I'm worried about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

How do I self-isolate in a shared house and how am I supposed to pay the rent?

Answer

As a private renter, you might be worried about how coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) could affect your life. This may include worries about how best to protect yourself if you're asked to self-isolate in a shared household, or how to cover your rent if you are unable to work. We have collected the latest guidance (as of 26 March) for renters here.

LOCKDOWN

On 24 March, the Prime Minister announced restrictions on movement - we are to stay at home except to:

  • Go to work in an essential role
  • Buy essentials
  • Exercise (once a day)
  • Help a vulnerable person
  • Have medical attention

When out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

HOW DO I KEEP MY SHARED HOUSE SAFE?

Two million renters live in shared accommodation with more than two adults sharing a kitchen and/or bathroom. The Government has issued the following advice for people living in shared accommodation who show symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back - or a new, continuous cough – this means you've started coughing repeatedly):

  • if you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for 7 days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill
  • for anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period. 
  • it is likely that people living within a household will infect each other or be infected already. Staying at home for 14 days will greatly reduce the overall amount of infection the household could pass on to others in the community
  • if you can, move any vulnerable individuals (such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period
  • if you cannot move vulnerable people out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible.

Read more

CAN I STILL BE EVICTED?

  • On 18 March, the Government promised "no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time."
  • On 25 March the Coronavirus Act extended the notice period for all evictions to three months. That means you may still receive a notice to quit, and the longer notice period will apply until 30 September 2020. You are not required to leave at the end of the notice period. Only court-appointed bailiffs can make you leave your home.
  • On 26 March the Government announced that all eviction cases in the court system will be suspended from 27 March for at least 90 days. This covers tenants and some licensees (lodgers and some other types of occupier are not covered)
  • If your landlord does try to evict you before the ban comes into force, they need to obtain a court order and must act in line with the law. Find out more about illegal eviction and what you can do here.

HOW DO I PAY MY RENT?

  • Unless your landlord has explicitly and directly confirmed otherwise, you are liable to pay rent as usual throughout the pandemic. Advice on agreeing a rent reduction is available via Open Rent, and this is our guide to negotiating rent.
  • If you are facing a loss of income you may be able to apply for Universal Credit, which includes Housing Benefit.  If you’re self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can get SSP if you’re eligible. You should tell your employer as soon as possible.

If you cannot work due to coronavirus:

  • The government has announced that employees and people who have been self-employed for at least a year and are unable to work during the outbreak can be paid 80% of their earnings up to £2500 per month for three months. Read more
  • You are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay if you are are staying at home on government advice, or you are infected.
  • If you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay you will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of illness – this measure will apply retrospectively from 13 March 2020
  • If you need evidence for your employer, you can get an isolation note through the NHS online.
  • If you're self-employed and claiming Universal Credit, you will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected by coronavirus.
  • You can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a jobcentre.
  • The 7 waiting days for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for new claimants will not apply if you are suffering from coronavirus or are required to stay at home.

If you are already in receipt of benefits, the Government has introduced new measures to make claiming Universal Credit easier:

  • You do not need a fit note to claim ESA or Universal Credit because of coronavirus.
  • Claimants who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness
  • If you are disabled or sick and cannot attend a reassessment, you will continue to receive payments while your assessment is rearranged

If you're well, but you have lost work due to the pandemic, you can claim Universal Credit (which includes housing benefit):

  • The Government has announced that renters needing support with housing costs will be eligible for a payment equal to a third of market rent.
  • To check what you're able to claim, visit a free benefit calculator, such as entitledto.
  • If you can't wait for your first payment, you can apply for an advance, which you will have to pay back over a period of 12 months.

Universal Credit is currently paid monthly, in arrears. That means you could have to wait up to 5 weeks before receiving a payment. It's important that you communicate with your landlord if you are struggling to pay your rent. We have outlined our advice below.

Read more about Statutory Sick Pay and Universal Credit

SHOULD I TELL MY LANDLORD IF I CAN'T PAY?

  • 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. It is usually beneficial for landlords to work with you and arrange to pay back arrears at a later date, 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.
  • If your landlord has a mortgage, they can apply for a mortgage holiday, enabling them to freeze your rent for a few weeks. 
  • If a rent freeze is not possible, agree a repayment plan with your landlord. This will allow you to pay any arrears at a sustainable rate. For more advice on repayment plans, visit Citizens Advice.
  • If you are at risk of eviction, get support. Advice providers are listed here

 

Note: We will update this page over the coming weeks in line with the latest Government advice.

Generation Rent is calling on Government to go further to protect renters in this period, through making Housing Benefit available faster. No one should have to choose between personal safety and a safe, secure home.

Update, 18 March: the Prime Minister has said that emergency legislation will protect tenants from eviction. We await further details.

Update, 20 March: the Chancellor has said that Housing Benefit will be restored to cover the bottom third of market rent.

Update, 26 March: details of protection from eviction.

Update, 1 April: We have added this information and more to our dedicated info page on coronavirus.