Coronavirus Eviction Extension Explained: A Guide for Tenants and Landlords
This guide explains the housing rights for tenants and landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you cannot afford to make rent or mortgage payments because your financial circumstances have changed, find out the temporary housing support the government has put in place for tenants and landlords.
Coronavirus support for tenants
The government announced plans to protect renters affected by COVID-19 on 26 March 2020, just a few days after the first ‘lockdown’ period began. The full government guidance, which specifies that renters of social and private accommodation cannot be forced out of their home, can be found on Gov.uk.
But read on for the key points that will help you plan your next steps.
Can I be evicted from my home?
Because of the continuing lockdown restrictions, the ban on evictions has been extended. No new eviction notices can be served until 31 May 2021 so bailiffs can’t evict you, except in the most serious and extreme cases.
Tenants can still be given notice by their landlords to leave during this period.
However, until 31 May 2021, landlords need to give tenants at least six months’ notice if they want the tenant to leave. On 12 May 2021 it was announced that the notice period will be four months until 30 September, with the usual notice period of two months applying from 1 October 2021.
Again, this notice period may be shorter for more serious circumstances.
Exceptions to the ban on evictions and the extended notice period include cases of anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation and serious rent arrears of six months or more.
In cases where a tenant has at least four months of unpaid rent, the notice period will be set at two months from 1 August 2021.
These rules apply to England. The notice period is set at six months in Scotland until 30 September 2021. In Wales there is a ban on evictions until 30 June 2021 and from 30 September 2020 onwards, most tenants will be entitled to a six month notice period before landlords can take eviction action. Different rules apply in Northern Ireland, and include a minimum 12-week notice period until 30 September 2021. You can find out more about the rules in Northern Ireland here.
The extended tenant protection applies to most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales and covers all grounds of evictions, including possession of tenancies in the Rent Act of 1977, The Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988.
The courts suspended all ongoing housing possessions from the end of March, but this came to an end on 20 September 2020. Landlords can now reactivate and make claims for possession through the courts.
When evictions can resume, bailiffs need to give at least 14 days notice before the date of eviction.
Tenants in rented accommodation are still responsible for paying their rent on time, and should pay this as under normal circumstances, unless they are facing financial hardships and are struggling to pay.
Support is available for any tenant unable to pay their rent; however, they are recommended to discuss their circumstances with their landlord in the first instance.
The government has said it encourages tenants and landlords to collaborate in order to agree a new rent payment scheme that works for both parties.
Additional measures are being put in place that could help renters to pay their rent on time:
- The government is planning to extend the pre-action protocol to the private rented sector to assist landlords and tenants in agreeing repayment in the case of arrears.
- A £500 million Hardship Fund has been made available to local authorities to help households facing financial strain.
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, launched by the Chancellor, pays up to 80% of a worker’s wages, up to £2,500 per calendar month (this will come to an end in September 2021).
- Universal Credit and Housing Benefit increased from April 2020, with Local Housing Allowance rates paying for at least 30% of market rents in each area. The £20 uplift in Universal Credit will continue until the end of September 2021.
I’m worried about being made homeless. What should I do?
If a tenant is made homeless during the coronavirus pandemic or threatened with homelessness by their landlord, they should contact their local authority as soon as possible. If they agree that a tenant is legally homeless or threatened with homelessness and they are eligible for assistance they have a duty of care to help.
Local authorities have also been instructed to help people who are sleeping on the streets or at risk of it, despite them not normally being considered eligible for assistance.
A local authority should provide assistance during the pandemic even if you are not a priority case, although their help could be more limited or even withdrawn for this reason. Priority is based on vulnerability, which can apply to health, age and various other factors.
Those over 70, or in a clinically vulnerable group, have a stronger case for being considered vulnerable and in priority need for help. We recently wrote about the true cost of homelessness in our country.
For more information on how to get help if you face being made homeless visit crisis.org.
How can I save money and budget during coronavirus?
One option to help you prioritise your available cash is to review your outgoings and see what you can defer or negotiate on.
It is still possible to apply for a payment holiday on certain credit facilities, including credit cards, personal loans, store cards, car finance, and buy now pay later. The FCA confirmed that the end date for requesting payment holidays would be 31 March 2021 and all holidays should finish by 31 July 2021.
If you can’t get a payment holiday but are struggling to repay loans or other payments, you should contact the company as soon as possible to try to come to a compromise. The FCA encourages firms to be fair with customers who are in financial difficulty, so you may be able to arrange reduced interest or fees, a new payment plan or some other form of support.
To apply for help, contact the provider to discuss your options.
If you have taken the maximum six-month payment holiday but will still struggle to make payments, you should contact the provider to come up with an alternative solution.
Coronavirus savings tips
We’ve put together a guide to help save money during the coronavirus pandemic. Learn our top five tips to be in a solid financial position when the situation improves.
Budgeting can also help money management during times of financial stress. We’ve written about some of the best budgeting apps to help people manage their money during these unusual times.
Coronavirus support for landlords
Finally, let’s look at things from the other side of the fence. As mentioned, landlords have to give tenants at least six months’ notice for evictions (instead of the usual two months given by Section 21 eviction notices) until 31 May 2021.
The government encourages landlords to avoid serving eviction notices to tenants where possible. Instead, they advise landlords to work together with tenants to resolve any issues outside of court, whether that’s agreeing on a reduced payment plan or some other course of action.
From 21 September 2020, courts began hearing possession cases again, starting with the most serious and prioritising those issued before March 2020. If landlords do want to continue with court action, there are some new requirements they may have to meet.
If you brought your claim to court before 3 August 2020, you will have to send the court and the tenant a reactivation notice before 30 April 2021. Also, in their possession claim, landlords will have to include anything they know about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their tenant.
Can landlords sell their property during the pandemic?
Landlords who might be experiencing financial struggles during the virus, could sell one of their portfolio of properties. Whatever the reason landlords are looking to sell, they might not know if it’s possible during the current crisis.
The housing market is open so you can put your property on the market, although you would have to consider new restrictions regarding viewings for example, including any social distancing measures.
If you have tenants in the property, you won't be able to evict them in order to sell (because of the regulations detailed above). Another option could be to sell your property with tenants still living in the property.
How can landlords access the mortgage payment holiday?
Landlords can apply for a coronavirus mortgage payment holiday until 31 March 2021 by contacting their provider. During this time they won’t have to make any payments to their lender.
Landlords are eligible to apply for a payment holiday when they are up to date with their mortgage payments, which could help them financially if their tenants can’t pay rent due to financial troubles caused by COVID-19.
Lenders have announced that applying for a mortgage holiday should not affect the borrower’s credit rating. When the mortgage holiday is over, the landlord will make up the missed payments in future months as agreed with the lender, often by spreading the amount over the remaining term of the mortgage.
Read our guide on how to apply for a coronavirus mortgage holiday payment for more information.
Lenders could resume repossession proceedings against landlords from 31 October 2020, although they shouldn’t enforce repossessions before 1 April 2021.
If you can’t, or don’t want to, take a mortgage payment holiday but still need help with your payments, your lender may be able to offer tailored support including making reduced payments or even agreeing a new freeze on payments. These options may affect your credit score, so lenders should make it clear what their potential impact could be.
Should landlords remortgage during COVID-19?
If landlords are struggling to pay their mortgage they can also consider remortgaging to make monthly payments more manageable. Note that if you extend the term of the mortgage to reduce the monthly repayments, it will very likely cost you more overall in the long term.
Compare remortgage options and buy-to-let mortgages
If as a landlord you’re considering remortgage deals and buy-to-let mortgages, take your time to research the market.
These are strange times and at moments of uncertainty it’s especially important to know what your options are. By using a comparison tool you can view a wide range of mortgages to help you understand your options as we move out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more