In May, the UK saw the lifting of some coronavirus lockdown restrictions, including in the housing market with estate agents reopening and renters being able to view properties in person again.
On 13th May 2020, the Government passed a new law lifting the restrictions that had previously been in place around home-moving in an attempt to stimulate the economy. The new regulations mean that both renters and homeowners can now move home, provided that they take the appropriate social distancing precautions.
The changes also mean that businesses linked to the home-moving process, such as estate/lettings agents, conveyancers and removal companies, can also begin trading again and assisting the public with their home moves.
Lifting of coronavirus restrictions – advice to renters
Below, we have answered some FAQs about what the lifting of the coronavirus restrictions means for renters moving forward.
What rights do tenants have if they are due to be moving into a property at the beginning of June, but have reservations due to the coronavirus pandemic?
It is understandable that, despite the legal restrictions being lifted, some tenants may feel reluctant to move into a property. Assuming that the tenant has signed their tenancy agreement and paid their rental deposit, the landlord will be committed to letting the property to the tenant for the agreed term.
The tenant will be committed to paying the rent from the commencement date detailed in the tenancy agreement. However, when they choose to physically move in is up to the tenant. Movers may wish to consider having the property professionally cleaned or taking additional protective measures upon moving in, such as regularly washing their hands and maintaining strict social distancing rules during the move.
What can renters do if they’re struggling to meet rent due to financial issues caused by COVID-19?
If tenants are struggling to pay their rent, they should contact their landlord or letting agent as soon as possible. Tenants must remember that they are obligated to pay rent under their tenancy agreement and for many landlords the rent is their sole form of income.
It is preferable to try and reach an amicable agreement with the landlord wherever possible. However, there is no requirement on landlords to give a ‘rent-holiday’ or defer rental payments. Tenants should be honest with their landlords about how much rent they can afford to pay and when they are likely to be able to pay any arrears.
Some of the larger student landlords are already offering their tenants rent-free periods or asking for reduced rents. However, this is far less likely with private sector landlords. If tenants are unable to pay their rent due to the loss of their job or very low incomes, they may be eligible for help under Universal Credit, which is replacing the existing housing benefit, and in some cases might provide a contribution toward rental payments.
Have any restrictions been put in place to protect renters?
The good news for tenants is that they should not be in any fear that they are going to instantly lose their home for non-payment of rent. The Government acted quickly to protect renters during the COVID-19 pandemic and introduced restrictions on landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent.
Landlords are now required to give tenants a minimum of three months’ notice before taking any formal possession proceedings. This realistically means that tenants are secure in their existing homes for a considerable period of time and will give tenants some reassurance that even in the worst-case scenario, where they cannot pay rent, they are at no risk of losing their home immediately.
Tenants should also be aware of their rights and know that a landlord cannot force a tenant to leave a property. Tenants are protected from unlawful eviction and harassment by landlords and should be sure to seek legal advice if they come under pressure to vacate a property before the expiration of their tenancy. Landlords found guilty of unlawful eviction or harassment can be subject to a fine, imprisonment or both.
For the latest Government advice on coronavirus, click here.