With a fifth of the UK's population living in private rented accommodation, and every penny counting during the Covid-19 outbreak, there are a lot of questions around rent relaxation and what - if any - protection is available. Here's what the Government guidance says.**
The Government says that renters will be protected from eviction if they are struggling financially because of the Covid-19 outbreak, stating that they are "encouraging tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme". In short, the message is, if you are struggling to pay rent during the outbreak you should speak to your landlord as soon as possible to let them know your situation and work out a repayment plan.
Are Landlords Helping Their Tenants With Payment Plans?
Having scouted various sources of information, it appears that while some landlords are getting in touch with their tenants to tell them they can work out new repayment arrangements if the Covid-19 outbreak causes them financial hardship, others are not offering anything at all.
The advice put forward by the Government is to speak with your landlord as soon as possible to see if they are willing to offer you any support with your rent payments.
Can Landlords Evict Tenants Who Don't Pay Rent On Time During The Outbreak?
The Government's guidance now states the following regarding evictions:
Landlords in England and Wales must give 3 months' notice before starting eviction proceedings (although this doesn't include evictions already taking place before the outbreak began).
In Scotland, the Government's legislation will prevent private and social tenants being evicted for up to 6 months. They will do this by increasing the amount of notice a landlord must give before taking any further steps.
There is no update on what measures Northern Ireland has/will put in place.
Therefore, in England, Wales and Scotland, tenants are advised to work with their landlords to put in place an equitable repayment plan tailored to the tenants unique financial situation.
Are There Any Differences In The Policy's Use For Social & Private Renters?
The Government has stated that the existing rules for social landlords dealing with non payment of rent will be extended to include private landlords. The Government was quoted as saying this is to "support engagement" between landlords and tenants to help them solve disputes.
This guidance essentially asks landlords to be compassionate and allow tenants to stay living in their homes (wherever possible), with some associations representing local governments and housing associations stating in no uncertain terms that no social renter should be evicted due to hardship resulting from the Covid-19 outbreak.
What Financial Support Can Landlords Use To Help Their Tenants?
While there is not any official rental payment holiday legislation in force, private landlords themselves are eligible for a 3-month buy-to-let mortgage payment holiday if their tenants are experiencing financial difficulties.
Landlords are under no obligation to pass these savings on to tenants, but the general feeling is that they should, so the advice once more is to speak to your landlord if you need help.
What Other Financial Support Could I Request?
If you are really struggling financially, please check that you are receiving all the financial help you are entitled to during the outbreak - this may even include claiming universal credit.
The Government already announced on Friday 20 March that it had put in place an increase to the housing allowance part of universal credit to ensure local housing allowance can cover 30% (maybe more) of the lowest rents in your area.
Contact Us For More Information
If you have any questions about rental protection, universal credit, mortgage holidays or any other financial support available during the Covid-19 outbreak, please call our Covid-19 Small Business Support Team on 01442 953871 (8:30am - 5:30pm, Monday-Thursday. 9am - 5pm, Friday). Or, take a look at our Covid-19 Small Business Support information hub.