Self-isolating FAQs for those living in Private Accommodation

Will I need to self-isolate upon arrival in the UK?

If you are travelling from certain countries you may be required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in the UK. Please refer to the UK Government guidance on this requirement. It is your responsibility to check if you are required to self-isolate and to follow the UK Government guidance carefully. All travellers to the UK are also required to provide your journey and contact details before you travel by completing this online form. 

Will the College be providing specific accommodation for those that need to self-isolate?

If you will be living in private accommodation, you will need to ensure that you are able to self-isolate effectively should it be necessary. The College is not able to provide dedicated accommodation for students who are required to self-isolate. 

When should I arrive if I need to self-isolate?

This will depend on the contractual specifics of where you’re living. You should speak to your landlord or accommodation manager to understand what local policies are in place and when you might need to arrive.  

As Welcome Season is predominantly digital this year, you won’t miss anything even if you have to self-isolate beyond the start of the Academic Year. We have made plans which make it possible to offer you a high-quality remote educational experience during the Autumn term, so that any students who are unable to be on campus will not be missing out. It is essential that you do not go on campus during any period you are required to self-isolate. 

Can I open a bank account if I am self-isolating?

You should not leave your accommodation to travel to a bank during your period of self-isolation. You may want to consider online banking options such as Monzo or PayPal. We strongly recommend you bring a credit or debit card with you to the UK that you can use when you arrive. 

My visa says I need to register with the police within 7 days of arriving in the UK. How do I do this if I am self-isolating?

You should not leave your accommodation to register with the Police in the UK during a period of self-isolation. You will not face any penalties for not completing police registration during this period. The Overseas Visitors Records Office in London handle the Police Registration process so please check their website for more information. 

Do I need to register with a doctor? How do I do that?

If you have moved from home to take up your place at Imperial you will need to register with a new doctor (also known as a General Practitioner or GP) so that you can access NHS healthcare. It’s important that you register with a doctor soon after you arrive – don’t wait until you are sick, as this could delay your access to treatment.

Any Imperial student living in Private Accommodation can register for a place at the Imperial College Health Centre at South Kensington Campus. If you live outside of the catchment area you can be registered as an Out Of Area patient. 

The Student Support Zone has more details about registering for a doctor.

Private accommodation FAQs - for those searching for accommodation

Should I continue to book my accommodation for September 2020/21?

We understand you may have concerns about missing out on accommodation if you don't book now; however, it is vital that you think before signing a contract. Until you know that studies will return to normal on campus and all tenants are able to view the property in person, then it is sensible to wait. 

  1. Upon signing, you could be committing yourself to pay for the entire period of the tenancy, even though you may not be able to travel/need to be in London. 

  1. If you have signed a Tenancy Agreement without viewing the accommodation in person, you may find upon arrival the accommodation/area is not what you expect but (by signing the agreement) will still be bound by your contractual obligations. 

We advise that you check the College’s coronavirus pages for the most up-to-date information regarding your course. 

I have seen the property virtually and am confident that I like it, is this enough to sign an agreement?

Some landlords or agents are using different methods to viewings to showcase their properties. These include 360-degree tours, live video tours via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype. Whilst this goes some way to showing you a property, this is not a substitute for the real thingWe would strongly advise caution against paying a holding deposit or signing a contract for a property you have not actually seen in person. 

Can I now go and view a property in person?

From Wednesday 13 May the Government advice on moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak has changed. People should use virtual viewings (360-degree tours, live video tours via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype) before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks.

If any member of either the household being viewed, or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed. All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household. 

The Agent/Landlord has said that they offer a cancellation policy, how can I be sure that I'm protected if I am unable to move in due to the pandemic

We are aware of some accommodation providers who are offering ‘free-cancellation’ promises but these are often restricted to very specific circumstances and not always related to the current situation. At the moment we are advising students not to rush into signing legally binding contracts. 

Read the contract thoroughly and get it checked by the Student Hub team. Make sure you get any verbal promises in writing; your contract needs to have explicit terms (written in it) to manage the risks presented by the virusProtect yourself by adding a coronavirus clause or addendum to your agreement.  

Please make sure to read the terms and conditions of these clauses; just because your contract has one coronavirus clause that doesn’t mean it covers you for every situation.  Speak to your landlord and make sure you think about the possible eventualities and that you thoroughly understand what’s covered and what’s not. 

I have committed to a tenancy for the next Academic Year and signed the contract, what happens if I am not able to move in or the virus gets worse?

Please make sure you follow the government guidelines and keep track of the most up-to-date advice on the government website.   

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. 

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 a tenant negotiates with their landlord, their obligation to pay rent will not change.  

Landlords therefore might still hold you liable as you have signed a legally binding document, but you are advised to discuss this with them; they may be willing to negotiate.   

I have viewed a house and paid a holding deposit but not signed a Tenancy Agreement, can I cancel now?

You have 15 days from when you pay a holding deposit to enter into a tenancy agreement. You can agree a different deadline with the landlord or agent in writing. You will probably lose your holding deposit if you decide not to go ahead, but please read the terms and conditions of the holding deposit. 

We would advise you not to sign the contract unless you are absolutely sure, losing your holding deposit is better than signing and committing to paying the rent for the full length of the tenancy or until you are able to terminate it. 

Is there any specific advice for International Students?

Yes UKCISA have provided a lot of information and support which can be found  here.

I am due to move into a new property over the summer.   What should I do?

Please follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus. This is particularly relevant for Houses in Multiple Occupation/Shared Housing.

In line with government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if  possible. In the event the previous tenants have not been able to move out before your tenancy starts you should speak to the landlord/agent to see if alternative dates can be agreed to move

Additionally, if you are moving into a house of multiple occupation you need to discuss amongst yourselves before you arrive, anyone who may present a risk to others.  You all need to take sensible precautions to ensure the move can happen safely. 

Discuss this with the landlord or agent on the appropriate cleaning and preparation of the property either before you arrive or once you have arrived.  There is also government guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings. 

 

Can my security deposit just be released to pay the rest of my rent?

Your landlord is required by law to put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) if you rent your home on an  assured shorthold tenancy that started after 6 April 2007.  If your deposit is protected the deposit cannot be released until the tenancy ends, so unless your landlord is agreeing to a mutual surrender of the tenancy then the deposit must remain protected by the scheme and cannot be used as part payment or rent or to offset against rent arrears.   

If you live with a live-in landlord, it is likely you will have a Licence Agreement and your deposit does not have to be protected in a scheme.  

We have in the last month written to all of our Agents and Private Accommodation providers (including Landlords) asking them if they would be prepared to assist our students, the majority have advised that they would be happy to discuss individual situations and if they are able to assist they would, this may be in the form of a rent reduction, payment plans, or to release tenants from their contracts.  We  would advise you to get in contact with the Agent/Landlord in order to discuss the situation and come up with a suitable solution. 

The Government guidelines suggest the landlord and tenant mutually agree a payment plan for any outstanding amounts. Another option is to come to an agreement with the landlord to end the tenancy early then the deposit can be used against any outstanding rent.   

Remember to 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.  Also remember, that you will also still be liable for all utilities for the accommodation ie Gas/Electricity etc. so make sure you leave enough money for this. 

If you have agreed something with your landlord – make sure you get this in writing! 

Private accommodation FAQs - for those already living in private accommodation

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.

My landlord or agent wants to conduct viewings.  Should I let them in?

From Wednesday 13 May the  Government advice  on moving home during the Coronavirus outbreak has changed. People should use virtual viewings (360-degree tours, live video tours via WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Skype) before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks.

If any member of either the household being viewed, or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed. All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household. 

Please also check out our Private Housing FAQ’s  for further advice. 

I have left my belongings in the property; can my landlord still charge me rent?

Yes, your landlord can still charge you rent if they want. Your landlord cannot re-let the property if your belongings are still there. 

We would advise searching online for companies that can help with packing up your belongings and keeping them safe or returning them to you. You may also have friends in the UK that could assist with this. This may work out cheaper than paying extra rent. Please make sure you read the terms and conditions and check to make sure you are happy with the website credentials.