Coronavirus rent crisis

Many of us are struggling to pay rent or face eviction because of the pandemic. The government is prioritising the interests of landlords over the rest of us.

Renters across the city are getting organised and are standing up to landlords and preventing evictions. We’re pressuring the government to introduce greater protections for renters including a permanent ban on evictions.

On this page you can find:

  • A form to download a template letter you can send to your landlord to ask for a rent reduction during the pandemic – more than 60,000 people have already downloaded it.
  • Links to download basic renters rights information in 19 languages
  • A detailed Q&A about our rights as renters during the pandemic.

It is only by joining forces that renters can win the housing system we need. Join the LRU today.

If you’d like details of meetings where renters are getting together to support each other with housing issues, please visit our member solidarity page.

Download our template letter

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My landlord says I have to leave my home. What should I do?

Tell them no. Contact the London Renters Union. Do not leave just because your landlord says you have to! To evict you legally, your landlord must follow the proper process and give you proper notice period, which at the moment is usually 6 months. Renters across our city are supporting each other so we can resist eviction and stay in our homes.

You do not have to leave your home until a bailiff comes to evict you.  Your landlord has to give you the proper notice (normally a Section 21 or Section 8 notice). There’s normally a 6 month notice period. When the notice period expires, your landlord can request a possession order from a court and ask a bailiff to carry out an eviction. This could take many months due to a backlog of cases in the courts.

You can stay in your home until your landlord gets a possession order and requests a bailiff eviction.

Your landlord has received thousands of pounds of rent from you just because they can afford to rent out a property. It’s your right to make them go to court to get a possession order and it wins you more time.

The government has said that most bailiff evictions cannot be carried out until after February 21.

Unfortunately, the government has introduced a cruel new loophole to eviction rules. Previously, you couldn’t be evicted by a bailiff unless you were in more than 9 months arrears AND those arrears were from before the pandemic. Under new rules, you can be evicted by a bailiff for 6 months worth of rent debt. And that now INCLUDES debt that you have gotten in due to Covid. If you are facing rent debt or evictions, please do get in touch.

How much notice does a landlord have to give me to leave my home? 

To evict you legally, the landlord must follow the proper process and give you proper notice. Until at least March 2021, you are entitled to 6 months notice with a Section 21 notice and 6 months notice on a Section 8 if you have less than 6 months worth of arrears. If you have more than 6 months arrears you should get just 4 weeks notice.  At the end of this notice period, your landlord must go to court to apply for a possession order but there’s a huge backlog of cases so this is likely to take many months. You do not have to leave until your landlord has gone to court and until a bailiff removes you.

My landlord is threatening me or trying to illegally evict me – what can I do?

It is a criminal offence for a landlord to evict you without following the proper process. Illegal eviction includes:

  • Threatens or harrasses you to make you leave
  • Changes the locks while you’re out
  • Turn off the gas or electricity to make you leave
  • Physically throws you out of your home

Unfortunately, more and more landlords are threatening their tenants and carrying out illegal evictions. Together we can stand up to landlord harassment and illegal eviction.

If your landlord tells you to leave – say no, if it feels safe to do so. Inform them that you are a tenant and therefore have legal rights – you will not leave until a court bailiff orders you to.

If you think your landlord might be trying to illegally evict you, collect as much evidence of their behaviour. This could include taking screenshots of emails or texts, recording videos and taking photos of your landlord’s actions. This will help you to get compensation.

We have found that when the police are called during an illegal eviction they often side with the landlord or state that it’s a ‘civil matter’ and refuse to act. Illegal eviction is a criminal act, under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Bailiffs are not being sent out during lockdown, so the only evictions taking place will be illegal ones.

I’m being evicted. How can the London Renters Union support me? 

We’re building a powerful community of renters that is supporting each other to stay in our homes. If you come along to a branch meeting, other members will do their best to support you by sharing experiences and information and supporting you to stand up for yourself. Together we can work out if you’ve been served a valid eviction notice or not and whether there’s routes to stopping your eviction from happening. If your landlord is trying to evict you and you need support from us:

  1. Make sure you are a member. You can join for £4 per month or for free if you don’t currently have an income.
  2. Fill out the form at our member solidarity page and someone will be in touch as soon as possible.

These organisations provide advice services, including over the phone:

I can’t afford to pay my rent this month because of Coronavirus. What should I do? 

The government has announced a mortgage holiday that homeowners can apply for – including landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties during the second lockdown.  Landlords should pass this on to tenants.

Many of us are struggling to pay our rent right now because of the way that the government is failing to support renters. Renters need to get together and pressure the government to solve the rent debt crisis. But there are some steps we can take as individuals if we are already in debt or if we’re struggling with rent payments:

  1. Talk to your landlord. Ask your landlord for a rent reduction or suspension. We’ve got a template email you can download here that asks for a rent reduction or suspension, and that you can edit for your own situation. You should work out what you can afford to pay in rent once you have met your basic needs such as food and medicine. You could start by offering what you can afford to pay.
  2. Make sure you’re getting all the financial support you are entitled to from the government. Turn2Us provides useful information and calculators. 
  3. Apply for a discretionary housing payment. These are small extra payments that councils can provide to people already receiving housing benefit or universal credit to help with housing costs. The charity Shelter has a useful guide on how to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.
  4. Let your MP know about your situation. We need MPs to be shouting loudly and clearly about the crisis facing renters. You can use our simple tool to write to your MP.
  5. Join a LRU meeting where renters in debt are coming together to share experiences and learn negotiation skills.

Like many other organisations, the LRU says it is important not to spend the money you may need for food and medicines on rent. It’s important to know that people who don’t pay their rent in full are at increased risk of eviction.

I’m being harassed by my landlord because I can’t pay my rent – what can I do?

Not being able to pay your rent doesn’t give your landlord the right to intimidate or harass you or force you to leave – you are entitled to ‘Quiet Enjoyment.’ The only way you can legally be evicted is through the courts. Harassing you or making you so uncomfortable in your home that you want to leave is a form of illegal eviction which you can get compensation for.

Your landlord has no right to put their hands on you or your belongings. It’s important to keep evidence of any harassment you are receiving eg screenshot texts from your landlord or take photo evidence if it’s safe to do so. Tell the London Renters Union if this is happening to you here: (MS form?)

If you feel able to, and it is safe to, have a conversation with your landlord to remind them that you are a tenant and you have rights. Tell them that they must go to court to get you removed and that harassment or forcing you to leave before then is illegal.

My landlord says I am a lodger. What are my rights? 

If your landlord lives in the same property as you and if you share a kitchen and other common spaces with them, you might be a lodger.  However, your landlord still has to give you ‘reasonable notice’ before they evict you. Reasonable notice is at least as long as how often you pay your rent (if you pay your rent monthly, reasonable notice is at least one month). Read more here.

It is also a criminal offence for your landlord to try to remove you with force.

If your landlord does not live with you, you are probably not a lodger, even if your landlord says that you are. (This also applies if your landlord did not live with you at the beginning of your occupancy.) Your landlord cannot take away your rights just by saying you are a lodger. You probably still have the same protections as other private renters and are protected by the government’s eviction ban.

I’m being evicted from a guardianship. What are my rights? 

Most  guardianship residents are licensees not tenants and therefore not covered by the “eviction ban” in 2020/ 2021. All guardians are covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Guardians are entitled to 28 days notice and must be taken to court to be removed from the property if they do not leave at this point. 

However, some guardians are tenants and therefore have the rights of a tenant – including greater protection from eviction, longer notice periods etc.. It has been proved in case-law that a guardian had the rights of a tenant when: the guardian had exclusive possession of the premises and:[3]

  • was offered the choice of a room in the property by the property agency at the start of the agreement without any involvement of the other guardians living in the property
  • was given the key to that room and the other guardians in the property did not have access to it
  • had remained in occupation of the same premises for over three years, and had never been asked to move to alternative rooms.

As a guardian you can:

  • Establish whether you or any one else in the scheme could be a tenant, and therefore have the rights of a tenant. If you think you or someone else in the guardianship may be a tenant, let London Renters’ Union know as as may be able to help secure legal representation to make these arguments at a possession hearing in court.

  • Meet collectively with other residents in the scheme, come up with shared demands and establish whether you might have any “leverage” – for example if the guardianship company has done anything wrong – and negotiate with the guardianship company. You may for example negotiate to stay for an additional month after the eviction notice expires to give everyone extra time to find somewhere to move on to but promise to leave without a court process being necessary.

Will I automatically be evicted if I get a Section 21 notice? 

Section 21 notices give landlords enormous power over our lives – that’s why we’re fighting to have them scrapped.

However, there are ways that you can defend yourself against a Section 21 notice. A Section 21 notice is invalid if:

  • You weren’t given a gas safety certificate when you moved in (and every year following)
  • You weren’t given the “How to Rent” guide or an Energy Performance Certificate at the start of the tenancy – however if the landlord gives these two documents late but before service of the s21 it will not affect the validity of the s21
  • Your deposit hasn’t been protected or you have not been given written confirmation that your deposit is protected and an explanation of the tenancy deposit protection scheme/rules in writing
  • If your council has ordered repair works on the house within the last 6 months• Your landlord needs a licence but hasn’t got one
  • Or if the landlord has written the incorrect date or address

I’ve asked my landlord for a rent suspension or reduction but they’ve said no, or been unresponsive. What should I do now?

If you’re in touch with an agency, try to speak directly to your landlord instead. You have the legal right to know who your landlord is and their address. Once you’re a member of the London Renters Union we can support you to take some next steps. Fill out our form to sign up as a member and tell us about your current situation.

If you requested the rent reduction as an individual and not a household, take the time to talk to other housemates or family members you live with and try writing a joint letter or email together.

Do estate agents or landlords have the right to ask me to prove that I’ve lost income? 

It’s up to you to decide whether you feel comfortable sharing that kind of information with your landlord or estate agent. Landlords and agents aren’t legally obliged to provide a rent reduction or suspension so going along with their requests might make it more likely that they give you one.

If you feel like your estate agent is being unhelpful, you have the legal right to ask for the name and address of your landlord and to write to them directly.

I’ve lost my income. What government support is available right now? 

The government has announced increases to housing benefit and universal income and ‘furlough scheme’ for some workers.  Although, there are still lots of people who don’t qualify for this extra support but it is worth checking out what you are  entitled to.

Check what benefits and sick pay you may be entitled to and find out how to apply them via Citizens Advice and Turn2Us.

I’m a migrant and I don’t have access to benefits as I have ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF). What can I do?

Due to the government’s “hostile environment” for migrants in the UK, lots of people living and working in the UK don’t have access to benefits. If you are undocumented or if you have “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF) as part of your immigration status,  you are not entitled to help from the government.
The government’s brutal policies punish migrants instead of supporting them.

However, there are a few other options for support during this crisis:

  • Free school meals: Children in families who don’t have recourse to public funds are entitled to free school meals during term time this autumn term.
  • Food banks: Foodbanks are still open and should help everyone, regardless of immigration status. Food banks generally require a voucher from a doctor, social worker or help centre, in exchange for a food parcel.  Find your nearest foodbank here.
  • Homelessness: During the first lockdown the government has said that no one should be left to sleep rough, but have not yet released funds for this a second time.
    If you know someone who is rough sleeping who wants to be accommodated, let Streetlink know where they are. Streetlink may have a practice of sharing data with the Home Office so this may not be appropriate for migrants with insecure immigration status.
  • Migrant centre support: There are several good migrant centres who can support migrants facing destitution and hardship, as well as those who have difficulties with their immigration status. Some of the centres who have started doing phone advice and advocacy during Covid-19 are Hackney Migrant Centre and South London Refugee Service (these work with all migrants in all boroughs).

Regardless of immigration status we know that renters have more power when they come together and that when we act alone we are often vulnerable and ignored. If your landlord is threatening you, fill out our member solidarity form and sign up as a member and tell us about your current situation, and we will try to respond to you. Please note, however, that we unfortunately don’t have a team of translators and interpreters at this time, so please try to complete the form in English and, if needed, find someone you know who can interpret for you on a phone call (please let us know on the form whether or not you can find someone to interpret). We do now have a Spanish-speaking group of members running renters rights training.

It’s coming to the end of my tenancy/ there’s a spare room in my house and my landlord wants to show people round my home – what can I do? 

The government has said  that estate agents will remain open during the second lockdown and are allowed to show customers around homes. They may ask you to leave your home during the viewing to make it safer. However, government guidance from September states that under a lockdown or where a tenant is self-isolating, landlords should only enter the property for essential repairs. This means they should only enter to do work which would make the property safe.

Showing someone to look around a room or a building can put you at risk and whatever the government says,  it is not serious or essential. You can ask  your agent or landlord to wait until lockdown is over until others are shown around your home, or negotiate for viewings at a time that you won’t be in.

If your landlord says they are worried about lost rental income from the empty rooms then you can remind them that they can apply for the newly announced mortgage holiday offered by banks.

What can I do if I’m facing issues with disrepair?

Every month we hand over 50% or even more of our income to our landlord. Now more than ever, it’s only right that our landlord provides a safe, warm home in return.

If you are having trouble with repairs being made, collect photo evidence and email or write to your landlord. It is important to keep written evidence of when you have contacted the landlord. Repairs should be done in ‘reasonable time’.

If your landlord doesn’t make the repairs when requested, we can take action together to make sure they do and possibly claim compensation.

Time and time again, landlords and estate agents have made repairs after we’ve held a small protest outside their offices. It may also be possible to sue your landlord in some cases.The council can issue an improvement order if you report the landlord and they inspect the property. If the landlord ignores the order, you can get compensation. However, in our experience the council are often slow to respond and unlikely to help unless there are immediate threats to life.In general you do not have the right to withhold rent if the landlord does not carry out repairs – this could jeopardise your right to stay in the home. However, in certain circumstances you can pay for repairs and deduct the cost from future rent, but always inform the landlord about your intentions in writing and get advice before doing this.

Get updates and a copy of our template letter to send to your landlord

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