London Renters Union advises struggling tenants amid COVID-19 uncertainty

Covid Rent Crisis in the rental housing market

During this COVID-19 outbreak, many people across the nation and indeed across the world are beginning to worry about how they are going to afford the cost of living and paying their mortgage or rent. Uncertainty is rife and even more so if you fit into the ‘self-employed’ sector with limited income.

However, the London Renters Union (LRU) has released a letter that can be used as a template by tenants to send to their landlords if they are struggling to make payments. The government has banned all evictions for a three-month ‘grace period’ with no new possession proceedings. This letter can then be used if you wish to make your landlord aware of your current situation.

Danny Hayward from the LRU said: “We have absolutely tons of members who are losing work right now, either because they are sick or just because their contracts have been cancelled and workplaces are shut.”

Many people do have to rely on the goodwill of landlords and accept that this is a challenging time for all. A helpful letter explaining your situation can go a long way towards making your landlord understand your own personal situation, which will vary from case to case.

The template letter is included here and can be adjusted to suit your own circumstances accordingly:

 

Dear X

We hope you’re keeping well in these really strange and fast-changing circumstances! We’re watching developments about COVID-19 very closely and are, as you might imagine, really concerned. We work in ________ and live paycheck to paycheck each month. We’re going to be earning much less over the coming months. We rarely have more than one month’s rent available at any one moment.

[add more details about your situation – make it as personal as you feel comfortable to]

For these reasons, we kindly request a suspension of payments until the situation improves.

Many renters across the country are in a similar situation. As you might have heard, the government has announced a three month mortgage holiday for all landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. The government and the National Residential Landlords Association are asking landlords to show compassion.

We hope, for ourselves and for everyone’s sake, that life becomes more stable as soon as possible. Until then, it seems all we can do is be pragmatic, avoid panic, and support each other as best we can. We hope you can consider this. Do let us know if speaking on the phone would be helpful.

Looking forward to hearing your response.

Best wishes from us all.

The letter above may go some way towards alleviating the stress affecting tenants. Over a fifth of all households in the UK live in privately rented accommodation and many families will see their incomes hit, with time being taken off due to business closures, illness or other caring responsibilities. Many renters in the UK are on assured shorthold tenancy agreements which tend to offer less protection than tenants in some other European countries. So, what exactly are a tenant’s rights currently?

As part of the ‘norm’, assured shorthold tenants can usually be evicted at short notice. If you fall eight weeks behind with your rent a Section 8 eviction notice can be served and then, according to Citizens Advice, you have two weeks from that time to vacate. A Section 21, which is a different type of notice, can be served without giving a reason. The tenant usually has two months to leave the property but the notice period can be longer at the landlord’s discretion.

However, during our national state of emergency, reassuringly for some, a landlord cannot start these proceedings until the crisis is at an end. The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, said: “The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.”

It is important to remember, however, that rent will still be due when things return to normal, and any outstanding rent will have to be paid. Landlords may be willing to make arrangements with tenants to pay off in smaller amounts, etc, but they are under no obligation to do so.

The Director of Policy and External Affairs at Crisis, said: “I would stress that any repayment plan must be affordable for tenants with a workable solution for both renters and landlords alike. If someone loses their job because of outbreak and has no income coming in, they cannot be faced with intolerable levels of debt once these emergency measures are lifted.”

It is clear that both tenants and landlords will be concerned about the current situation. Both parties need to communicate well to come to a solution that can meet both their financial needs and what will suit one, may not suit another. If in any doubt, consult the gov.uk website for updates as they arise.

Back to March 2020 Newsletter

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