In addition to the efforts made by the government to help homeowners during the current health crisis, a new package of measures aiming to help tenants has also been announced. If you find yourself struggling to pay rent in the next few months, you can take advantage of the available options described below.
Can I be evicted if I can’t pay rent?
The government has put a temporary ban on all new eviction cases in England and Wales. For a period of three months, your landlord cannot apply for a court order to evict you if you find you stop paying rent. This applies to private tenants, social housing tenants, and official lodgers.
For landlords who have applied to the courts before the 27th March, cases will be delayed until after the 90-day period is over.
If you haven’t arranged to put a hold on your rent payments with your landlord in advance, you could still face eviction after three months if you can’t make your monthly payment. It is recommended to consult a specialist for advice on evictions if you find yourself in this situation. There’s lots of information for people who rent on Shelter’s website.
Can I arrange to stop paying my rent for a while?
Under the government’s latest set of measures, landlords with buy-to-let mortgages can apply for a three-month mortgage holiday. This provides them a temporary respite from monthly mortgage payments and can indirectly benefit their tenants as well. As of now, there is no legal requirement for landlords to do this.
People who can’t afford to pay rent due to the coronavirus pandemic are advised to speak to their landlord directly and work out an agreement. If you’ve lost your job or your income is reduced due to the nationwide lockdown, you may discuss arrangement to a temporary rent reduction or extension.
If your landlord doesn’t want to be flexible with your rent payments, try to pay as much as you can afford. If you need financial help, you can apply for Universal Credit, which has been increased from April.
How do I arrange a rent freeze?
People renting through a private landlord or through an agency can work directly with them to find a solution. The decision on the acceptable measures will be the landlord or the agency’s but neither of them can evict you immediately. Try and negotiate a rent extension or smaller instalments for the period of the lockdown, if possible.
Tips for negotiating with your landlord:
• Explain your new financial situation clearly and without emotion
• Present any evidence of how your income has changed
• Keep records of all your discussions and get any agreements in writing
• See if there’s another solution they are willing to offer. For example, you could ask if they are willing to let you pay your rent in instalments over the course of a month or move the due date of your rent.
• Familiarise yourself with the government’s emergency mortgage policies so you know what your landlord is entitled to
• Seek expert advice if your landlord refuses to come to a mutual agreement
What happens afterwards?
The outcome of the situation depends on the agreement you reach with your landlord or agency. The measures introduced by the government encourage landlords and tenants to work together to come to a mutually beneficial solution for the rent repayment plan.
Do I still have to pay council tax?
At the moment, tenants are still required to pay their council tax. In the event that you are struggling financially, you are advised to get in touch with your local council. Local authorities have received additional funding to help vulnerable people in the community.
You could be eligible for a reduction or granted a repayment plan. If you already receive council tax support, you may qualify for extra help.
Enter your postcode here to find the local council you need to get in touch with.
Can I get help with my energy bills?
As people spend more time indoors due to the nationwide quarantine, energy bills will naturally go up as well. Thus energy providers have also rolled out different schemes to help households that are struggling with their utility bills.
There are different options available to tenants and homeowners, including reduction in premiums, a payment break or a review of your payment plans. You may also be eligible to access hardship funds.
Ofgem, the UK regulators for the energy industry, confirmed a suspension of disconnecting energy meters during the outbreak. Visit Ofgem’s official site for more information on the energy plans and schedules during the coronavirus pandemic here.
Any missed payments without a prior agreeing with your provider could negatively affect your credit score.
What is Universal Credit and can I use it to cover my rent?
There are several measures available to tenants if they need assistance under the new government scheme. As a tenant, you are entitled to protection against eviction but any other help on offer varies from person to person.
Even though you can’t be evicted for three months, timely payment of your rent during this time will give you the assurance that you can continue living in your home after the lockdown ends. If you aren’t entitled to other benefits, you can apply for Universal Credit to cover your rent. Universal Credit is a monthly payment from the government for people on low income or out of work.
From April, the standard monthly allowance for Universal Credit will be raised to £409 if you’re over 25. You can see if you meet the requirements to apply online here. After approval, it takes five weeks to receive the first payment and you are not required to visit a job centre. It is recommended to apply for Universal Credit sooner due to the long backlog of pending applications. Be prepared for long waiting times if you call as the number of applicants has increased since the outbreak of coronavirus.
Before you apply for Universal Credit, see what other benefits you may be eligible for with this useful calculator.