We know many of you have questions about your rights as private tenants, either within Private Halls or renting through agencies and landlords. 

If you have left your accommodation:   

  • You are still liable for all rent payments and any damage caused until your agent/landlord releases you from your contract.
  • You are still liable for all utilities for the accommodation ie gas/electricity etc. that have accrued in the course of your contracted tenancy
  • You will need to inform your Agent/Landlord that you are not in occupation of the accommodation as this could have an effect on the condition of the property for example if there is a burst pipe or the property get broken into.  If any damage is caused you would be held liable.   
  • Return all keys for the property, and leave the property in the same condition as it was when you moved in ie clean and all items of furniture in the same rooms as they were at the start of the tenancy. 

The UK Government issued this guidance to tenants on Saturday 28 March 2020. There is also information from Shelter UK about your rights and coronavirus.

We've answered some of the most common questions below.

Tenant rights and COVID-19

My contract has not ended but I’m leaving London / the UK, and will not return to the property. Do I still have to pay rent?

  • We understand that this is an unprecedented situation and many students feel the need to travel back home to be with their relatives and close families. At the present time all tenants are still bound by their contractual obligations in the private sector and therefore still obliged to pay their rent and adhere to the terms and conditions of their private sector contract until it expires or the tenant is able to terminate it. 

  • If your contract has a ‘break clause’: this may mean that you can terminate your contract after a certain date, before the end of the fixed term, providing you give the required notice. You may have to pay rent until the required notice period has ended. 

You can only use a break clause if every tenant on the agreement wants to move out. 

  • If your contract does not have a ‘break clause’, or the break clause cannot yet be exercised, you will not have any automatic right to end your contract. Even though the emerging situation is very concerning, there have not yet been any changes to the law regarding ending tenancies in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and until you negotiate with your landlord, your obligation to pay rent will not change.  

  • You should discuss your wish to end the tenancy with your landlord. If the landlord is happy to let you go without further rent payments, then you will not be required to pay rent. You should ensure that your landlord confirms this in writing. However, if the landlord will not release you from the contract, they could still ask you or your guarantor for the money, even if you have moved out. 

  • If you want to leave but other tenants are staying in the property  

  • If other tenants are staying on, it is unlikely you will able to leave without continuing to pay rent unless you find a replacement tenant. You should discuss your wish to end the tenancy with the other tenants and the landlord. If the landlord is happy to let you go and will not require your rent to be paid in your absence, then you will not be required to pay rent. However, if the landlord will not release you from the contract without a replacement, they could still ask you, your housemates or your guarantor for the money, even if you have moved out. 

What happens if I move out before the end of my tenancy and don’t pay my rent?

  • The landlord may take action to get the rent from you, or from your guarantor if you have one. They may take some of this money from your deposit. If the amount you owe them exceeds your deposit, they may write to you to formally request the money. You might be charged interest on the amount owing which should not exceed 3% above the bank of England base Rate. If you still don’t pay, they may start a court claim against you. 

  • If your landlord starts court action against you for unpaid rent, this is not a criminal trial or a criminal offence, and you won’t get a criminal record. You will be asked to attend court, and if you don't attend the hearing will go ahead in your absence. If the judge decides you should have paid the money, you will be asked to pay it as part of the judgement. You may also be asked to pay the landlord's court costs. 

  • If you still don’t pay the money after the court has decided you should, you may receive a further judgement that can negatively affect your credit rating in the UK. This may make it difficult for you to borrow money or pass reference checks for rented accommodation in the UK in the future. If you are worried about the impact of this on any current or future visa in the UK, please seek advice from an immigration advice service. 

My flatmate has confirmed or suspected COVID-19 Coronavirus. Can I leave the property?

  • You may wish to stay elsewhere if someone you live with has been diagnosed with coronavirus, but please ensure that you are following the recommended self-isolation guidelines. 

  • If you do not stay at the property due to someone you live with having COVID-19 coronavirus, you will still have to pay rent regardless of this. 

I can’t afford my rent payments due to coronavirus. Can I be evicted?

Update 18/03/2020: The Government Has Stated They Will Be Passing Emergency Legislation To Stop Evictions For At Least 3 Months. 
 
  • The government has not yet outlined what these protections will involve, but there will be no eviction proceedings in the courts for at least a 3 month period. It has been advised that the expectation at the end of this period will be for tenants and landlords to work out a realistic repayment plan for any rent missed in this 3 month period, taking into account the circumstances. It is not clear whether landlords will be able to immediately start proceedings for evictions at the end of the period for rent arrears that accrued during this time. It is also unclear whether there will be any increased protection for tenants of live-in landlords. This section will be updated as soon as there is more information.  

  • Until this has been confirmed, the original advice is available below. None of the below advice (with the exclusion of lodgers with live-in landlords, who do not require court action to evict and therefore have a more uncertain position) is likely to apply until at least June 18th 2020. 


    If you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy: 

  • Your landlord cannot evict you without an order from the court granting him possession of the property. 

  • If the landlord wants to evict you, he has to send you a notice requiring possession. This will be either a Section 21 or Section 8 notice. 

If you are in a fixed term tenancy: 

  • The landlord can only evict you during the fixed term of the tenancy by issuing a Section 8 notice and going to court. If you have less than 8 weeks rent arrears, it is up to the judge to decide whether you should be evicted. You would be able to submit a defence that it was due to financial problems caused by coronavirus. If you have over 8 weeks rent arrears, it is a mandatory ground for eviction, so the judge will allow the eviction. 

If you are in a periodic ‘rolling’ tenancy, or your fixed term is ending soon and has not been renewed: 

  • The landlord can use the accelerated Section 21 process to evict you with 2 months notice, whether you have any rent arrears or not. However, you should always seek advice if you receive an eviction notice, as many of them are invalid, which can significantly delay the eviction. 

If you have a license agreement for accommodation where the landlord does not live with you  

  • Your landlord can only evict you before the end of the fixed term if there is a clause in the contract stating they can do so. Any such clause should set out what notice you should be given. By law, you are entitled to ‘reasonable’ notice, and the landlord still has to apply to the court to evict you.  

If you live with your landlord 

  • Your landlord can evict you without a court order. You are still legally entitled to reasonable notice. The landlord can change the locks themselves. 

My live-in landlord has asked me to leave so they can self-isolate. What are my rights?

  • If you are a lodger with a live-in landlord, you are an 'excluded occupier', which means your landlord doesn't have to apply to the court to evict you. This means the newly announced suspension on evictions in the courts is unlikely to prevent you from being evicted. 

  • Your landlord can ask you to leave at the end of your fixed-term agreement. They can ask you to leave earlier than this agreement if the contract says they can. 

  • If your agreement doesn't set out a notice period, you should be entitled to 'reasonable' notice. This is usually a week if you pay your rent weekly, or a month if you pay your rent monthly. 

  • If your landlord is giving you less than reasonable notice, or are asking you to leave before the end of the fixed term when your contract does not permit this, you could dispute this with them.  

  • In practice, it can be quite difficult to challenge an eviction with a live-in landlord though.  

I live in a shared house and the landlord or other tenants are saying I cannot bring in guests to my room – do they have any right to stop me?

  • Disagreements between tenants are often not really ‘legal’ problems  and you should first consider what is reasonable and fair to everyone involved. You should consider very carefully whether you are exposing your housemates to unnecessary risks. 

  • If you have a joint tenancy (one agreement for the whole property) disagreements between tenants must be solved between the tenants. Sometimes the landlord can help you reach an agreement but they do not have any formal legal responsibility here. 

  • If you rent a room and the landlord or other tenants are stopping you from bringing in guests you should bear in mind that they are following the latest Government guidance. 

  • Everyone does have legal duties to their ‘neighbours’ not to cause them harm that someone could reasonably see coming. That means there might be a legal duty not to expose your housemates to additional risk of infection – but the law here is complex. 

  • You should consider the latest Government guidance and remember that your housemates might be vulnerable due a medical condition you do not know about. It would be better not to bring visitors into your house where not absolutely necessary until the Government advises otherwise. 

What is Force Majeure and does it mean I can end my tenancy because of Covid-19?

  • Some tenancy agreements have a “Force Majeure” clause.  'Force Majeure' means an event or sequence of events - beyond a party's reasonable control - preventing or delaying it from performing its obligations under the Agreement.  So for example, if something happened to your house that meant you couldn't live in it anymore, such as a natural disaster destroying the property.  

  • While Covid 19 may be a 'Force Majeure' event, it is unlikely to prevent you from occupying the property or stop the tenancy from continuing. It is therefore unlikely that a Force Majeure clause will allow you to end a tenancy early. 

How do I end my Tenancy Agreement/Licence?

Do not just leave your accommodation make sure you have a conversation with your Agent/Landlord and explain your situation,  and ask if there is anything they can do to assist – maybe they would be prepared to give you a reduction in your rent or if they will release you without penalty.  

Check your contract (the Student Hub can help you with this) to see what you would have to do to end the contract early. 

You may be able to end your tenancy early if the contract includes a break clause. Check the conditions within your tenancy agreement to see if it allows you to leave before the end date. 

Note: If you are in a joint fixed term tenancy and you initiate the break clause then all occupiers of the accommodation will have to leave; you cannot use the break clause if only one person wants to leave. 

If you have a break clause then you need to ensure that you give the correct Notice to the Agent/Landlord, this is usually 2 months, which must end on or before a rent payment date. For example if your rent is due on the 1st of each month then you need to give your two months’ notice on or before the 1st of the monthIf you give, your notice after the 1st then the notice period will not commence until the following month.    

The Gas Safety/Energy Performance check is due for my property, should it be postponed?

Gas

The Gas Safety Register has issued guidelines on the best way to deal with checks which are due. Check out the recommendations on their website to find out more.

Energy Performance Certificates

There is a new 21 day grace period for Energy Performance Certificates. According to the latest Government update  landlords are allowed an additional 21 day grace period.