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Join the Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign

Renters need to get together and pressure the government to solve the rent debt crisis.

Join the Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign and add your name to a growing movement for change: www.CantPayWontPay.uk

Join the London Renters Union

Join the London Renters Union for £4 per month. It’s free if you don’t have an income at the moment. We’ll call you to share information on your rights and invite you to meetings where you can get support

Join now

I’m struggling with my rent payments/I’m in debt to my landlord. What should I do?

The government says we still have to pay any rent we miss during this crisis, and that we can be evicted if we don’t once the temporary evictions ban is lifted. But our rents were already too high, and we just can’t afford to pay back missed payments on top.

We’re stronger together. Join the Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign. Come to a LRU meeting or event. Learn and share with other renters. Help the LRU push the government to cancel rent debt and make the eviction ban permanent. 

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. Use our template rent forgiveness letter to ask your landlord to forgive the debt you are in so you don’t have to pay it back. We’ll send you the template once you join the Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign.
  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.

My landlord is trying to evict me, what should I do?

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. A landlord can only go to court once the three month notice period is up.

A possession order takes weeks to get in normal circumstances. Right now, the government has told the court not to issue any new possession orders until at least August 25 and there is likely to be a huge backlog of cases for courts to hear.

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 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:

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. We’d be interested to see copies of any requests like this that landlords or agents are making.

We’re hearing that estate agents are being particularly unhelpful. 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 credit and an 80% income guarantee for some workers.

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.

We’re demanding that the government ends the five-week wait for Universal Credit, experienced by claimants between the time of application and the time of first payments.

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 currently. Parents of these children should let their school know that they are entitled – they should get a £15 voucher each week, for each child, to pay for food.

Homelessness

The government has said that no one should be left to sleep rough during this pandemic and councils have been instructed to accommodate everyone, regardless of immigration status.

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.

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.

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.

Apply to “lift” your NRPF conditions

If you have Leave to Remain and are destitute because you are unable to work and can’t access benefits, you can apply to the Home Office to ‘lift’ the NRPF conditions so you can access benefits. You can find out more about how you can apply for this via the Unity Centre.

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 Covid-19 form to sign up as a member and tell us about your current situation, and we will try to respond to you.

Can my landlord evict me if I don’t pay my rent in full?

Your landlord has to give you the proper notice (normally a Section 21 or Section 8 notice) and then go to court to get a possession order. There are lots of steps that the landlord has to follow, and they often make mistakes that delay the process. You do not have to leave your home until your landlord has got a possession order from a court.

The government has announced new legislation and regulations meaning you are now entitled to 3 months notice and has suspended all court action until the end of August.

Usually, if you are in 8 weeks of rent arrears, a court is likely to grant the landlord possession of the property. Under this new legislation, landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants until at least the end of August. Even once the courts are working normally again, the eviction process often takes several months.

Your landlord can only start possession proceedings at the end of the 3 month notice period stated on a valid Section 21 or Section 8 notice. You can legally stay in your home until the day the court bailiffs are authorised to come to evict you. If you get a Section 21 notice, check that it is valid. We can help members of the union with this.

If your landlord tries to change the locks or use force to remove you themselves, this counts as illegal eviction. Take video of your landlord’s actions so you can get compensation.

If you or someone you know is facing eviction: London Renters Union can offer support in different ways, and we have successfully stopped or delayed evictions by non-violently resisting and getting in the way of bailiffs. This ‘eviction resistance’ can buy more time for people to stay in their homes beyond the eviction date given by the court.

For more information about the evictions process, check out page 8 of our renters rights booklet and this Shelter page.

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. 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. Try 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: https://londonrentersunion.org/c19rentcrisis/

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.

Unfortunately, the government’s recent temporary ban on evictions does not apply to lodgers. 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). Reasonable notice also has to end either on the day that you pay your rent or the day before. 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.

My landlord wants to put the rent up. Do I have to start paying more?

There are legal steps and rules regarding when a landlord can increase the rent. Normally they will have to give you reasonable notice, and can’t increase your rent more than once a year without your agreement. If you don’t agree with the rent rise, do not pay the new amount, as this will be seen as you ‘agreeing’. You can find out more in our renters rights booklet.

If you are worried because your landlord is trying to raise your rent, and want more information, join the union and get in touch: londonrentersunion.org/join.

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 – what can I do?

The government guidance is clear that from a public health perspective people should not be moving home at this time. Furthermore, landlords are asked to not to make any visits unless the visits are ‘serious and urgent’ to their properties. Showing someone to look around a room or a building is putting you at risk right now and it is not serious or essential – tell your agent you can’t allow access to your home at the moment because of government coronavirus guidance.
Your landlord shouldn’t be moving people into your home currently when government guidance states that people moving home should delay doing so whilst emergency measures are in place.

If your landlord is worried about lost rental income then they should apply for the 3-month mortgage holiday offered by banks.

I have a question that isn’t answered here. Where can I find more information?

Our renter rights booklet has lots of useful information.

These organisations provide advice services, including over the phone: