The Scottish and Welsh governments have announced new support measures for tenants, as the bans on eviction proceedings come to an end.
Both countries have launched hardship funds for tenants struggling to pay their rent, and Scottish landlords have pledged to only take eviction action as ‘a last resort’.
Here, Which? outlines the latest news on eviction bans and tenant support around the UK.
Eviction bans around the UK
Last year, the UK nations moved to offer tenants greater protection from eviction in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.
These protections involved pausing evictions from being enforced by bailiffs in the rented sector.
The eviction ban in England came to an end on 31 May, with the Welsh ban following suit on 30 June.
The eviction ban in Scotland has been extended until at least March next year, but it only applies to areas subject to level three or four restrictions.
How much notice do landlords have to give?
Governments across the UK have extended the amount of notice landlords must give their tenants before commencing eviction proceedings.
- England: landlords commencing eviction proceedings are required to give four months’ notice of eviction except ‘in the most serious of cases’, such as instances of domestic abuse or anti-social behaviour.
- Scotland: the eviction ban will run until at least 31 March 2022 for areas under level three or level four restrictions. Landlords commencing eviction proceedings must give six months’ notice in most cases. They can give three months’ notice if they or their family intend to move in to the property or they have their licence revoked, or 28 days’ notice if the tenant has engaged in criminal behaviour or has already moved out.
- Wales: landlords starting eviction proceedings must give six months’ notice except in cases of anti-social behaviour or domestic violence.
- Northern Ireland: there is no ban on eviction enforcement in Northern Ireland, but Landlords must give tenants 12 weeks’ notice before starting eviction proceedings until 30 September.
New support options for tenants during Covid-19
In the last few days, the Scottish and Welsh governments have both launched new support measures for tenants in rent arrears.
The Scottish government has launched a £10m pound fund designed for tenants facing financial difficulties due to Covid-19.
In addition, Scottish councils, housing associations and landlord groups have signed a joint pledge to only evict tenants as a last resort.
The Scottish Association of Landlords has urged landlords and letting agents to offer flexible, longer-term repayment plans to tenants struggling to pay their rent.
The Welsh government has also introduced a new tenant hardship grant for people who have failed to pay rent during the pandemic.
The £10m fund will be available for people who’ve fallen at least eight weeks behind on their rent since the start of the pandemic.
It is designed for people who’ve gone into rent arrears due to a loss of income, such as those who’ve been furloughed, seen a reduction in their work or have only been able to claim statutory sick pay when ill with Covid-19.
Existing measures for tenants around the UK
These new rules stand alongside existing measures already in place around the UK.
In England, the government has made £180m available to councils to provide discretionary housing payments to tenants struggling to pay their rent. Check with your council to see if you’re eligible.
Tenant rights during Covid-19
Your right to live in a safe property is unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Your landlord is still responsible for conducting essential maintenance and dealing with urgent issues (for example if the boiler breaks down).
If your tenancy agreement is coming to an end and you’re concerned about moving during the pandemic, speak to your landlord about your options.
Some landlords may be willing to discuss a month-by-month agreement given the current circumstances.
Buy-to-let landlord advice during Covid-19
Landlord responsibilities are unaffected by Covid-19, so any essential repairs must still be conducted, and planned gas and electrical safety inspections should be arranged wherever possible.
If for some reason landlords can’t have essential work carried out (for example if the tenant is self-isolating), you should document their attempts to do so in case the council requests evidence.
Landlords can now carry out viewings and let out homes, but must adhere to the government’s guidelines. These including social distancing and wearing a face covering.
If a current tenant is isolating or has Covid-19 symptoms, viewings will not be permitted.
This story was originally published in March 2020, but has since been updated. The last update was on 30 June 2021 with news of new measures for tenants in Scotland and Wales.