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Housing rights advice during coronavirus pandemic

With everyone spending more time at home than usual, it's more important than ever that we feel safe and secure where we live — and know our rights and where to turn if something goes wrong.

Temporary measures have been put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak to help you feel more secure at home and to ease some of the financial worries for the time being. 

We've outlined some of these below. 


I rent my home – can I be evicted?

In England, most evictions are on hold due to the national lockdown. Although landlords can serve eviction notices and progress cases through the courts, bailiffs can only attend properties to carry out evictions in limited circumstances.

These include if you’re being evicted because of anti-social behaviour or rent arrears of at least six months. If you’re an assured shorthold tenant and your landlord is evicting you using the ‘no fault’ procedure – which starts with them serving a ‘section 21’ notice – you should be protected even if the underlying reason for the eviction is anti-social behaviour or substantial arrears. Most private tenants are assured shorthold tenants.

These rules last until 31 March 2021, with evictions expected to resume as normal from 14 April 2021.

The court should tell you how your case is affected, but it is important that you seek independent advice about your rights and whether eviction can be prevented. You should do this as a matter of urgency if you receive a notice or visit from bailiffs, or if your landlord tries to evict you themselves.

Lodgers and other special cases

The restrictions on bailiff eviction only apply if your landlord needs a court order to evict you. They don’t need a court order if you live in their home and share their kitchen, bathroom or living room, or if you live rent-free. This applies to people living with family or friends too.

Seek advice if you’re in this position and worried about your security.


I'm not sure I'll be able to pay my rent. What can I do?

You are still expected to pay rent during this time, although landlords have been encouraged by government not to serve notices for rent arrears. If you are struggling, government advice is to speak to your landlord as soon as possible and ask them to agree to some form of temporary relief.

This could be a rent reduction, a rent holiday, or an agreement to pay back arrears at a later date. Make sure you claim all benefits you are entitled to and speak to your local authority about whether there is any emergency money available.


I’m homeless/worried about being made homeless

If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness, contact your local authority as soon as possible. They have a duty to help you if:

  • they agree you are homeless or threatened, and
  • you are ‘eligible’ for help because of your nationality and immigration status.

In addition, English local authorities have been told to support people who are sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough, even if they would not normally be considered eligible.

A local authority should not refuse to help you because your case is not considered a priority. It can stop helping you after a certain period of time for this reason though. Seek advice if you are in this position.

One way to establish priority need is if you are vulnerable due to your health or age. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you have a strong case for being considered vulnerable and therefore in priority need if you are 70 or over, or in a clinically vulnerable group. 

For more information, see our Factsheet on Homelessness.


Can I have repairs or improvements made on my home?

In England, you should be able to get both essential and non-essential works carried out unless you're self-isolating.

If self-isolating, no work should be carried out in your home unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of your household. In such cases, prior arrangements to avoid any face-to-face contact should be made, for example when answering the door. Gas safety checks may be delayed until they can be safely carried out. You can find more information on the Gas Safe Register website.

The position for clinically extremely vulnerable people is unclear, with government guidance for landlords suggesting that routine work can go ahead whereas guidance for tradespeople suggests that the position is the same as for self-isolating households. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable and worried about letting a landlord or contractor into your home for non-essential works, show your landlord section 1.1 of the government’s guidance for in-home tradespeople.

Landlords have been advised that some tenants may want to exercise caution regardless of the legal position, and to respect this when engaging with them.

Tenants may face delays in getting non-essential works carried out, as some landlords have a backlog of repairs


Have there been any changes to mortgage repayments?

From March to October 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) allowed borrowers to request payment deferrals (‘mortgage holidays’) without the missed payments being treated as arrears or affecting credit scores.

This scheme has now been extended. You have until 31 March 2020 to request your first three-month payment deferral, or a second deferral if you’re still in difficulty after the first one ends. You will then have until 31 July 2020 to extend an existing deferral, up to a total of six months’ missed payments.

If you’ve not yet taken a deferral, and think you may need the full six months, you are advised to apply in good time before your February 2021 payment is due.

The FCA says payment deferrals provided under the scheme will not be reported as missed payments on your credit file. However, this does not mean that your ability to access credit in future will be unaffected – lenders can look at other information such as the number of payments made on a mortgage to infer whether payments have been deferred.

For more information, see the FCA website and Money Advice Service guide to payment holidays.


What if I can’t pay my energy bills?

Emergency measures have been agreed with the energy industry to protect those people most in need during the disruption caused by COVID-19.

These were implemented from 19 March 2020, with industry agreeing to prioritise those already in need, while identifying those whose circumstances may have changed. All UK domestic suppliers have signed up.

Measures include:

  • Customers with pre-payment meters who cannot add credit should speak to their supplier about options to maintain supply, e.g. nominating a third party for credit top-ups, having a discretionary fund added to their credit, or being sent a pre-loaded top-up card.
  • More broadly, any customer in financial distress should be supported by their supplier, which can include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary.
  • The disconnection of credit meters is completely suspended.

We have more information on how you can save money on your energy bills

 

We have more information on how you can save money on your energy bills here.

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Last updated: Feb 22 2021

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