented in order to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus. Private landlords and letting agents are advised not to conduct viewings where tenants are:

  • symptomatic
  • self-isolating
  • clinically extremely vulnerable and shielding.

Where viewings can go ahead, safety precautions include:

  • not holding open house viewings
  • limiting any physical viewings to members of one household at a time 
  • limiting the number of persons to those for whom it is absolutely necessary to attend
  • bringing hand sanitiser to viewings  
  • when viewing a property, avoiding touching surfaces, including handles
  • keeping internal door open during a viewing and disinfecting surfaces after each viewing  
  • vacating the property for the duration of the viewing
  • practising social distancing.

The guidance advises against undertaking activities associated with moving home if a person has COVID-19 or is in self-isolation. Those in vulnerable groups who wish to move should carefully assess their position and consider seeking medical advice before deciding whether to proceed. 

When preparing properties for new tenants, landlords should consider steps such as cleaning that would minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus. 

The government had published guidance on obtaining Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) during the pandemic. The requirement to produce an EPC still applies and where a landlord fails to comply, it could invalidate a section 21 notice.


Moving home in the social housing sector
The updated non-statutory guidance for social landlords advises that when facilitating allocations and transfers, it may be necessary to adjust working practices in line with the government's advice on social distancing. 

The guidance also advises that:

  • tenants who are anxious about moving or are unable to move should not be put under undue pressure to do so
  • before proceeding with the move, landlords should discuss tenants' health, vulnerability and arrangements for moving 
  • landlords should avoid moving tenants who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or a are self-isolating, subject to exceptions, usually on safety grounds. If a tenant who is shielding because they have been notified they are in the clinically extremely vulnerable group has to move, the landlord should seek advice from the local Public Health team.

A ministerial letter dated 18 May 2020 highlights the importance of social housing tenants familiarising themselves with the current guidance on moving homes before proceeding with the move.

Right to rent checks

The Home Office has published guidance for private landlords on conducting right to rent checks during the coronavirus pandemic. Landlords are not required to see original documents and are advised to accept scanned copies or photographs of the original documents sent via email or a mobile app and arrange to check the prospective tenant's identity via a video call. The guidance also provides information on retrospective checks once the COVID-19 emergency measures end.

Mobile home sites, hotels and B&Bs

The government guidance for accommodation providers states that businesses providing holiday accommodation, including hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites, caravan parks, boarding houses and short term lets should stay open where:

  • they are part of the response to support key workers or vulnerable groups
  • there is a specific need for some or all of the site to remain open (for example they are housing people who have been flooded out of their homes, being used by public services to provide emergency accommodation or are not able to return to their primary residence)
  • they are providing rooms to support homeless people, through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies
  • it is a holiday park or caravan park and is someone’s primary residence.

The guidance clarifies that where a business is allowed to remain open in the circumstances listed above, it will continue to be able to serve food, but will have to follow the social distancing guidelines.

The ministerial letter to caravan park owners dated 27 March 2020 clarifies that:

  • the sites should remain open to those living there who would otherwise have nowhere to live and to key workers or vulnerable groups, including homeless households, where accommodation is provided through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies
  • where people living on the site are self-isolating and are experiencing problems with food supply, site owners should contact the local authority
  • if closing a site has resulted in someone being made homeless, the decision to close should be reversed immediately
  • site owners are expected to cooperate with local authorities to provide accommodation to key workers and those who are homeless because of the pandemic

For information about the rights of mobile home owners and renters, visit the Mobile homes section.

For information about the provision of accommodation for homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic, visit the Homelessness page in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and housing section.

People in need of care and support

Local authorities have been given powers to temporarily suspend a number of duties under the Care Act 2014, including duties to carry out and review care and support plans, and meet eligible care needs.[13] However, these duties must still be carried out if a failure to do so would result in a breach of human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Department of Health & Social Care has published guidance that advises, among other things, that local authorities would still be expected to respond as soon as possible to requests for care and support, so that they do not infringe on the individual's human rights, and that the purpose of the temporary easements is to ensure the best possible care for people during the pandemic, therefore they should be implemented only where it is necessary to do so.

The government has issued guidance aimed at local authorities and those who fund their care via direct payments. The guidance emphasises the need for contingency plans where care assistants are unable to provide care and for considering requests to pay close family members to provide care if deemed necessary.

For general information about Care Act 2014 and housing, including information on how to challenge decisions and (lack of) provision of services under the Care Act 2014, visit the section People in need of care and support.

[1] s.21(1) Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 7(a) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Schedule to Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms)(England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by para 12(2) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; ss.21(4),(4E) Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 7(b)-(c) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Schedule to Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms)(England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by para 12(2) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[2] s.8 Housing Act 1988, as amended by para 6 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Form No.3 Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/620, as amended by paras 11-12(1) Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[3] ss.83 and 83ZA Housing Act 1985, as amended by paras 3 and 4, Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; Part 1-2 Secure Tenancies (Notices) Regulations 1987 SI 1987/755 as amended by para 10 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[4] s. 107D Housing Act 1985, as amended by para 5, Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[5] s.128 Housing Act 1996, as amended by para 8 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[6] s.143F Housing Act 1996, as amended by para 9 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[7] s.5(1) Protection from Eviction Act 1977, as amended by para 2(1)(-2) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; ss. 4A-4F Rent Act 1977, as inserted by para 2(3) Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020; para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[8] see paras 10-12 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[9] para 1 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[10] para 13 Sch 29 Coronavirus Act 2020.

[11] Practice Direction 51Z, 27 March 2020, as amended by the 120th Practice Direction, 20 April 2020; Arkin v Marshall [2020] EWCA Civ 620.

[12] University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust v MB [2020] EWHC 882 (QB).

[13] s.15 and Part 1 of Schedule 12 Coronavirus Act 2020; reg 2 Coronavirus Act 2020 (Commencement No. 2) Regulations 2020 SI 2020/388.

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