Rights of renters and landlords during coronavirus

This is a challenging and uncertain time for Londoners living in the private rented sector. The Mayor is working to ensure that renters, especially those who are vulnerable and on low-incomes, get the support they need and deserve from the Government, to see them through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Government has announced a package of emergency measures in response to the pandemic. This includes policies to support private renters to stay safe in their homes and pay their rent in the event of financial hardship, as well as to help landlords facing difficulties paying their mortgage.

Beyond this, the Mayor is calling on the Government to prevent landlords from serving eviction notices and to ensure the welfare benefits system covers any shortfall in rental payments of private tenants unable to pay them due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

These measures as summarised below, only apply to renters who have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) and some who have licences. They exclude lodgers, holiday-lets, hostel accommodation and accommodation for asylum seekers - but you can still seek advice from Shelter, other advice agencies and your local council. 

If you are a lodger, you can still get help to pay your rent – you can read more in the section on Support to help pay your rent.

You do not need to leave your home

The Government has extended the period of notice that a landlord must give you if they want you to leave your home to a minimum of three months, effective from 26 March 2020. They have also prevented all new and existing property possession hearings proceeding through the courts for three months, effective from 27 March 2020.

This means that, at the current time, your landlord cannot evict you from your property. If you receive a notice that your landlord wants you to leave the property, you do not need to. If your landlord tries to forcibly evict you, this is against the law and you should seek help from the police, your local council or an advice organisation such as Shelter or Citizen’s Advice.

Support to help pay your rent

It is important that you continue paying rent to your landlord as normal if you are able to do so. If you are facing difficulties paying your rent, you should talk to your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible as they may be able to help you by establishing an affordable repayment plan.

Those with low or no incomes are often entitled to help with covering their rent through the benefits system. In particular, Universal Credit includes an allowance for help with housing costs. You can find more information about Universal Credit, including information on how to apply on the UK government website.

If you are worried about rent arrears, being evicted or if you are having problems claiming benefits to help you cover your rent, you can contact an advice agency that helps people with housing problems. These organisations include Shelter, Citizens’ Advice and local law centres.

You can also contact your local council for information on reducing your council tax liability and other sources of support.

Rent increases and your rights

You may find yourself in a situation where your landlord wants to increase the rent you pay for your home. Landlords can only do this in specific situations, or if you agree to the proposed increase. You may be able to refuse or challenge a rent increase depending on how your landlord tries to increase it. You can find more information on Shelter's website. 

It is important to know that a landlord cannot force you out of your home if you do not agree to a rent increase. The measures described in the ‘You do not need to leave your home’ section mean that, at the current time, your landlord cannot evict you from your property. It may be helpful to share this page with your landlord.

If your landlord tries to forcibly evict you because you don’t agree to a rent increase, this is against the law and you should seek help from the police, your local council or an advice organisation such as Shelter or Citizen’s Advice.

Landlords must still maintain your home

Renters should let their landlord or letting agent know early if there is a problem with their home so that appropriate action can be taken. More information about property access, dealing with repairs, and other issues to do with houses in multiple occupation, can be found in the Government’s COVID-19 guidance for landlords and tenants.

If there are serious hazards in your home that a landlord has failed to fix, contact your local council. They will be able to support you and take action against your landlord.

Renters can continue to check a landlord or letting agent through the Mayor’s Rogue Landlord Checker and report bad practice from landlords or letting agents by completing a form to report a rogue private landlord or letting agent. Your report must relate to a rental property within London.

Still unsure or need further help?

If you are worried, there are advice agencies who can help. If you are unsure what kind of tenancy you have and whether you will be protected by the suspension of notice periods and court proceedings, or need any other help, you should seek independent advice.

Shelter’s housing advice line and Citizens Advice may be able to help. You can also contact your local law centre.

If you are facing homelessness, or have been made homeless, then you should contact your local council’s homelessness team.

You can find your local council’s homelessness team via the UK government website.

Important information for landlords

The Government has introduced a three-month mortgage payment holiday for landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus (COVID-19). It is good practice to maintain dialogue with your tenant during this period and to inform them if you have been given a mortgage payment holiday.

The Government have also emphasised that if a tenant or renter on a licence to occupy is having difficulty paying the rent, landlords should take all necessary steps to help them stay safe in their home, by establishing an affordable repayment plan, taking into account the tenants’ individual circumstances.

As a landlord you are still responsible for urgent and essential repairs and maintenance in line with legal and contractual obligations. If a tenant is self-isolating due to coronavirus (COVID-19), it is good practice to document this and any attempts made to gain access to the property.

More guidance for landlords, including HMO landlords, can be found on the Government’s website and in their COVID-19 guidance for landlords and tenants, as well as from the National Residential Landlords Association.

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