The Government has limited any eviction in social or private accommodation while the coronavirus crisis is taking place.
From 26 March 2020, landlords will have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession. This means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After three months if the tenant has not moved a landlord needs to apply to court in order to proceed. From 27 March 2020, the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.
Our advice, at the moment, is:
– Try to keep all evidence of your communication with your landlord. Whenever possible, try to communicate with your landlord through mail or text.
– Rent should not be your top priority now, but food and medicines. Ignore any messages from your landlord asking you to pay rent in advance for April or May. Only pay your rent if you can afford it.
– If you do not pay your rent, consider getting in touch with your fellow tenants. You could write a letter together demanding that rent payments are ceased for the duration of the crisis. The more people that don’t pay, the greater the safety of each tenant, this is called a rent strike.
– If you have to agree on repayment plan, negotiate a sensible agreement. Try to negotiate an agreement according to your situation during the crisis. For example, if your income has drop to just 25% of your average income, try to negotiate a rent of just 25% of your average rent for all the period.
Advice for students leaving their accommodations
We are advising all students leaving their accommodation due to universities closing, to ask their agencies and landlords to terminate their tenancies. Currently, the government has only protected tenants from eviction and is advicing landlords to be flexible regarding rent payments, but has not provided any specific legal support for students moving back to their family home due to the crisis.
However, we understand that there is still grounds to terminate tenancies due to the virus. The government’s current social distancing measures encourage everyone to avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces. For example pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together. Specifically, they are asking people to avoid gatherings with friends, which is impossible when living in student accommodation which often include shared kitchens and bathrooms.
Furthermore, some tenancies include an emergency clause to terminate the agreement. This clause explains that in certain circumstances the property could be considered uninhabitable or unfit to live and therefore the agreement could be terminated. This can be especially useful for those people who are vulnerable, for example those suffering from asthma or diabetes, who can no longer live in this kind of accommodation, and may require care from family members.
It is also worth noting that some landlords, have already allowed their students to terminate their contracts, such as the University of Liverpool. The world of student letting is highly competitive, and trying to profit off of the current crisis could be seen to reflect very badly on the reputation of many agencies.
This is our advice:
1. Contact your agency or landlord as soon as possible to explain to them that you have to terminate your tenancy. If possible mention any health conditions or losses to your income due to the virus.
2. Unless there is any particularity in your case (such as a health condition), get in contact with your flatmates and other tenants to raise concerns, and act, together. It is harder to ignore or punish a collective response.
3. Try to avoid any repayment plans or deposit deductions, as the property is vacated and they can make any use of it.
4. If you do not initially get a positive response, stop paying your rent installments. As previously noted evictions are no longer permissible by the Government due to the corona. As long as you have not paid this rent, you can still negotiate if necessary, or have your tenancy cancelled.
If you would like any further support, either as guidance or to take further actions than those outlined above, then please get in touch.