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Guide to renting privately during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guide to renting privately during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Paying rent

For the most up to date Government guidance visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

 

Paying rent

The government’s guidance for landlords and tenants about paying rent during coronavirus (COVID-19) is:

Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. The government has a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.”

This means that regardless of your employment status or income, your rent remains legally due as per your agreement (tenancy or licence).

You and your landlord should work out an agreement that’s best for everyone. You may have seen a significant change in circumstances and may not be able to pay rent, or may only be able to pay part of your rent.

A landlord with a mortgage on the rental property may be eligible for a mortgage deferral or ‘holiday’ for three months from their mortgage provider. During this time, the landlord may agree to a rent deferral too. This is up to you and your landlord to negotiate and agree. If your rent is deferred, you’ll still need to pay it back.

If a rent freeze, reduction, or deferral is agreed, get the agreement in writing so that you can rely on it. You may want to set up a payment plan for any deferred payments, as these will still be lawfully due unless your landlord explicitly agrees otherwise in writing.

During a mortgage deferral, the outstanding mortgage balance still accrues interest so may increase the monthly minimum payment for your landlord.

If you’re finding it difficult to pay your rent or have money or debt problems, see the information on our Money advice page.

 

Moving house

In line with the government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or who has tested positive for the virus should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house or allowing viewings for the time being, if at all possible. 

Government guidance changed on 13 May 2020 and you are able to move home, as long as social distancing measures and guidance on face coverings are followed by landlords, agents, and new tenants. This includes conducting and attending viewings, check-ins, and check-outs. 

If you are permanently moving into new shared accommodation (shared house, HMO, student residence etc), this will become the place you are living for the purposes of the Covid-19 guidance.

People who live in shared accommodation should continue to follow the relevant rules and guidance on meeting people from outside of your household.

Read more government advice on moving house

You can also read guidance on what you can and can’t do during coronavirus (Covid-19). This includes guidance for removals firms, which are now able to operate.

Evictions

The government eviction ‘ban’ for residential tenancies and licences, has been extended until 20 September 2020. 

This means that a court cannot:

  • hear any possession claim
  • grant a possession order
  • instruct a bailiff to evict you in that time

New claims can still be issued. However the government are urging landlords to consider if this is necessary.  

For any possession claim issued in the court before 3 August 2020, a landlord or agent will need to give you and the court a ‘reactivation notice’ which will tell the court they still want to go ahead with their claim.

The claim will then be re-listed for a hearing and you’ll have the opportunity to defend yourself. You must attend any hearing the court asks you to. 

From 21 September 2020, the courts will progress a claim as normal. There will likely be a significant time delay in the courts processing claims for possession.

Once eviction hearings restart, the judiciary will carefully prioritise the most serious cases including those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse

The government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with six months’ notice in all cases except those with other serious issues such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse, until at least the end of March.

New six month notice periods are set to be in place until at least 31 March 2021

Some tenancy agreements also require the landlord to provide the notice on a prescribed form. If they don’t, the notice may be invalid and you may be able to stay in your home for longer, or until the landlord sends you the correct form. 

Section 21 Notices

A section 21 notice is the most common way for a landlord/agent to end an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). Most private renters have ASTs.

A section 21 notice must give you at least: 

  • Two months’ notice if given to you before 26 March 2020
  • Three months’ notice if given to you between 26 March 2020 to 28 August 2020
  • Six months’ notice if given to you on or after 29 August 2020

Section 8 Notices

You may also get a section 8 notice that has lots of ‘grounds’ that a landlord can evict someone on. 

The landlord/agent must have a legal reason to use a section 8 notice.

A section 8 notice must give you at least:

  • Two weeks, four weeks, or two months, depending on the grounds for the eviction, if given to you before 26 March 2020
  • Three months’ notice if given to you between 26 March 2020 to 28 August 2020
  • Six months’ notice if given to you on or after 29 August 2020

For section 8 notices that are served on you on or after 29 August 2020, a landlord can give less than six months’ notice for the following reasons:

  • anti-social behaviour (now four weeks’ notice)
  • domestic abuse (now two to four weeks’ notice)
  • false statement (now two to four weeks’ notice)
  • over six months’ accumulated rent arrears (now four weeks’ notice)
  • breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent’ (now three months’ notice)

These changes were made in a government announcement on 28 August 2020

Always seek advice if you get an eviction notice. 

As a general rule of thumb, the landlord or agent must:

  1. serve you with a valid notice
  2. then secure a possession order from the court
  3. and get a bailiff’s warrant to lawfully evict you

If your landlord tries to illegally evict you, or harasses you to make you leave your property, they may be committing a criminal offence. Call 0117 35 25010 to discuss with an officer in the Private Housing Team.

Read government guidance on eviction notices.

Living in a shared house

The government has produced multiple documents of guidance on what measures people should take when they share a home with others, including advice on cleaning in a non-healthcare setting and for social distancing.

If the landlord is moving a new person in to a shared house as their permanent residence, this will be the place that they are living for the purposes of coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.

Think about using a house rota where the new person is the last to use the kitchen, bathroom, and shared spaces. Those spaces should be cleaned afterwards.

No move should take place where a new person is either showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or has recently tested positive for the virus.

Where any member of a shared house starts to show symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), all members should follow government guidance on self-isolating.  

Repairs and emergency works

Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue provided that the tradesperson and the household are well and have no symptoms. Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a 2-meter distance from any household occupants, must be followed to ensure everyone’s safety

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs. The tradesperson has to be willing to do the work. In such cases, Public Health England can give advice to tradespeople and households.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Read more government guidance about carrying out work in people’s homes.

 

Licensing

Some properties may require a licence to be rented privately. This includes some Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and other properties in certain areas of Bristol.

A landlord cannot issue a valid ‘no fault’ eviction notice (s21 notice) if your property requires a licence but doesn’t have one (or has an approved exemption). Read our Types of property licence page for more detail and check the public register. This doesn’t affect the validity of a section 8 notice.

Lodgers and other excluded occupiers

You don’t have the additional protections of the Coronavirus Act 2020 if you’re a lodger or another ‘excluded occupier’ that is not protected under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This includes:

  • lodgers (shared accommodation with your landlord)
  • housing granted otherwise than for money (for example rent-free or providing a service)
  • temporary accommodation provided under s188 for homelessness applicants
  • residential tenancies under c1 (Part III) Immigration Act 2014
  • occupation in a hostel provided by the council, a housing trust that is a charity, or social landlord/registered provider of social housing
  • housing under s4 (Part IV) Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • staying for a holiday only (for example a hotel or Airbnb)
  • short-term stay in a hostel

You may not be entitled to six months’ notice, and are likely only eligible to be given ‘reasonable’ notice. The landlord will not need a court order to evict you. Reasonable notice is normally the same period of time you pay your rent. i.e. weekly or monthly. This means currently you can still be evicted legally after being given notice.

If you live with your landlord but don’t share living accommodation or are a service occupant (with your accommodation tied to your employment), you may be an occupier with basic protection and may only be able to be evicted with a court order. Call our office on 0117 35 25010 to speak to an officer, or contact Shelter, or Citizens’ Advice Bureau to discuss.

Bristol City Council contacts

To discuss any of the information in this guide or to report your landlord for harassing you to make you leave your property or illegally evicting you, call us on 0117 35 25010. You can also email private.housing@bristol.gov.uk

If you’re at risk of being made homeless, call our Homelessness Prevention Team on 0117 35 26800.

The information in this guide is not intended as an authoritative interpretation of the law. Only the courts can do that. The information doesn’t cover every case. For further guidance, you may want to seek legal guidance from a solicitor.