For Renters (updated 27.3.20)
There is an understandable amount of uncertainty for renters at the moment, in part caused by the current pandemic and, in part caused by the piecemeal and unclear information. We hope this page will be of some assistance. What follows is not legal advice, it is a directory of services and information. If you feel there is anything missing from this page, please tweet us at @gcnchambers and we will update the information as best we can.
The information below applies to tenants. If you are a lodger and facing eviction, your landlord still needs to follow the correct process to evict you. For anyone facing eviction, we recommend that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible. There is a basic helpful guide to tenants’ rights at www.shelter.org.uk . The law is different in the four nations of the UK so click on the link to each country.
General points that apply to all tenants
- As of Thursday 26 March 2020, landlords in England and Wales have to give tenants three months’ notice if they want to end the tenancy. After three months, if the tenant has not moved out, a landlord needs to apply to court in order to proceed. This will apply until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the three month notice period can be extended if needed.
- From Friday 27 March 2020, the courts in England and Wales will suspend all ongoing housing possession action. This means that cases cannot progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This will initially last for 90 days but can be extended. This will afford protection to all private and social tenants, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
- If you are in a vulnerable group such as the over 70s or a person who is offered a flu vaccine by the NHS you should not be attending court under any circumstances. If you are asked to attend court, you should inform your solicitor, or the court if you are unrepresented, and ask that the hearing is adjourned.
- Tenants Union UK are asking renters what support they need in order to coordinate their response to the pandemic and mobilise volunteers. They have a short form on their website which takes two minutes to complete and may help you to find essential support.
- Acorn the Union and Tenants Union UK have support networks and are calling for more volunteers during the Coronavirus pandemic. You can request support from Acorn here.
- Tenants Union UK, Greater Manchester Housing Action and Greater Manchester Law Centre hosted a Zoom meeting on Wednesday 25 March 2020 to answer questions from renters across Greater Manchester and discuss tenants’ rights during the Coronavirus pandemic. We hope there will be more of these events in the coming weeks and will post details as and when confirmed.
Help paying rent
- If you are not currently in receipt of benefits and are unable to work due to Coronavirus, you may be able to claim Universal Credit or Statutory Sick Pay. The amount you get may vary depending on the size of your household. More information is available on the DWP website.
- People receiving benefits do not have to attend Jobcentre appointments for three months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020.
- If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and at risk of financial hardship, you may be able to get help towards your rent using a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your Local Authority.
- The Government has announced assistance for self-employed people which, for some people, may include a cash grant of 80% of your profits, up to £2,500 per month.
- Keep an eye on the Money Saving Expert website for general financial advice during the pandemic.
For people renting accommodation from social landlords, including local authorities and housing associations, please check your landlord’s website or Twitter.
Some local authorities, for example Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, have promised not to evict anybody during the next couple of months and to give advice to anyone facing financial hardship.
Some housing associations, such as Sanctuary Housing ‘believe that no renters in private or social accommodation should need to be concerned about the threat of eviction during this difficult time’ and have agreed to establish affordable repayment plans with anybody who finds themselves in rent arrears.
Private rented sector
For people renting from a private landlord who are worried about not being able to pay their rent, landlords are now able to apply for a three month mortgage holiday, which may mean they are willing to negotiate a lesser rent or allow you a rent-free period. London Renters Union have a really useful template letter available on their website for you to send to your landlord.
If you are facing possession proceedings, we would always recommend that you seek legal advice. It is also worth noting that the Legal Action Group have re-published the eighth edition of Defending Possession Proceedings for free on their website. This is the essential text for anybody seeking to defend a residential possession claim and, although no substitute for legal advice, it is an invaluable asset for anybody giving legal advice or assistance.
There are concerns that landlords will try and get round any restrictions on eviction by unlawfully evicting their tenants e.g by changing the locks or by harassing tenants to leave. The civil courts can grant an injunction to stop a landlord doing this or to force the landlord to let you back into your home. No private landlord can obtain possession without a court order unless they share living accommodation with you ( living rooms etc). There are also only very limited circumstances when a social landlord can do so. If this happens to you take urgent advice and report it to your local authority’s tenancy relations team. Unlawful eviction is a criminal offence and your landlord may go to prison for up to two years.