If you have problems with renting, here’s what you need to know
13 January 2021
The COVID Pandemic has put a great deal of financial stress on millions of people across the UK, with many struggling to pay their rent. The Government has offered support to renters with the introduction of an eviction ban in March 2020 aimed at allowing people to stay even if their homes if they are unable to pay their rent. The suspension measure has now been extended to 21 February 2021 in England and Wales meaning that landlords are not able to legally enforce an eviction order until this time. It is estimated that around 300, 000 people could be at risk of losing their homes if they fall behind on their rent.
With the February deadline fast approaching, Simon Roberts, Senior Associate Solicitor, DAS Law, explains your rights if you can’t pay your rent.
I’m struggling to pay my rent and my landlord has threatened to evict me. What is the current legal position on evictions during the pandemic?
In March 2020, the government introduced legislation to suspend any new evictions from social or privately rented accommodation. This suspension on evictions has now been extended to 21 February 2021 which means that landlords will not be able to legally enforce an eviction order until this date.
Prior to issuing legal proceedings for eviction, particularly where rent arrears are concerned, your landlord does have a protocol that they should follow. This will include evidencing that they have taken steps to understand your financial position and work with you to try and resolve the rent arrears. This may include agreeing on a payment plan.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 also imposed a longer notice period for eviction notices served on tenants by the landlords seeking possession (namely Section 8 and Section 21 notices). The notice requirement was initially extended on 26 March 2020 requiring landlords to serve three months’ notice irrespective of whether a Section 8 or Section 21 notice was served.
This law in Wales was changed in July 2020, meaning that most notices served in Wales on or after 24 July have to be six months. This was in force until mid-September 2020 but has now been extended in line with England until 31 March 2021. If you do have any concerns around the enforcement of a possession order, we urge you to seek legal advice.
Can I challenge an eviction notice under the current legal guidelines?
This will largely depend on the eviction notice you have been given and whether your landlord has followed the correct procedure in issuing the notice. If they are relying on a Section 21 notice, a landlord doesn’t need to rely on a particular reason for trying to get possession. Therefore, these will be difficult to challenge. However, there are strict requirements that the landlord needs to comply with when issuing such a notice, and if these are not met, you may be able to challenge that the notice isn’t valid.
If a landlord has issued you with a Section 8 notice you may have more of a chance of challenging it as the landlord will be relying on a certain reason to seek eviction. There are certain grounds in which it will be mandatory for the court to award possession under a Section 8 notice if satisfied – e.g. if you are over six months in arrears. Nevertheless, there are some grounds where it is at the discretion of the court – e.g. if the landlord is complaining about the condition of the premises. The key point is that if you are looking to challenge an eviction notice, you should seek legal advice.
I’ve been out of work/on furlough/on significantly less salary since March 2020, how can I negotiate with my landlord?
As discussed above, your landlord does have a protocol that they should follow prior to serving an eviction notice or issuing proceedings. This will include evidencing that they have taken steps to understand your financial position and work with you to try and resolve the rent arrears. This may include agreeing on a payment plan.
If you cannot afford to pay your rent due to the Covid-19 outbreak, you should contact your landlord as soon as possible to try to negotiate a payment plan based on your financial position at the time. This could include a temporary rent reduction or a rent holiday. It may also be wise to inform your landlord of the steps that you are taking to address the issue.
Legally, you are still liable to pay the full amount of your rent. It is likely that the landlord will try to recover the shortfall by spreading the cost over future payments, unless an alternative agreement is reached. You should ensure that any agreement between you and your landlord is documented.
Can I still move home during lockdown?
If you cannot find a new home due to the lockdown restrictions, you may wish to contact your landlord to inform them you are unable to move and to negotiate a tenancy extension. If your fixed term tenancy is due to expire, this will automatically continue as a periodic, monthly rolling tenancy. Landlords and tenants need to work together and offer flexibility at such a time.
In England and Wales, you are able to move home providing that you can take appropriate measures to stay safe and comply with social distancing. During any move you should ensure that you are complying with public health guidance.
As well as following public health guidance, you should consider whether any adjustments can be put in place to make the viewing process safer, such as virtual viewings, ensuring the property is unoccupied during a viewing and ‘touch free’ viewings.
If the move is not essential then it should not take place until you are advised that it is safe to do so. The government have highlighted that people should be prepared to delay or pause moves where possible. This may become a measure that is implemented by the government depending on the situation of the virus in the coming weeks.
Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication, but laws may have since changed.
– ENDS –
FWD Consulting: 020 7623 2368
Notes to Editors:
DAS UK Group: www.das.co.uk
The DAS UK Group comprises an insurance company (DAS Legal Expenses Insurance Company Ltd), a law firm (DAS Law), and an after the event (ATE) legal expenses division.
DAS UK introduced legal expenses insurance (LEI) in 1975, protecting individuals and businesses against the unforeseen costs involved in a legal dispute. In 2018 it wrote more than seven million policies.
The company offers a range of insurance and assistance add-on products suitable for landlords, homeowners, motorists, groups and business owners, while it’s after the event legal expenses insurance division offers civil litigation, clinical negligence and personal injury products. In 2013, DAS also acquired its own law firm – DAS Law – enabling it to leverage the firm’s expertise to provide its customers with access to legal advice and representation.
DAS UK is part of the ERGO Group, one of Europe’s largest insurance groups (the majority shareholder in ERGO is Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers).
DAS UK Group Twitter: https://twitter.com/DASLegalUK
DAS UK Group Facebook: www.facebook.com/DASUKGroup/
DAS UK Group LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/das-legal-expenses-insurance/
DAS Law LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/das-law/