Can I ask for a rent holiday or reduction?

What do I need to know to negotiate a lower rent? If I arrange a rent holiday, will I have to pay it back or forfeit my deposit?

Answer

The Government has advised landlords to be 'sympathetic' to tenants who cannot pay their rent due to coronavirus. It is important to speak to your landlord if you are at risk of falling into arrears due to coronavirus. You may be able to agree a rent reduction or holiday. It is usually beneficial for landlords to work with you to negotiate an arrangement that works for your circumstances, especially if you have not missed a rent payment before. Remember, your landlord wouldn't want to evict you and take a risk on an unknown tenant, especially when they would have to pay to advertise the property, miss out on rent for several weeks and then cover the cost of starting the new tenancy - all in the midst of a pandemic and economic downturn.

We have a guide to negotiating rent (in normal times) and London Renters Union have written a template letter you can use to contact your landlord about issues created by coronavirus. 

Useful tips:

  • If you rent via a lettings agency, contact them in the first instance. If they are not helpful, you have a legal right to your landlord's name and address, so request this and write to them directly.
  • If your landlord has a mortgage, they can apply for a mortgage holiday, enabling them to freeze your rent for a few weeks. Read more 
  • There are currently restrictions on evictions but be aware that once these are lifted landlords will be able to use rent arrears as grounds for eviction (Section 8) unless there is a clear arrangement permitting these; private landlords can also use no-fault Section 21 evictions in most cases. If you are at risk of eviction, get support. Advice providers are listed here.
  • Always get agreements formalised in writing. Information on agreeing a rent reduction is available via Open Rent.
  • Avoid problems in the future by being clear in any agreement with your landlord about whether or not you will need to pay back rent that you can't pay once the pandemic is over - either through higher rents or deposit deductions. We explore these more below.
  • Whether or not your landlord is open to flexibility over the rent you pay, you may be eligible to state support with your rent. Read more

Repayment plans

If your landlord won't waive any rent, the government has encouraged landlords to work with tenants to agree a repayment plan. This will allow you to pay any arrears at a sustainable rate. For more advice on repayment plans, visit Citizens Advice

It’s important to be clear about whether you are agreeing to pay the amount in full at a later date or not.  If you are unsure when your income will return to normal, do not feel pressured into accepting a repayment plan. Agreeing to a plan you can’t afford now could result in further problems down the line. If you are not sure when you will be able to pay rent again, ask your landlord for a rent reduction or holiday, set a date to review the reduction and state that you will keep them informed of your circumstances. Make sure you formalise any agreement made between you and your landlord in writing.

Deposit deductions

If you and your landlord have negotiated a rent reduction or holiday, it’s important to be clear about what you’re agreeing to. Some landlords will be able to offer a reduction or holiday that won’t involve any repayments.  If you agree to make repayments and find yourself behind on rent when the tenancy ends, landlords are able to deduct rent arrears from your deposit. However, they can only do so if they follow appropriate processes, and they should not attempt to make deductions from your deposit before the tenancy ends. The deposit is your money and remains so unless the landlord makes a successful claim.