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Guide to renting privately during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guide to renting privately during coronavirus (COVID-19)

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 for a period of time.

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.

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

The government withdrew the guidance for moving homes during the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2021. This means there are currently no restrictions on moving in or out of privately rented accommodation.    

With a local rise of the COVID-19 Omicron variant likely over the winter months, you should follow the government guidance to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Evictions

There are currently no restrictions on evictions. Landlords can serve a relevant eviction notice, and apply for a court order for possession. 

The current government guidance states that: “We encourage landlords and tenants to resolve disputes without going to court wherever possible. For example, if tenants are in rent arrears, they could agree to a repayment plan with their landlord.” 

As a general rule, a landlord or agent must: 

  1. Serve you with a valid notice.
  2. Secure a possession order from the court.
  3. Get a bailiff’s warrant to lawfully evict you.

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.

The section 21 notice should be on Form 6A for all tenancies that started or were renewed on or after 1 October 2015. Notices given on or after the 1 October 2021 must be on the new style form.

A section 21 notice must give you at least:  

  • two months’ notice if given to you on or after 1 October 2021 
  • three months’ notice if given to you between 1 June 20221 and 30 September 2021 
  • six months’ notice if given to you between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021

If you received your notice in early 2021 it will likely have expired unless your landlord has started court action. Your landlord will need to give you a new notice if they still want you to leave.   

You are entitled to remain in your home past the date on your section 21 notice. The landlord must apply for a court order that tells you to leave.  

You can find more advice on the Section 21 eviction process on Shelter’s website

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 or agent must have a legal reason to use a section 8 notice. 

A section 8 notice must give you at least two weeks’ notice before the landlord can apply to court, depending on the ground.  

Your landlord cannot evict you unless the notice is valid and they can prove the ground for possession in court.  

You can find more advice on eviction after a section 8 notice on Shelter’s website.

Always seek advice if you get an eviction notice.  

If your landlord tries to illegally evict you, or harasses you to make you leave your property, report them and get help on our harassment and unlawful eviction page.

Read the government guidance on eviction notices.

Updated: 17 December 2021

Living in a shared house

Living in close proximity to other people in a shared house brings its own challenges, especially where there are conflicting lifestyles, routines, or expectations. Where possible, you should try to communicate as a household and agree a way to live together in the house.

Try to keep the property well ventilated by opening windows or doors, and try to meet friends or family outdoors if possible.  

See the government guidance on staying safe during COVID-19 and for general principles of cleaning in a non-healthcare setting.

You may wish to set up a cleaning rota or routine in your house.  

The government recommends that you get vaccinated and get your booster dose, if you're eligible.

With a local rise of the COVID-19 Omicron variant likely over the winter months, you should follow the government guidance to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Consideration should be given to other members of the shared house to prevent the spread of the virus.

Repairs and emergency works

Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, should be done inline with the government working safely guidance.

Landlords should continue to provide a minimum of 24 hours’ written notice before they attend a property, and should get permission from the tenant before they enter.  

There may be cases where a tenant who is not self-isolating persistently refuses to allow access to the property. In these cases, if appropriate, landlords are able to gain access to their properties through the courts.

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 any more than '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 is determined on a case by case basis.

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

You can report your landlord for harassing you, or to report an illegal eviction.

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.