UK government boosts protection for renters amid COVID crisis

In response to the continuing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government has moved to support people living in rented accommodation should they be hit by financial problems. As more and more people report struggling with household bills and insecure work caused by the lockdown measures, the government is keen to prevent as many people as possible becoming homeless by making it illegal to evict tenants for a three month period. This means that no renter should fear becoming homeless during the COVID-19 crisis, no matter their circumstances.

What are the new measures?

Following the publication of the new measures, it is now illegal for landlords to evict tenants for non-payment of rent for three months from 18 March 2020. No new possession proceedings allowing landlords to evict tenants from their properties will be able to begin during this time, and guidance has been issued by the government that encourages landlords to show compassion to their tenants by allowing them to remain in their homes.

The rules don’t mean that tenants don’t have to pay rent, but if they are unable to make the payments then they cannot be evicted. While this may not always result in a tenant totally stopping rental payments, it may mean a temporary reduction in rent over this period in order to make the amounts affordable during these unprecedented circumstances. These new rules are designed to ensure that both tenants and landlords can receive equal amounts of support through the crisis.

What happens to my landlord?

While the government’s first priority is to keep as many people in their homes as possible, provision has been made to ensure that landlords will also be supported, in order to keep rental agreements going as smoothly as possible. High street banks are now offering three month mortgage holidays that will allow landlords to take time off paying some of their own costs during this period, allowing them to stay afloat as well.

What happens next?

Once the three month period has ended and provided there is no extension of the scheme, it is expected that landlords will hold meetings with tenants to work together and establish affordable re-payment plans to make up the rent arrears. Once again, it is expected that landlords will work with tenants to ensure that they are able to stay in their homes wherever this is practically possible, and to work together to find terms that are acceptable to both parties.

What else can I do?

The situation around the world remains very changeable at the moment as decisions are made on a week to week basis as to how best to deal with COVID-19. In order to maintain successful working relationships and to facilitate a smooth transition as the world recovers from Coronavirus, the best thing you can do is to work with your property advisor as a landlord or tenant and to ensure they are prepared to support you with any questions or issues you may have.

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