Housing Information

Coronavirus Update: Government Support for Landlords & Renters Reflecting Coronavirus Outbreak

 

The government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). With these in force, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home.

From 26 March 2020 landlords will have to give all renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the three month notice period can be extended if needed.

From 27 March 2020 following a decision by the Master of the Rolls with the Lord Chancellor’s agreement 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. 

Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual.

Any tenants experiencing finacial hardship in regards to rent payments can seek advice here: https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/money_problems_and_energy_costs/where_to_get_help_with_debts 


UPDATE - March 20, 2020

We are receiving a number of enquiries about off-campus accommodation during the current pandemic.

 

The main source of inquiry is students contacting us to ask if they can;

  1. Leave accommodation early as the university is closed.
  2. If they can withhold the next installment of rent as they intend to leave to return home.

We have spoken to our housing consultants about this and the advice is as follows

 

Under current housing law:

 

  1. If you have signed a fixed-term contract, unfortunately, you are obliged to see the contract out until the release date on your contract. The only way out of this would be
    1. If there is a break clause in your contract that allows you to leave the contract early (99% of student contracts do not have a break clause, but do check your contracts)
    2. If you do leave the property unattended, you need to inform the landlord in writing.
    3. There is an option to find a replacement tenant to take over the tenancy, but that is unlikely to be practicable during these times, unfortunately
    4. The university does not have jurisdiction over private landlord agreements so the landlords are not obliged by law to release tenants because the university is closed.
    5. You can write to your landlord to request a surrender of the tenancy, but this is at the discretion of the landlord.
  2. Again, under current legislation, if you have signed a fixed-term agreement, tenants are obliged to pay rent until the fixed term ends. (if you withhold the rent the landlord would be able to instigate court action to recover the outstanding rent from you or the guarantor).

 

We are hearing that the government may be introducing a new bill that may address some of these issues, but at present neither we or our housing consultants have any further information about this.

 

In the meantime, you might want to also seek advice from Shelter about your dilemma.

 

Shelter are far more experienced and qualified to advise on housing law that ourselves.

 

You can contact them via their website here: https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help

 

Alternatively you can seek advice here:  https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice

 

They also have information about the current situation which includes advice about ;

  • Rent
  • Moving out
  • Evictions

We advise you to check their website regularly for updates.

 


 

Tenants Fee’s Act 2019

 

From 1 June 2019, the only payments that landlords or letting agents can charge to tenants in relation to new contracts are:

  • rent
  • a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than 5 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or 6 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
  • a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than 1 week’s rent
  • payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
  • payments capped at £50 (or reasonably incurred costs, if higher) for the variation, assignment or novation of a tenancy
  • payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV license and Council Tax
  • a default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement.

Pretty much everything else is prohibited!

 

Unfortunately, there is still confusion about “Retainers”. (* A landlord or Letting agent will often ask students to pay half rent for a period before they move in. So for example, if you sign a 52-week contract from June 2020 to June 2021 but you are not expecting to move into the property until September 2020, they may charge you half rent from June 2020 up until your moving in date of September 2020. Although not referred to in the list above, we are being told that this is allowed. What we would be looking to challenge is where a student can show us a contract that specifies that the tenancy is a 44-week contract from September 2020 to June 20121, but a retainer is being charged pre September).

 

 

You can find more information about the Tenants fee's Act here

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/tenant-fees-act