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COVID-19: ADVICE FOR TENANTS

As the spread of Covid-19 continues to cause uncertainty, we’ve gathered all the latest advice for tenants in one place.

This is a rapidly changing situation so we recommend you keep checking our update blog for tenants and landlords which is added to every day.

 

Here we address some of the most common questions facing tenants in these difficult times:

 

Can I request a rent holiday?

 

There are currently no government measures in place to support rent payment breaks for tenants. They have however suggested this will be kept under review.

 

Currently, if your income has been adversely affected by coronavirus, the recommended route is to speak to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain how your financial circumstances have changed and ask how they might be able to help you.

 

For instance, landlords can apply for a three-month mortgage holiday to ease the strain on their finances and therefore yours. 

 

Government guidance states that this will “alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result”.

 

Landlords could also reduce payments on a temporary basis, giving you some breathing space. Work with them to create a realistic payment plan and set a regular review date to ensure this is still manageable for you and adequate for them. Just be aware that they’ll need to recoup this money at a future date so your rent could increase once your income returns to normal.

 

Whatever approach you take, ensure you get any new agreements in writing and keep the lines of communication open. Landlords are likely to be more sympathetic if you’re honest about your situation. 

 

Can my landlord still evict me?

 

The government has announced emergency legislation aimed at reassuring tenants that “no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time”.

 

Originally, as of March 18th, this consisted of a blanket ban on starting any eviction proceedings for at least three months. This has now, as of March 24th, been amended to landlords just having to give three months’ notice rather than the existing two. This extension will currently remain in place until September 30th 2020.

 

Letting Agent Today says: “It’s unknown whether this was an error in drafting – the government is under extreme pressure currently – or an intentional change of mind.”

 

Our advice is to watch this space as legislation continues to evolve.

 

One thing is certain: illegal evictions remain a criminal offence and coronavirus doesn’t change this. So you cannot be forced to leave without notice or a court order, and cannot be locked out of your home, even temporarily.

 

If you’ve already had notice to leave by your landlord, the current advice is to stay in your home. The eviction process takes time and the law states that you can stay put until the end of your notice.

 

If your landlord has already applied to a court, it’s unclear at this stage if evictions will still go ahead. Some live cases have already been halted. Progress will depend on whether courts remain fully open, whether hearings can take place over the phone or by video, or if active proceedings are temporarily paused.

 

What should I do about repairs and inspections?

 

Landlords have the same responsibilities for maintenance, repairs and inspections during the outbreak as they normally do. Again, there is no new legislation here to adhere to. However, there must be understanding on both sides. 

 

If you’re self-isolating, inform your landlord in writing that you can’t receive any visitors and ask that any non-urgent repairs or inspections are delayed. If an urgent issue arises, such as a broken boiler or major leak, let them know and together you’ll need to make a judgment based on individual circumstances.

 

If your landlord does need to enter the property, regardless of whether you’re self-isolating or not, follow all guidance on social distancing such as washing hands and keeping apart by at least two metres.

 

The Residential Landlords’ Association has contacted both local and national government to ask that “a sensible approach is taken to enforcement at this time”. At MakeUrMove, we support a temporary delay on completing all non-urgent regulatory measures.

 

I need to find a new property. Can I still go to viewings?

 

Following government guidelines to remain at home as much as possible, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is advising against moving into a new property. 

 

And as of March 24th, high street letting agents have been asked to close in line with all other non-essential services. Online letting agents will still be operating so you will still be able to see what’s on the market.

 

If moving is absolutely unavoidable, viewing potential properties in person is not recommended. Instead, ask online agents if they can facilitate video walk-rounds and virtual viewings instead. 

 

And ensure you stick to all advice about the current lockdown, including not meeting more than one person at a time.

 

The government has said it will also be issuing guidance asking landlords to show compassion and allow affected tenants to remain in their homes wherever possible.

 

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “The government is clear: no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.

 

“These changes will protect all renters and private landlords, ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”

  

Keep up to date with all the latest tenant advice about Covid-19 at MakeUrMove’s daily blog.

   


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