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31 Oct 2020

Coronavirus and renting: what do the latest rules mean for my rights as a tenant?

Government suspends evictions in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas and over Christmas

The tenant eviction ban ended in September, but landlords must now provide longer notice periods before starting eviction proceedings.

The latest moves also include a suspension of enforcement action in areas where the coronavirus threat level is at its highest, and blocking evictions over Christmas.

Here, Which? explains how the latest rules affect your rights as a tenant during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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What are the latest COVID-19 eviction rules?

Last week, the government confirmed that tenants living in areas under Tier 2 and Tier 3 COVID-19 restrictions in England and Wales will be temporarily protected from eviction.

Enforcement action will also be paused over Christmas. Bailiffs have agreed not to carry out evictions in England and Wales between 11 December and 11 January, except in 'the most serious circumstances', such as cases involving antisocial behaviour or domestic abuse.

Update (2 November):The government has not yet confirmed how the upcoming month-long lockdown in England from 5 November will affect eviction proceedings. We'll update this article as soon as the new rules are announced.

Can I be evicted during COVID-19?

During the lockdown, landlords weren't allowed to start proceedings against tenants, but since 21 September, courts have once again been allowed to hear eviction cases.

My landlord started proceedings before the eviction ban

The courts are currently working their way through the backlog, and are prioritising eviction cases involving anti-social behaviour, crime and extreme rental arrears.

Any eviction cases raised by landlords before 3 August will need to be 'reactivated' by the landlord and will be subject to a review hearing before going ahead.

My landlord wants to start eviction proceedings now

Landlords must now give six months' notice to tenants before starting eviction proceedings, apart from in the most extreme circumstances.

These include where tenants are proven to have demonstrated anti-social behaviour, committed fraud or if they are more than six months in arrears with their rent payments.

The six-month minimum notice period was introduced by the government in September and will remain in place until at least 31 March next year.

How do the rules vary around the UK?

The above rules apply in England and Wales.

In Scotland, landlords must give tenants six months' notice in most circumstances. If the landlord or their family wants to move in or the landlord has had their registration revoked, the notice period is three months. If the tenant has a criminal conviction, has engaged in antisocial behaviour or has moved out, only 28 days' notice is required.

In Northern Ireland, private landlords must give 12 weeks' notice to evict tenants, and have been encouraged to not issue eviction notices unless it is 'absolutely unavoidable'.

What happens if I can't pay my rent?

If you're struggling to pay your rent, it's best to contact your landlord in the first instance, as they may be willing to reach an agreement to temporarily suspend or reduce your payments.

In March, the government announced that landlords could benefit from mortgage payment breaks if their tenants were struggling to pay rent. In light of the upcoming lockdown in England, this policy has now been extended, meaning mortgage holders can now apply for a payment holiday of up to six months.

The government says it has made £500m available to help households experiencing financial hardship in England, as well as £180m for councils to provide discretionary housing payments to tenants struggling with rent payments in private and social housing. You can contact your local council to see if you're eligible for support.

Tenants in Wales may be able to apply for Tenant Saver Loans offered by credit unions, and renters with low incomes in Scotland may be able to claim Local Housing Allowance.

tenancy agreement

Can my landlord do maintenance tasks during COVID-19?

If something goes wrong with your rented property, you should report the issue to your landlord or managing agent as soon as possible, and repairs should go ahead as normal.

If your landlord or their tradesperson needs to visit the property, they must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

If you or a fellow tenant is self-isolating, you should only admit people to your home if the issue presents a 'direct risk' to your safety.

Can I move home during COVID-19?

Yes. You're currently allowed to move home regardless of which of the three tiers your local area has been placed in, but you must follow social distancing guidelines.

Slightly stricter rules are in force in Wales, which is currently under a 'firebreak' lockdown until Monday 9 November.

During this period, you're only allowed to move home if you can't reasonably delay the move until after the lockdown.

In-person property viewings are banned during the Welsh lockdown, but virtual viewings are permitted.

Our advice on COVID-19

Experts from across Which? have been compiling the advice you need to stay safe, and to make sure you're not left out of pocket.