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What does coronavirus mean for rent payments?

What does coronavirus mean for rent payments?

By: Kate Anderson | April 9, 2020

 As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many of us are worried about its financial impact. When faced with a possible loss of income, one of the biggest concerns could be making monthly payments like rent. 

This is a tough time. If you are struggling with your rent payments as a result of coronavirus, we’re here to let you know about the options available to help take the financial pressure off. Let’s break them down.

Potential landlord–tenant agreed rent payment schemes

The main advice from the government and Citizens Advice is that if you are unable to pay your rent, talk to your landlord straight away to see if it is possible to work out a rent payment scheme. Your landlord might agree to give you more time to pay, or agree to reduce your rent payments for a period of time.

It is worth being aware that landlords with a buy-to-let mortgage are eligible to apply for a mortgage payment holiday under the new guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority. The idea is that landlords will then be able to pass this relief on to their tenants. Your landlord may, therefore, agree to a temporary change in your rent payments while the coronavirus situation continues. However, this is not guaranteed.

If your landlord is not willing to set up a rent payment scheme, the guidance from Citizens Advice is to pay as much as you can afford and keep a record of what you have discussed. Also contact Citizens Advice, as an adviser could help explain the situation to your landlord.

Extended notice periods

The government has extend the notice period that landlords are required to give tenants when they are seeking possession. This has been done to protect renters during this difficult time. 

Under the new guidelines, landlords need to give all renters in England and Wales three months’ notice if they want to end a tenancy. Essentially, this means that landlords will need to observe a three-month period before starting eviction proceedings.

As none of us really know how long this pandemic could continue, this three-month period could yet be extended.

For renters in Scotland, the government has announced a notice period of six months instead of three.

Housing possessions suspended

From 27 March 2020, all eviction processes have been suspended by the government for 90 days. So, if your landlord had already given notice to evict you, you won’t have to leave your home just yet.  

Once again, this suspension period could be extended if needed.

Increased benefits

Both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit have been increased. Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area. So if you are finding it hard to make your rent payments – even if your income has reduced, but you are still working – it may be a good idea to explore whether you are entitled to benefits.

You can check whether you are eligible for any benefits by using benefits calculators from sites such as Turn2us, Policy in Practice and entitledto. These are independent, free to use and anonymous. They will let you know what benefits you could get and how to claim.