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Campaign Q & A

When should I tell my landlord I am keeping my rent?

Think about the next few months. What is your income situation? Is it stable? Work out what you can afford to pay in rent once you have met your basic needs such as food and medicine.

If you haven’t already, you might want to start by asking your landlord for a rent reduction. You can use our template letter.

If you’re ready to start withholding your rent or if you’re already not paying in full, you can write to your landlord to let them know and to ask them to write off any rent debt you’re in. We’ll be making a template letter available shortly.

We’ll be keeping everyone who is part of the campaign up to date with the number of people who have joined. So you might decide you want to wait a bit longer and see how the campaign grows before you decide to start withholding your rent.

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Can I be evicted if I send this letter and do not pay my rent?

It’s important you’re aware of the risks you face if you are already in rent debt or if you get into rent debt. You’ll be taking this action with other renters alongside you. If you have any choice about it, not paying your rent is a decision for you to take based on your own understanding of the risks and your situation.

Unfortunately the law makes it relatively easy for landlords to evict tenants. Section 21 eviction rules mean your landlord isn’t required to give a reason for evicting you. You can be evicted even if you are paying your rent. The Tories promised they would abolish Section 21, but they haven’t done it yet.

Your landlord can also use a Section 8 eviction if you haven’t paid your rent for 8 weeks. Usually, if you are in 8 weeks of rent  arrears, a court is likely to grant the landlord possession of the property.

The government has put a pause on all evictions until at least the end of June.  Even once the courts are working normally again, the eviction process often takes several months and is even slower right now.

To evict you legally your landlord has to give you a proper Section 8 or Section 21 notice and then go to court to get a possession order. You don’t have to leave until the day the court bailiffs come to your house. There are lots of steps that the landlord has to follow, and they often make mistakes that delay the process.

In addition, your landlord may seek to chase you to pay any rent debt you owe.

By joining together through the Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign, we’re trying to make it much harder for landlords and the courts to evict people. We have strength in numbers. If a majority of tenants refuse to pay their rent, it becomes impossible for the courts to deal with all eviction notices, and we build political pressure on politicians and landlords. And if there are many of us, we can come together and resist evictions. London Renters Union is developing new ways to help renters resist evictions and stay in their homes.

For more information, check out our updated Coronavirus renters rights page about your rights as a renter during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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What should I do if my landlord says they want to evict me?

Do not leave just because your landlord says you have to! Landlords must give you 3 months’ notice. Even then you do not have to leave by the notice date if you are not ready. You cannot legally be evicted without a possession order issued by a court, which a landlord will try to obtain if your notice period is up and you haven’t left. A possession order takes weeks to get in normal circumstances and could take many months right now because the currently government is telling courts not to issue new possession orders. Making your landlord get a possession order does not give you a criminal record, and it wins you more time.

If your landlord is trying to evict you, join and get in touch with the London Renters Union at our member solidarity page and we can provide you with support to negotiate and stand up to your landlord.

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Where can I find out more about my rights as a renter?

Check out our updated Coronavirus renters rights about your rights as a renter during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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Does this campaign just include renters living in London?

Yes. People living outside of London are welcome to use the campaign resources but our campaign action meetings and the support available to people who participate are only available to renters living in London.

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What do you mean by basic needs?

We believe that renters themselves are best placed to decide what their basic needs are. If you feel like you’re cutting back on essentials because of the Coronavirus crisis, you should consider cutting back on your rent.

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Shouldn’t we wait for the government to sort this out?

The government has said that landlords should show “compassion” for their tenants. We know that this is not enough! Landlords continue to chase us to pay rent in full, even when it’s clear we don’t have the money. The government has left us to fend for ourselves.

Renters need legal protections, and we will only get those by taking action together. Millions of people are currently struggling to pay rent, and they don’t have time to wait. The government listens to the landlord lobby and many MPs are themselves landlords. We have seen no serious commitment from either the government or the Labour Party to protect renters in this crisis. We need to take action together to force the government to introduce proper protections for renters.

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How can I organise with other tenants with the same landlord?

If you know that other people share your landlord, you’re more powerful if you stand together with your fellow renters. By organising with your co-tenants, you can put more pressure on your landlord to meet your demands. The LRU has experience of organising people who live in the same building and share a landlord. If you join the LRU as a member, we can help you get your neighbours involved in the campaign and organise to win!

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How can people with different types of tenancies join the campaign?

Anyone who is renting and has lost income because of the Coronavirus crisis can join the Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign. If you need more information on your tenancy type and your participation in the campaign, join the LRU and our Member Solidarity team can provide you with more support.

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What support can I expect as part of the campaign?

London Renters Union can offer knowledge and resources to everyone who joins the Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay campaign.

Our updated Coronavirus renters rights page has lots of useful info on it.

By joining this campaign, you become part of a movement standing up for everyone’s right to decent, affordable housing. We support each other by building our collective strength as renters, and sharing our stories and our knowledge. We’re currently developing new resources on eviction resistance, and will continue to share information relevant to the campaign.

The LRU will be offering everyone who signs up to the campaign an opportunity to participate in our campaign action meetings. In these meetings, you will learn more about the campaign, access information on your right as a renter, and meet other people in a similar situation.

We’re not a professional advice service, a charity or a legal service. We can’t offer individual support to people who aren’t members. The LRU is a tenant led organisation and we support one another. If you need more support, join the union! The more people are actively involved, the more support we can offer each other.

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How will not paying rent affect my housing benefit or Universal Credit payment?

The DWP expect you to declare to them when the amount of rent you are paying changes. If you don’t tell them you are paying less and they find out you might end up having money deducted from future payments. If your landlord hasn’t agreed to lower the amount of rent they expect you to pay, then you are still liable for that rent even if you aren’t paying it – but we don’t know for sure yet how this might affect benefits payments or what you should declare to the DWP. If you have a written agreement from your landlord to pay a lower amount of rent, the DWP will expect you to declare this to them so they can recalculate your payment.

The DWP calculate the amount they will pay you based on your Local Housing Allowance. If you decide to withhold some rent in order to meet your basic needs and the amount of rent you are paying is still more than your Local Housing Allowance, you might not see any change in the amount you are paid in housing benefit or Universal Credit. If the amount of rent you are paying is less than your Local Housing Allowance, you may see a reduction in the amount you will be paid. If you need more information on how not paying rent might affect your housing benefit or Universal Credit payment and your participation in the campaign, join the LRU and our Member Solidarity team can provide you with more support.

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How will this affect other household members and guarantors?

The extent of a guarantor’s legal responsibility will depend on the wording of the guarantee. You can find more info on this here. If you are in rent debt or stop paying rent then your landlord might contact your guarantor to ask them to pay for you. If you’re not going to be paying rent you might want to tell your guarantor what you are doing, and seek advice for your specific situation. If you’re an LRU member you can ask us for help in navigating your particular circumstances.

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How can I share this information with my friends, family, and neighbours while keeping social distance?

There are many ways you can help spread the word. We’ll have posters for you to put up in your window. You can make a banner out of a bed sheet and hang it from your windows. Or if you have some chalk why not fill your neighbourhood pavement with colourful Can’t Pay Won’t Pay messages – send us a picture or tag us on social media if you do!

Most importantly, you can speak to your friends and family on the phone and tell them about the Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign.

You can also talk to people in your building or on your street, while maintaining social distance. If you want, you can print flyers to put up in letter boxes (but make sure you’re doing this in a hygienic way, using hand sanitiser before and after) – we’ll share them for you here soon.

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