Officers from the Private Sector Housing team are still available for advice and guidance during this time. Many council officers are working on initiatives related to COVID-19 and working to government guidance on social distancing, so our response times may be a little longer than normal. We ask that you make only urgent enquiries at the moment.
The Government have announced a range of measures to protect tenants who are struggling to pay rent during this period due to coronavirus, the details of which are still to be confirmed.
If you suddenly find yourself in a position where you no longer can afford to pay your rent you will need to apply for Universal Credit which may help to cover any rental payments that you will still need to make. Full advice on how to claim and other useful information is available at on the Understand Universal Credit website (opens in new window).
If you already claim Universal Credit and have any queries about your payment, please make these through your online work journal. Increased numbers of staff have been redeployed into this area of work by the DWP to prioritise your queries. If you call the DWP call centre, your query may take longer to resolve due to the volume of calls being received.
The Government have announced that local housing allowance rates (opens in new window) will be increased as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, further details will be provided when we know more.
Discretionary Housing Payments
It is possible that the Universal Credit payment may not be sufficient to cover the whole of your rent. Once your Universal Credit application has been processed and you receive payment, you may also be eligible to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments.
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) can provide extra money when you need extra help to meet your housing costs.
Applications are made to the Housing Benefits team at the council who will look at your circumstances to see whether you are eligible for a DHP. The Housing Benefits team will also decide how much you will be paid and for how long you will receive the payment.
To apply for Discretionary Housing Payments please visit our Discretionary Housing Payments page.
Advice for families receiving free school meals
Low-income families whose children are eligible for free school meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals to make sure they continue receiving this support, even if they are no longer attending school due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Schools will be able to provide meals or vouchers for supermarkets or local shops, which can be sent directly to families who are either self-isolating at home or whose schools are closed on government advice.
Advice available in other languages
At this time, we understand that some tenants may not have received a lot of advice/communication in their own language and we have therefore provided some coronavirus (COVID-19) advice in a variety of languages:
- Lithuanian coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance
- Polish coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance
- Romanian coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance
- Romanian coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance poster
- Slovak coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance
Further information is available on the Government's stay at home guidance page (opens in new window).
Extra government support to help top up your energy supplies
Emergency measures have been put in place to help vulnerable people at this time with their energy supply.
If you have a pre-payment meter and need to add credit but unable to leave your home due to social distancing or self-isolation speak to your supplier. This could include nominating a third party to top up your credit, have a discretionary fund added to your credit, or be sent a pre-loaded top up card.
You can also talk to your energy supplier about your bill payments and how to repay debts. Disconnection has been suspended at this time and companies are advised to not chase debt.
Ofgem recommends consumers leave the meter box unlocked if they need someone else to top up the meter. Smart meter customers should be able to top-up remotely, such as by phone, mobile application or online.
Protection from eviction during coronavirus
The Government’s intention is that no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this period.
This means that:
- Landlords will not be permitted to start new proceedings to evict tenants, the Government has announced that evictions will stay paused until 20 September 2020. This applies equally to section 21 notices and section 8 notices regardless of the possession ground relied upon. Again, this date could be extended further if the Government deem it necessary.
- Court service continue to suspend all ongoing housing possession action. This means that neither cases currently in the system or any about to go in to it can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.
- Landlords, whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties, can apply for a mortgage payment holiday up until 31 October 2020.
- At the end of this extension period the expectation is that the landlord and tenant work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, to pay off any debt which has being accrued, taking into account the tenants individual circumstances.
- Guidance issued to landlords asking that they show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected to remain in their homes where possible.
- The Government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with 6 months notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving antisocial behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March 2021. Further details on this requirement are due to be released by the Government in the coming weeks.
The Government has issued new assured tenancy forms (opens in new window) incorporating the modifications made by the Act and making it clear that tenants must be given at least three months notice. This includes a new Form 6a for section 21 notices served in England and new Form 3 for section 8 notices. The Government has published separate Technical Guidance on Eviction Notices (opens in new window) to explain the new requirements.
More specific advice is available on the Government support available for landlords and renters webpage (opens in new window).
Further information can be found on:
- Payment holidays offered to help to buy homeowners affected by COVID-19 (opens in new window)
- Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters (opens in new window).
For regular updates, please refer to the Gov.uk website (opens in new window).
However, illegal eviction and harassment is a criminal offence, coronavirus does not change this.
If you feel that your landlord is carrying out actions to attempt to force you out of your home then please contact the Private Sector Housing team at the council. The Private Sector Housing team have officers available to advise on your rights as a private tenant. You can contact them on 01623 463702 or email@example.com. Further advice can also be found on our tenancy support webpage.
What will happen if I fall behind with my rent?
At the end of the three month period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances. Please see the Income and Expenditure Calculation Sheet (opens in new window) to assist with working out repayments.
Carrying out repairs during coronavirus
Where repairs are required which are urgent, such as a faulty boiler in cold weather, defective toilet or defective electrics, you should contact your landlord immediately to discuss the arrangements required to carry out the repair.
Where there is not an imminent risk of harm (such as no heating or hot water, risk of electrocution) we advise you keep a dialogue going with your landlord and be understanding as your landlord or contractors may be self-isolating which may delay repairs.
Where there is an imminent risk to health then all reasonable steps should be taken to carry out the repairs following advice and guidance issued by Public Health England.