Non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors on:
- Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings
- Health and safety obligations, repairs and inspections in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19)
This guidance is advisory and informs you about recent changes to the law. All guidance is subject to frequent updates and should be checked regularly for currency.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions remain in place. The government has announced a 4-week pause at Step 3. Step 3 restrictions remain in place, and you should follow this guidance, which explains what you can and cannot do.
The government urge all landlords and tenants to abide by the latest government guidance on COVID-19.
The guidance in this document applies to England only. Some of the measures referred to also apply in Wales.
1. Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings
This is a summary of the rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings section. Further detail can be found in Section 1 below.
The purpose of this advisory guidance is to help landlords and tenants understand requirements around rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings that are in place during the pandemic.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 provides protection to social and private tenants by delaying when landlords can evict tenants. The provisions in the Act increased the required notice period length landlords must provide to tenants when seeking possession of a residential property, and have been extended through additional legislation.
This means that between 29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021, with the exception of the most serious cases, landlords needed to give their tenants 6 months’ notice before starting possession proceedings. These serious cases include those in relation to anti-social behaviour (including rioting), certain cases of domestic abuse in the social sector, false statement, where a tenant has accrued rent arrears to the value of over 6 months’ rent, where a tenant has passed away and where a tenant doesn’t have the right to rent under immigration legislation.
From 1 June 2021, notice periods must be at least 4 months in most cases, including where the tenant has less than 4 months’ rent arrears. From 1 August 2021, the notice period for cases where there are less than 4 months of unpaid rent, will further reduce to 2 months’ notice. Notice periods for the most serious cases, as set out above, are lower with most requiring 2 or 4 weeks’ notice. The notice period for ‘serious arrears’ is 4 weeks’ notice and the threshold for what constitutes ‘serious arrears’ is ‘arrears equivalent to 4 or more months’ rent.
The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020 and landlords are now able to progress their possession claim through the courts. Courts will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.
Legislation is in place up to the end of 31 May to ensure bailiffs do not serve eviction notices or carry out evictions but there were exceptions for the most serious circumstances that presented the most strain on landlords. These circumstances were illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social rented sector, where a property is unoccupied following death of a tenant and serious rent arrears greater than 6 months’ rent.
The restrictions on bailiff enforcement will end at the end of 31 May, reflecting the improved public health situation and easing national restrictions. From 1 June, bailiffs can send out eviction notices and enforce evictions. Given the requirement to provide 14 days’ notice, no evictions are expected until mid-June, except in the most egregious cases and bailiffs have been asked not to carry out an eviction if anyone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.
Legislation is in place to ensure bailiffs do not serve eviction notices or carry out evictions (including mortgage repossessions) but there are exemptions for the most serious circumstances that present the most strain on landlords. These circumstances are illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social rented sector, where a property is unoccupied following death of a tenant and serious rent arrears greater than 6 months’ rent. These measures are in force until the end of 31 May. Given that 14 days’ notice is required before an eviction can take place, no evictions are expected before mid-June except in the most serious circumstances.
The government have published new guidance for landlords and tenants on the possession action process through the courts.
The ban on bailiff enforcement includes mortgage repossessions. No action to enforce repossession should commence until at least 1 June unless the homeowner agrees to a voluntary repossession. The Financial Conduct Authority has issued separate guidance covering mortgage repossessions.
2. Repairs, maintenance, health and safety, and home moves
This is a summary of the repairs, maintenance, health and safety and home moves section. Further detail can be found in Section 2 below. The purpose of this advisory guidance is to support landlords and tenants in managing property maintenance issues, health and safety, and overcrowding as the country moves towards an easing of lockdown measures. It also provides advice on home viewings and home moves.
Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live. Where safe to do so, it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are well maintained, kept in good repair and free from hazards.
Landlords can take steps to carry out repairs and safety inspections, provided these are undertaken in line with the latest guidance on (COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do, public health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation.
Section 1. Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings
- Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. The government has made a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
- In many, if not most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. If a tenant’s ability to pay will be affected, it’s important that they have an early conversation with their landlord. Rent levels agreed in the tenancy agreement remain legally due and tenants should discuss with their landlord if they are in difficulty.
- An early conversation between landlord and tenant can help both parties to agree a plan if tenants are struggling to pay their rent. This can include reaching a temporary agreement not to seek possession action for a period of time and instead accept a lower level of rent, or agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date. However, landlords are not required to stop charging rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach, as each tenant’s circumstance is different, and some will be worse affected in terms of their ability to pay than others. It is important for landlords to be flexible and have a frank and open conversation with their tenants at the earliest opportunity, to allow both parties to agree a sensible way forward. If a landlord and tenant agree a plan to pay off arrears, it is important they both stick to this plan, and that tenants talk to their landlord immediately if they are unable to do so.
- The government has worked with the National Residential Landlords Association to produce a guide to managing arrears and avoiding possession claims in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, which private landlords and tenants may find useful to consult. The free guide includes golden rules for dealing with rent disputes and a downloadable ‘Pre-Action Plan for Managing Arrears and avoiding Possession Claims’.
- Social landlords and tenants are referred to the Pre-Action Protocol for possession claims by social landlords. You can find out more information in guidance for landlords and tenants on the possession action process through the courts.
- Where appropriate, if disputes over rent or other matters persist, landlords and tenants are encouraged to consider mediation. Mediation allows an independent third-party to assist those involved to try to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute. The government is funding a pilot mediation service for cases that have reached the courts from February 2021 which will be free for landlords and tenants to us (see mediation section below).
Financial support available
- The government has put in place a major package of financial support to enable people to continue paying their living costs, including rental payments. This includes support for businesses to pay staff salaries through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme and the government have strengthened the welfare safety-net by billions of pounds.
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is in place until the end of September. Employees will continue to receive 80% of wages for hours not worked. Financial support for the self-employed is also available.
- Find further information on government support for employers and employees.
- If tenants fall into financial difficulties due to a change in their employment or earnings, for example, they may qualify for Universal Credit, which can include help with housing costs. Find more information about Universal Credit.
- Property Guardian licence agreements are a valid tenancy arrangement for receiving housing costs support in Universal Credit. Students are also able to claim Universal Credit under certain circumstances.
- Support is also available to support individuals to continue paying other household bills, such as council tax. Every council has its own local council tax support scheme to provide reduced council tax bills for those least able to pay. The government has provided councils with £670 million of new funding to enable them to continue providing this support in 2021-22, at a time when more households may be experiencing financial hardship.
- Renters in the private and social rented sectors who are entitled to Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit and require further financial assistance towards housing costs, should contact their local authority. Discretionary Housing Payments are available which can provide extra money when the council decides that a tenant needs additional help to meet their housing costs. The payments are entirely at local authority discretion, including the amount and duration of any award. You should contact your local council to see if you are eligible for this support.
- If a tenant is worried about being unable to pay their rent, or if landlords become aware of tenants who may be in difficulty, advice is available from specialist providers such as Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service. If they are eligible for Legal Aid, they can also contact Civil Legal Advice for free and confidential advice.
- If tenants are worried about being evicted and not having anywhere else to go, they should speak to their local authority. They can find information on how to contact their local council at: www.gov.uk/find-local-council.
- If a landlord is concerned about their financial situation they should discuss this with their lender. The Financial Conduct Authority has been clear that for borrowers including those with a Buy to Let mortgage, who have been impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19), firms should continue to provide support through tailored forbearance options. These could include making reduced or no payments for a temporary period, or changing the mortgage term.
- Legislation is in place until the end of 31 May banning the enforcement of lender repossession action except for in exceptional cases (such as a borrower requesting proceeding continue).
- Further information on mortgages and the support available during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is available from the Money Advice Service and UK Finance.
- Most shared owners will pay both rent and a mortgage. Like other mortgage holders, shared owners who are struggling to meet their mortgage payments as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be able to access the support outlined above. Most shared owners will also be covered by the Coronavirus Act 2020, meaning their landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given shared owners the required notice. There is further information about the provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 below.
- Shared owners should continue to meet their financial commitments where possible. The government has introduced a strong package of financial support, so where they can, shared owners should still pay the rent to their landlord and mortgage to their lender as normal. Shared owners who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord and mortgage provider at the earliest opportunity.
Protections for tenants under the Coronavirus Act 2020
- From 26 March 2020, the Coronavirus Act 2020 has protected most tenants and secure licensees in the private and social rented sectors with measures requiring landlords, in most cases, to give extended notice of their intention to seek possession before starting court action. The measures do not apply retroactively to notices already issued, so notices issued before 26 March 2020 are unaffected, and the specific rules which apply subsequently depend on the period in which the notice was issued:
- For notices issued between 26 March 2020 and 28 August 2020, the required notice period was 3 months.
- The provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 were extended so that, between 29 August 2020 and until 31 May 2021, landlords had to provide 6 months’ notice to their tenants in most circumstances. During this period, exceptions to the 6 month requirement applied to certain cases because of the pressures they place on landlords, other tenants and local communities, so that:
For notices issued between 29 August and until 31 May 2021:
- The required notice in relation to anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, rioting and false statement, the notice periods were returned to their pre-Coronavirus Act 2020 lengths. In some cases, this means that proceedings for anti-social behaviour can be brought immediately after notice has been served. Notice periods on these grounds otherwise vary, depending on the type of tenancy and ground used, between 2 weeks and 1 month.
- Where at least 6 months of rent is unpaid, a minimum 4-week notice period was required. If less than 6 months of rent is unpaid, then the notice period was 6 months.
- Where a tenant has passed away or is in breach of immigration rules and does not have a right to rent a property in the United Kingdom then a minimum 3-month notice period was usually required.
- Where a social tenant has an introductory or demoted tenancy (used by local authorities), for cases concerning anti-social behaviour (including rioting) and domestic abuse, a 4-week notice period was required. Otherwise, notice periods for Introductory and Demoted Tenancies was 6 months.
- A 6-month notice period was required for all other grounds, including Section 21 notices and, as stated earlier, where accrued rent arrears were less than the value of 6 months’ rent.
- From 1 June 2021, landlords must serve at least 4 months’ notice in all but the most serious cases, and there will be some other changes appropriate to the easing of national restrictions, so that:
- Notice periods for the most serious cases which have already returned to their pre-COVID lengths will remain lower (as outlined above).
- Notice periods for cases where possession in sought on the grounds of the death of the tenant or where the tenant is in breach of immigration rules and does not have a right to rent a property in the United Kingdom are 2 months’ and 2 weeks’ notice respectively.
- The threshold for serious arrears (where the shorter 4 week notice period can be used) is 4 or more months’ rent is in arrears.
- A 4-month notice period is required for all other grounds, including Section 21 notices and termination of local authority flexible tenancies.
- For cases where possession is sought on rent arrears grounds but the arrears do not meet the threshold for the ‘serious’ notice period (4 months’ arrears), the notice period will reduce again on 1 August to 2 months.
- Where a social tenant has an introductory or demoted tenancy (used by local authorities), for cases concerning anti-social behaviour (including rioting), domestic abuse, false statement, and rent arrears of at least 4 months, a 4-week notice period is required. From 1 August, the notice period where there are less than 4 months’ rent arrears will further reduce to 2 months. Otherwise, notice periods for Introductory and Demoted Tenancies will be 4 months.
- At the expiry of the notice period, a landlord cannot force a tenant to leave their home without a court order. When the notice period expires, a landlord would need to take court action if the tenant was unable to move. We strongly advise landlords not to commence or continue eviction proceedings during this challenging time without a very good reason.
- Where appropriate, if disputes over rent or other matters persist, landlords and tenants are encouraged to consider mediation. Mediation allows an independent third-party to assist those involved to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute. The government is funding a possession mediation service for cases that have reached court, which is free to use for landlords and tenants . However, mediation can take place at any point during the possession action process. Further information on mediation is available below.
- For further information about possession proceedings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, please see technical guidance on eviction notices.
- Where a landlord gives a tenant a valid Section 21 notice between29 August 2020 and 31 May 2021 inclusive, the notice will be valid for:
- 10 months from the date it is given to the tenant, where Section 21(4D) applies; or
- 4 months from the date specified in the notice as the date after which possession is required, if Section 21(4E) applies.
Where a landlord gives a tenant a valid Section 21 notice on or after 1 June 2021, the notice will be valid for:
- 8 months from the date it is given to the tenant, where Section 21 (4D) applies; or
- 4 months from the date specified in the notice as the date after which possession is required, if Section 21 (4E) applies.
Please note: The validity of Section 8 notices remains unchanged by the Coronavirus Act 2020. Section 8 notices continue to be valid for 12 months after they are served.
- If a landlord wishes to serve a new notice for any reason, where they are issuing a new notice of the same type, they should withdraw the first notice before they serve a new notice.
- Landlords may find it helpful to seek independent legal advice regarding these matters.
Licences to occupy (including property guardians) and the Coronavirus Act
- The Coronavirus Act only applies to tenants so will not apply to licences to occupy (other than a secure licence under the Housing Act 1985). Landlords of those on licences to occupy should follow the same guidance and work with renters who may be facing hardship as a result of the response to COVID-19.
- The government has put in place an unprecedented support package to help prevent people getting into financial hardship or rent arrears, including support for business to pay staff salaries, as well as important changes to statutory sick pay and the benefits system. Furthermore, we are offering support for businesses, such as property guardian companies, so that they can support their renters. Please check https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus for up to date information about the support available.
- Property guardianship agreements are usually offered on a contractual licence to occupy. The licence will provide the right to occupy premises in return for the payment of a licence fee or performance of a service. In law, a licence usually arises when there is no right to exclusive possession or there is no intention to enter into a legal relationship of landlord and tenant. However, if the licensee has exclusive possession, it may be a tenancy, even if the agreement calls it a licence.
- We have published property guardian guidance to enable potential or current property guardians to understand their rights and the difference between a licence and a tenancy.
- However, individual agreements and circumstances will vary, and so property guardians and all licensees should take their own legal advice in order to fully understand their rights and responsibilities. Property guardians can get free legal advice from their local housing advice centre, or Citizens Advice.
Ending tenancies early
- As part of the national effort to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak it’s important that landlords offer support and understanding to tenants who may start to see their income fluctuate. This may include allowing tenants to end the tenancy by giving less notice than allowed for in the tenancy agreement or permitting them to end the tenancy before the fixed term expires.
- Technically, tenants are liable to pay the rent for the whole of the contractual notice period, or for the whole of the fixed term but, if a new tenant can be found quickly, allowing the agreement to end early need not cause you to suffer any loss.
- Landlords can charge a fee to tenants if the tenant wishes to end the tenancy early, although this fee must not exceed the loss incurred by the landlord or reasonable costs to the landlord’s letting agent if they are using one. The government’s guidance on the Tenant Fees Act contains more information
Tenants leaving the property without providing proper notice
- If landlords believe that their tenant has left the property but has not surrendered the tenancy – by, for example, notifying them in writing and/or returning the keys – they should verify that they have left the property before taking any further action.
- Landlords could do this by using any contact information which the tenant submitted at the start of the tenancy, such as contacts for rent guarantors or friends and family. If they are still unable to locate their tenant, they may wish to use a tracing agent.
- The tenant has a right to the quiet enjoyment of their property and should be given 24 hours’ notice of any visit to the property. Landlords may only enter the property in the case of an emergency, and in this case only when accompanied by an independent witness who will be able to record the situation in writing.
- If landlords change the locks or enter the property and have not got confirmation that their tenant has left, a court may find that they have evicted their tenant illegally and could receive a custodial sentence or a fine if convicted.
Resolving disputes and serving a notice of possession
- In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are encouraging landlords and tenants to resolve disputes without going to court wherever possible. For example, if tenants are in rent arrears, they could agree to a repayment plan with their landlord. Landlords may accept a lower level of rent or agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date and not seek possession action through the courts for a period of time. This could be less costly than re-letting the property. The government have worked with the National Residential Landlords Association to produce a guide for private landlords and tenants on managing arrears and avoiding court action in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Social landlords and tenants are referred to the Pre-Action Protocol for possession claims by social landlords. You can find out more information in guidance for landlords and tenants on the possession action process through the courts.
- If disputes over rent or other matters persist, landlords and tenants are encouraged to consider mediation, which allows an independent third-party to assist those involved to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute. The government is funding a pilot mediation service for cases which have reached court which is free to use for landlords and tenants. However, mediation can take place at any point during the possession action process. Further information on mediation is available below.
- Landlords must follow strict procedures if they want a tenant to leave a property, depending on the type of tenancy agreement in place and the terms of it. Most private and social tenants, and licensees, can only be evicted with a court order, which the landlord can apply for if they have served the tenant with the relevant notice and this has expired. If they do not comply with the necessary legal requirements for giving notice, the landlord’s claim for possession will be dismissed. For more information, see accompanying Technical guidance on eviction notices.
- A landlord cannot use violence or threat of violence to evict someone, in any circumstances. If landlords do not follow the appropriate legal procedures, they may be guilty of illegal eviction and/or harassment.
- If you are a tenant or other occupier, and the landlord gives you notice, it is important to seek advice as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances, it may be in your interests to leave the property before the notice expires, to speak to the landlord about leaving by a later date, or to wait for possession proceedings to be brought. The below section of this guidance contains more information on the possession process in the court.
Note: if you require advice on individual cases, or you are worried you may have been illegally evicted, you should contact a free, impartial advice service such as Citizens Advice or Shelter. If you are eligible for Legal Aid, you can also contact Civil Legal Advice for free and confidential advice.
Possession action in the county court
- Since 21 September 2020, the courts have been considering possession cases. This means that landlords can bring possession claims to court when the relevant notice period has expired. However, there are new procedures for both landlords and tenants to follow, and until the end of 31 May evictions cannot be carried out by county court bailiffs or High Court Enforcement Officers except in the most serious circumstances.
- We strongly encourage tenants to engage with the court process, including attending any appointments and hearings scheduled by the court, so that they can receive free legal advice. If a tenant is unable to attend, for example because they are self-isolating, they should inform the court as soon as possible.
- New arrangements have been put in place to ensure that all parties have access to justice and appropriate support. More information on the new court arrangements can be found below, and further details can be found in the guidance for landlords and tenants on the possession action process through the courts.
- Legislation is in place up to the end of 31 May to ensure bailiffs do not serve eviction notices or carry out evictions but there were exceptions for the most serious circumstances that presented the most strain on landlords. These circumstances were illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social rented sector, where a property is unoccupied following death of a tenant and serious rent arrears greater than 6 months’ rent.
- These restrictions will be lifted from the end of 31 May 2021, reflecting the improved public health situation and easing national restrictions. Bailiffs will be able to send out notices of evictions and enforce evictions from 1 June 2021. Given the requirement to provide 14 days’ notice, no evictions are expected until mid-June, except in the most egregious cases and bailiffs have been asked not to carry out an eviction if anyone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating.
New court arrangements
- Following the reopening of the courts on 21 September 2020, new arrangements have been put in place to ensure that all parties have access to justice and the appropriate support.
- Court rules are currently in force which require landlords who are making a possession claim to set out any information they are aware of about how their tenant, or any dependant of their tenant, has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Where the claim relates to rent arrears, landlords will also need to provide an updated rent account for the previous 2 years in advance of the hearing. Where any of this information is not provided, judges can adjourn proceedings until the requirement to provide it has been met.
- Where a landlord is seeking possession as a result of suffering financial difficulty due to the pandemic, the landlord can draw that to the court’s attention by marking the claim ‘COVID-19’. Likewise, tenants who are challenging a possession claim can inform the court of how they have been impacted by the pandemic, marking their challenge ‘COVID-19’. Information supporting the ‘COVID-19’ marking must be provided.
- If a landlord made a possession claim to the court before 3 August 2020, they are required to notify the Court and their tenant that they still intend to seek repossession before the case will proceed, including in section 21 cases. A reactivation form is available to support landlords doing this. Landlords have until 30 April to reactivated any claims pre-dating 3 August 2020.
- Landlords must complete an N244 application and submit it to the court where the possession claim was filed, accompanied by the relevant fee. See the latest Court Fees.
- The judiciary are prioritising the most serious cases for action. As a guide, priority will be given to claims issued before the stay commenced in March 2020, and to cases involving anti-social behaviour, extreme rent arrears, domestic abuse, fraud and deception, illegal occupiers and squatters or abandonment of a property, unlawful subletting, and cases concerning what was allocated as temporary accommodation by an authority.
- A new review stage has been introduced. The review will take place at least 28 days before the substantive hearing and will enable tenants to access free legal advice through a duty solicitor. The court will send both landlord and tenant details of the review date and provide details of how the tenant can book an appointment with a duty solicitor. It is important for the landlord to be available on the review appointment date to discuss the case with the duty solicitor, and for tenants to book an appointment with a duty solicitor on the review date so that they can obtain free advice and assistance on their circumstances.
- A new mediation pilot integrated into the court process is supporting landlords and renters who face court procedures and potential eviction to resolve issues without the need for a formal hearing. For more information, see the Mediation section below.
- As detailed above, legislation will is in place until the end of 31 May to ensure bailiffs do not serve eviction notices or carry out evictions (including mortgage repossessions) but there are exemptions for the most serious circumstances that present the most strain on landlords. From 1 June, bailiffs will be able to send out eviction notices and enforce evictions. Where an eviction does take place, this will be scheduled with at least 14 days’ notice. Bailiffs will not carry out an eviction if they are made aware that anyone in the property is self-isolating or has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms. In these circumstances the eviction will be rescheduled with at least 14 days’ notice.
- For more information on how the possession action process works in the county court- including more details about making and defending claims and the new court arrangements which have been put in place to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, you should consult the guidance on understanding the possession action process.
- In light of the unprecedented circumstances presented by coronavirus (COVID-19), the government continue to advise landlords not to commence new notices seeking possession during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so. Eviction of a tenant should only be used as a last resort, where the measures described below fail to resolve the problem. See detail of options to address anti-social behaviour
- However, in certain cases, it is important that landlords can progress cases within shorter timeframes. Anti-social behaviour in properties can place undue pressure on landlords, other tenants and local communities. Therefore, from 29 August 2020, for notices in relation to anti-social behaviour, certain cases of domestic abuse in the social sector and rioting, the required notice periods have returned to their pre-Coronavirus Act 2020 lengths.
- In some cases, this means that proceedings for anti-social behaviour can be brought immediately after notice has been served. Notice periods on these grounds otherwise vary, depending on the type of tenancy and ground used, between 2 weeks and 1 month. Please see the Technical guidance on eviction notices for further information.
- When the required notice period has elapsed, and if the tenant has not vacated the property, landlords will be able to apply to the court for an order for possession. The Judiciary are prioritising the most serious cases for action, including those involving anti-social behaviour.
- If tenants have attempted to resolve instances of anti-social behaviour or feel uncomfortable resolving the matter, they should contact their landlord, the local authority and the police to report anti-social behaviour. Information on how to contact the relevant local authority is available at: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council and information on how to contact the police is available at: https://www.gov.uk/report-crime-anti-social-behaviour. ASB Help can also provide specific advice on dealing with anti-social behaviour.
- If advice is required on individual cases those involved should seek their own legal advice or contact a free impartial advice service such as Citizens Advice. ASB Help can also be contacted who can provide specific advice on dealing with anti-social behaviour.
- If anyone feels threatened by someone’s behaviour, they should always contact the police.
- Mediation involves an independent third party assisting the landlord and tenant to come to a mutually agreeable solution. Mediation can be quicker and less expensive than a full court hearing. It leaves the tenant and landlord, rather than a court, in charge of the outcome. Settling a dispute early can also help to avoid a breakdown in relations between the tenant and landlord and let them move forward with the tenancy.
- Mediation can be successful in helping to resolve disputes, particularly where both parties work constructively to reach an agreement. Because the parties are in charge of the outcome, mediation is also more flexible than the court process, and can allow landlords and tenants to resolve a range of issues in ways that would not be possible in a formal hearing.
- As part of the measures put in place following the stay on evictions in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the government is funding a mediation pilot integrated into the court process, which will be free for landlords and tenants to use. This pilot is the Rental Mediation Service (RMS) and is currently available across England and Wales.
- As part of the new court arrangements put in place following the end of the stay on possessions, when Review dates are scheduled, tenants will have access to free legal advice from the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS). If both parties agree, the case will be referred to the RMS , which is run by the Society of Mediators. A mediator will then get in touch with the tenant and landlord to arrange a suitable time for the mediation to take place.
- If an agreement is reached during mediation, then the mediator will ask both parties to sign an agreement and will inform the court of the outcome. If an agreement is not reached, then the substantive hearing will take place on the date specified. Agreeing to mediation will not make the court possession process any longer but will help to resolve issues and sustain tenancies where possible.
- Tenants who are interested in mediation can raise this at their HPCDS appointment on the day of the Review, and landlords should seek to discuss mediation with their tenants if they are interested.
- Although mediation is more flexible that the court process, parties should still seek independent legal advice. This is available for free to tenants on the day of their Review through the HPCDS, before any referral to the RMS is made. However, tenants should also consider speaking to a free, impartial advice service, such as Citizens Advice, before their Review date.
- Find more information on the Review process, including the RMS>
- Although the mediation service is only available to cases which have been considered suitable for Review, the government continues to explore and encourage use of pre-action mediation options, where parties are encouraged to mediate earlier in the process. These options include advice agencies, local authorities, and private services.
- There are several mediation and advice services, as well as individual mediators, who specialise in private rented sector disputes. There is no single list of suitable mediators in specific areas, but it may be useful to check:
- Illegal eviction is when a landlord or another person deprives a tenant of their home without following the correct legal process. Tenants are entitled to “quiet enjoyment”, which means they have a legal right to live in the property as their home. Landlords must obtain the tenant’s consent before entering their home.
- Most tenants are protected under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 which protects tenants against harassment and illegal eviction by landlords. Harassment can be anything a landlord does, or fails to do, that makes a tenant feel unsafe in the property or forces them to leave.
- Landlords are required to get a court order and ask bailiffs to evict the tenant. Local authorities have enforcement powers to deal with harassment and illegal eviction.
- Local authorities have enforcement powers to tackle illegal evictions. Local authorities can investigate offences of harassment and illegal eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and, if the evidence justifies it, prosecute where an offence has been committed.
- In cases where the landlord has been convicted of acting illegally, they may be subject a rent repayment order, a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years. The landlord may also be subject to a banning order as unlawful eviction and harassment under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 is a banning order offence.
- If a tenant is being forced out of their home illegally they should contact the police and their local authority as soon as possible. For advice on individual cases or if a tenant is worried they may have been illegally evicted, they should seek legal advice or contact a free impartial advice service such as Citizens Advice or Shelter.
Section 2: Repairs, maintenance, health and safety and home moves
Summary of key points
- It is vital that local authorities, landlords and tenants continue to work together to keep rented properties safe.
- It is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards. Tenants should let their landlords know early if there is a problem and landlords should take the appropriate action as soon as possible.
- Landlords are able to carry out normal services to properties – including urgent and routine repairs and safety inspections, and planned maintenance provided these are undertaken in line with the latest guidance on (COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do, public health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation.
- No work should be carried out in a household which is isolating because one or more family members has symptoms unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household or to the public.
- There are some groups who are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19). These people have been told directly by their GP or hospital clinician, or have received a letter, confirming that they are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. See guidance on who is at higher risk from coronavirus, and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. For households in which one or more people are one or more people are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), any non-emergency work should only be undertaken at the discretion of the individuals concerned and anyone entering a CEV household should take significant precautions to prevent infection.
- Current restrictions may mean it is harder to carry out routine or essential repairs and maintenance, but landlords should make every effort to meet their responsibilities. Tenants should also be aware that workforce and resource constraints may mean it will take slightly longer than usual to carry out non-urgent repairs, and some landlords will also have built up a backlog that they need to manage down.
- Where a tenant is not self-isolating or CEV and persistently refuses to allow access to the property, landlords still have the powers and tools available to gain access to their properties. This includes access to the Courts to obtain an injunction or, in the case of a local authority landlord, a warrant.
- Because of these restrictions, the government is recommending a pragmatic approach to enforcement from local authorities. This should mean that tenants who are living with serious hazards that a landlord has failed to remedy can still be assured of local authority support, but that landlords should also know they should not be unfairly penalised where coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions may have prevented them from meeting some routine obligations.
Repairs and maintenance in homes
- If they are not self-isolating, tenants can allow local authorities, landlords or contractors access to their home in order to carry out a range of works. This includes:
- routine inspections, including annual gas safety checks;
- essential and non-essential repairs and maintenance; and
- planned maintenance activity inside and outside the home.
- Landlords should be aware that some tenants may still want to exercise caution and should respect this when engaging with their tenants. It is important that any work is carried out in accordance with the latest guidance on working safely in people’s homes
- Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people can permit local authorities, landlords and contractors to carry out routine repairs and inspections, providing that the latest guidance on (COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do is followed and provided that they have discussed it with the occupants beforehand who do not wish to delay the works. It is important that any work is carried out in accordance with the latest guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
- Tenants who are not self-isolating but who are concerned about the transmission of COVID-19 may be reluctant to allow landlords, or their contractors, to enter their homes to carry out work. These tenants should discuss this with their landlord and may decide they wish to delay this work. In these cases, landlords should work with tenants to help them understand why the work is necessary, what the risks are of not carrying out the work and to try find a way to carry out work safely if possible. If tenants do delay work for these reasons, it is vital that they schedule these works as soon as they feel it is safe to do so.
- Some landlords will have a backlog of repairs that they will need to address, so it may take longer than normal to carry out more non-essential work which will need to be prioritised.
- Where a tenant is not self-isolating or clinically extremely vulnerable and persistently refuses to allow access to the property, landlords still have the powers and tools available to gain access to their properties. This includes access to the Courts to obtain an injunction or, in the case of a local authority landlord, a warrant.
- Tenants must continue to meet their legal and contractual obligations as a tenant, including paying rent. Section 1 of this document provides guidance for those who are experiencing difficulties paying their rent.
Repairs and maintenance when tenants are self-isolating
- No work should be carried out in the home where a tenant or the household is self-isolating because one or more family members has symptoms unless it is to remedy a direct risk that affects the safety of the tenants, their household or to the public.
- These are issues which will affect their ability to live safely and maintain their mental and physical health in their home. In such cases, prior arrangements should be made to avoid any face to face contact, for example, when answering the door. Landlords and contractors should stay up to date with the latest guidance on working safely in people’s homes.
- Planned maintenance activities should not be carried out where operatives or contractors are required to enter the homes of households that are self-isolating. If this means that a planned programme of works is best delayed, landlords should take steps to manage resident expectations.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people and repairs and maintenance work
- Clinically extremely vulnerable people can permit landlords and contractors to carry out routine repairs and inspections, provided the latest guidance on social distancing, working safely in people’s homes and guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable individuals is followed and provided that landlords have discussed it with the occupants beforehand who do not wish to delay the works.
- For households in which one or more people are clinically extremely vulnerable, any non-emergency work should only be undertaken at the discretion of the individuals concerned and anyone entering a clinically extremely vulnerable household should take significant precautions to prevent infection.
- Where permitted, prior arrangements should be made to maintain appropriate social distancing during the visit.
- Find government guidance on cleaning homes to minimise the risk of infection.
Gas and electrical safety inspections
- Safety in the home remains extremely important and therefore all landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations – and in the private rented sector, the new electrical safety regulations which have applied to all tenancies since 1 April 2021 – providing this can be done in line with guidance on working in people’s homes.
- Gas safety inspections ensure that all tenants, including the vulnerable, are protected from possibly fatal risks arising from carbon monoxide exposure or gas explosions. Landlords should not suspend all gas safety checks at this time as it will unnecessarily put tenants at increased risk, particularly as people are spending most, and in some cases all, of their time at homes.
- Gas safety checks should not be carried out in homes that are self-isolating until after the isolation period has ended, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household.
- If a tenant is clinically extremely vulnerable, they should inform their landlord. Before undertaking the check, prior arrangements should be made to ensure that appropriate social distancing is maintained during the visit.
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have provided detailed advice on gas safety in rented properties, including in properties with clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable tenants.
- The restrictions imposed by current measures to minimise the infection risks from COVID-19 may make this more difficult, for example where households are isolating. Under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach of their legal duties. (see box below).
- Local authorities and other enforcement agencies are aware of guidance for people working in other people’s homes and how this will affect landlords complying with gas and electrical safety requirements. The government is encouraging a pragmatic, common-sense approach to enforcement in these unprecedented times.
- Landlords are legally required to provide tenants with all necessary gas and electrical safety and any other relevant certification at the beginning of a tenancy (and carry out all scheduled inspections and tests where required). Where inspections have already been carried out, documents can be provided by post or in some circumstances it may be possible to provide digital copies.
Electrical and gas safety in privately rented properties
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Regulations 2020 were made on 18 March and apply to all new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and will apply for existing tenancies on 1 April 2021.
The Electrical Safety Regulations require landlords to:
1. Have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every 5 years;
2. Provide a copy of the report (known as the Electrical Safety Condition Report or EICR) to their tenants, and to the local authority if requested.
3. If the EICR requires investigative or remedial works, landlords will have to carry this out within 28 days or a shorter period if specified in the report. Written confirmation of the completion of the remedial works from the electrician must be supplied to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days of completion of the works.
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 require landlords to have annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue carried out by an engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register and to keep a record of each safety check. Find further advice on the Gas Safe Register’s website.
Both regulations are clear on the issue of compliance. With regards to the Electrical Safety Regulations, a landlord would not be in breach of the duty to comply with a remedial notice if the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply. With regards to a landlord’s duties under the Gas Safety Regulations, a landlord would not be liable for an offence if the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the contravention.
A landlord could show reasonable steps by keeping copies of all communications they have had with their tenants and with electricians as they tried to arrange the work, including any replies they have had. Landlords may also want to provide other evidence they have that the installation, appliance or flue is in a good condition while they attempt to arrange works.
Reducing the risk of infection in shared accommodation, accommodation with shared facilities, and overcrowded accommodation
- Find on GOV.UK guidance explaining the additional steps to consider to reduce the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19.
- This guidance is for people living in all types of housing, in particular for people who live in:
- Accommodation with shared facilities, such as a block of flats
- Overcrowded accommodation
- Shared accommodation
- Shared accommodation could include:
- a flat or house share where tenants live with another person with whom they are not related and share cooking and bathroom facilities
- a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), which is where 3 or more people from 2 or more different families share cooking or bathroom facilities
- co-living where multiple people/households share some facilities or common areas
This guidance applies to those who rent their accommodation, and people who own their accommodation.
Households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
- The government has issued guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. The same guidance applies to occupants of shared properties. All the occupants of the home should behave in the same way as a single household if one or more occupants have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
- This means that if a tenant shares with people who they are not related to and develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), they follow government guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
- All other residents of the home should also follow the government guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
Shared facilities and common areas
- If tenants share facilities or common areas with other people, all residents should always do their very best to follow the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance. Everyone in the household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces.
- See government guidance on cleaning homes to minimise the risk of infection.
Minimising the risk of infection in common areas or shared facilities of residential blocks with communal areas
- Landlords and/or managing agents should carry out their own risk assessments to identify suitable control measures to mitigate the risk of transmission in common areas or shared facilities. Existing guidance should also be updated to reflect these control measures. Potential risks will be dependent on the layout of the building, and other factors such as the facilities available.
- Social distancing in residential blocks with communal areas poses unique challenges due to the number of people living in the same building and the frequency of use of common areas or shared facilities.
- Landlords and/or managing agents should consider whether any additional steps are required to ensure the safe use of lifts and stairwells to mitigate the risk of transmission. This will depend on the types of buildings and number of lifts/stairwells they have. Possible action may include limiting the number of people who can use a lift at any one time, or one-way systems to reduce congestion.
- Many residential blocks provide shared facilities such as laundry rooms and waste disposal areas. Any risk assessment should give consideration to the safe use of these areas, and tenants should be reminded of the need to avoid close contact with other residents through the use posters and/or floor markings. Landlords and/or managing agents may wish to close or restrict use of non-essential indoor communal space where it would not be possible to maintain social distancing (e.g. shared spaces for use by more than one household).
- There should be increased frequency of cleaning of common areas or shared facilities to reduce the presence of the virus and the risk of contact. This includes ‘frequent touch’ surfaces which are in regular use, such as entry control systems, door handles, handrails, buttons and bin lids. Staff responsible for cleaning these areas should have appropriate protection and cleaning supplies. The minimum PPE to be worn for cleaning an area after a person with symptoms of, or confirmed, COVID-19 who has left the setting possible is disposable gloves and an apron.
- Keeping indoor areas well-ventilated as much as is possible will reduce the risk of transmission by diluting internal air with fresh outside air. This should be balanced with other considerations such as comfort, safety and security.
- Try opening windows or doors and using trickle vents if these are fitted to windows. Extractor fans, where fitted that vent outside, should also be used. Windows do not need to be opened as wide in colder weather to achieve sufficient ventilation because the differences in temperature between the inside and outside increases the ventilation.
- Mechanical ventilation can be improved by adjusting systems to provide more outdoor air and recirculating less air. In colder weather, the amount of fresh air should be maximised, and the recirculation minimised as far as systems allow without significantly compromising comfort.
- Guidance and advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) should be clearly communicated to all tenants through accessible means such as letters, posters or emails. Consideration should also be given to language, cultural, and disability barriers.
Communal lounges in sheltered/retirement and extra-care schemes
- It is reasonable that residents might be able to use communal indoor areas such as lounges (especially when the weather is unpleasant) in specialist sheltered, retirement and housing-with-care schemes provided it is possible to practice safe distancing and regular cleaning.
- The social contact rules must be followed in the indoor space. One group of up to 6 people, or one group of up to 2 households (though each household can include a linked household) can mix together indoors. This means that groups would have to socially distance from other groups within the shared space. In deciding whether to open or close such spaces, landlords and scheme managers will need to undertake their own local risk assessment, balancing the importance of measures that can assist residents’ wider well-being and independence, the need to have the right COVID-19 infection control measures in place and the need to comply with the restrictions on gathering indoors.
- If keeping such lounges open, landlords may wish to consider whether use should be restricted to one group of up to 6 people or one group from 2 households (including those in a single support bubble for each household) at a time, with cleaning in between users.
- People who are self-isolating, symptomatic or have tested positive for COVID-19 should not attend communal areas at the same time as others and these areas should be cleaned after use.
- At the beginning of the spring term, government prioritised the return to in-person teaching and learning for students on courses which had to be delivered in-person and which supported the pipeline of future critical key workers. We then advised providers that they could resume in-person teaching and learning for students who are studying practical or practice-based (including creative arts) subjects and require specialist equipment and facilities from 8 March.
- Following the review announced in the COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 (Roadmap) of when all remaining higher education students can return to in-person teaching and learning, the government advises that these students can return from 17 May, alongside Step 3 of the Roadmap.
- For the purpose of this guidance, accommodation is overcrowded if it is so dangerous that there is a risk to the health of the residents.
- It may be harder for residents of overcrowded properties to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19 in the same way as residents of other properties. See specific guidance on how you can minimise the spread of infection
- Local authorities have enforcement powers to require landlords to remedy serious overcrowding hazards. However, we expect local authorities to take a common-sense approach to using these powers and would instead encourage landlords and other tenants to work together wherever feasible in order to help to support these residents and carefully follow the relevant guidance on social distancing.
- If a local authority identifies a serious hazard in a rented home – which may include overcrowding – they must take action against the landlords of the property. The government encourage residents and landlords to work together wherever feasible to support everyone to follow social distancing. If you think your property has a serious overcrowding hazard that affects your ability to follow coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance you should contact your local authority.
- If you live in a household with different generations, for example grandparents, parents, and children living together, then please refer to this guidance to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
- House viewings can proceed provided these are undertaken in line with the latest guidance on (COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do, public health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation.
- Tenants’ safety should be the priority of letting agents and landlords.
- Where possible, virtual viewings should be used before visiting properties in person 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 COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed until the viewing is able to take place.
- The government expect property agents to accompany clients on a viewing and follow social distancing guidance. Where viewings are unaccompanied, agents should make sure viewers and the occupants of the home understand how they should conduct themselves to protect their health and the health of others.
- Members of the public who are viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering as described in government guidance unless they are exempt from this requirement. This should be confirmed with the agent before arrival. Anyone with concerns should contact the agent in advance of their visit to discuss appropriate measures.
- If your property is being viewed, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing to improve ventilation and allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels to avoid potential spread of the virus.
- The government would recommend that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.
- Where viewings proceed, they should be conducted in line with the guidance on viewings included in the guidance on moving home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) period in England.
- You are free to move home, whether renting or buying, provided these are undertaken in line with latest guidance on (COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do, public health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation. This includes people moving permanently into new shared accommodation e.g. a shared flat or house in multiple occupation (HMO). Where moving into new shared accommodation, such as a shared flat or HMO, this will become the private dwelling where they are living for the purposes of any guidance. People who live in shared accommodation should continue to follow the relevant rules and guidance on meeting people from outside of your household.
- Where a home move proceeds, they should be conducted in line with guidance on moving home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) period in England.
- You may find the process of searching for and moving into a new home is different, as property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from coronavirus (COVID-19). These changes could include doing more online, such as offering virtual viewings; vacating your current property during viewings; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.
- Moving home is not appropriate if those involved pose a direct risk of transmitting coronavirus (COVID-19). See: Covid-19 Stay at Home guidance.
- All parties involved should be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay moves, for example if someone becomes ill with coronavirus (COVID-19) during the moving process or has to self-isolate. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals will need to carefully consider their personal situation and the circumstances of their home move and may wish to seek medical advice before deciding whether to commit or go ahead with a move
- If tenants decide to move out of their rented accommodation, they must comply with their tenancy requirements including on giving notice. This will usually involve informing the landlord in writing of their intention to vacate. The tenancy agreement should say how much notice tenants must give the landlord if they want to leave– one month’s notice is typical.