Guidance for Tenants During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Here you can find useful information for tenants during this strange and confusing time.

We understand that the current crisis is a confusing and stressful time for most and as a tenant you may have worries about paying your rent, what to do if you need maintenance works on your property or who to call in an emergency, alongside other concerns.

We want to offer as much support as possible, so to help put that stress at ease, we’ve put together a tenant’s guide to keep you informed on everything you need to know during the COVID-19 outbreak and current lockdown measures advised by the government.

1. Reporting Repairs & Emergencies

If your property is managed by D&D, it’s worth noting down our current reporting a repair and emergency protocols during the COVID-19 outbreak.

How to Report a Repair:

In the case of any maintenance issues, we still encourage tenants to report these via our online Report a Repair platform as normal.

For the meantime, our contractors will only be able to attend to emergency call outs and undertake essential work, such as gas safety inspections (please see below for more information). General maintenance issues are currently postponed until further notice, but we ask that tenants still please ensure that these issues are logged via our Report a Repair platform so that we are able address them once the lock down restrictions have been lifted.

What to do if you have an emergency or need essential maintenance:

In the case of any emergency callouts, such as gas leaks or fire, or essential maintenance, such as gas safety checks, we want to ensure that everyone involved remains safe and protected.

If you need to report an emergency please follow the advice on our Report a Repair page by clicking here BUT please also note the below protocols:

If a contractor must attend your property to attend an emergency, please ensure that all members of the household are not in the property other than to let the contractor into the house. This may mean that all household members vacate the property to go for a walk, or, if possible, remain in their garden or outdoor space.

If this is not possible, please remain in one room together away from the contractor.

If any household member is sick, self-isolating or vulnerable, the contractor will discuss their own protocols for handling such circumstances with the household directly.

We’ll be dealing with any reported emergency callouts and essential maintenance needs as normal, giving priority to the most serious cases. In the unlikely event that our contractors can’t attend a property, we’ll do everything we can to limit the impact it may cause and to find a solution asap. We’ll also maintain contact with you and your landlord to keep you both updated on the progress of the situation.

Who to contact if you’re a managed tenant of Davies & Davies:

Just because our team are working from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t reach them! If you’re having any concerns, please make sure to contact your property manager directly. You can find their remote working contact details here:

Katrina Fernandes: 07737151290 / Katrina@daviesdavies.co.uk

Fabio Sampaio: 07581081085 / Fabio@daviesdavies.co.uk

Alisha Eversley-John: 0756231568 / Alisha@daviesdavies.co.uk

I’m not a managed tenant of Davies & Davies:

If you are a tenant who was let the property by Davies & Davies but are not currently managed by us please notify your landlord directly of any emergency, essential or general maintenance issues.

2. Worried you can’t pay all or some of your rent?

Fears of paying rent have reached an all time high for the global population, so you’re not alone in this and we’re here to help guide you through this difficult time. This is a very worrying time for everyone and we’re very sympathetic that tenants are concerned about being able to pay their rent and landlord’s (as well as other property owners) are concerned about being able to pay their mortgages.

It’s important to pay all or some of your rent if you can. Many of your landlords rely on your rent payments to cover their mortgages or to earn income to support their families – and many of these landlords may have lost their jobs, businesses or had income reductions as a result of the outbreak.

We encourage our tenants and landlords to approach these difficult circumstances with kindness, together we will try to come up with a solution. If you’re feeling anxious, want some advice or help please do not hesitate to reach out to us – supporting our tenants is one of our biggest priorities.

The government has announced measures to protect both renters and landlords affected by coronavirus. Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by the terms of their tenancy agreements to the best of their ability during the outbreak, but if you find yourself unable to do so, here are your next steps and some options to consider:

Get in contact with your property manager:

If you’re a managed tenant of Davies & Davies Estate Agents, then please do get in contact with your property manager if you are worried that you might not be able to pay all or some of your rent. We will speak to your landlord on your behalf and try our best to work out a way forward for both parties.

Solutions, where possible, might involve temporary rent reductions or rent repayment plans. Once you’ve had a read of this guide please get in contact with your property manager on the details below if you are worried about paying your rent:

Katrina Fernandes: 07737151290 / Katrina@daviesdavies.co.uk

Fabio Sampaio: 07581081085 / Fabio@daviesdavies.co.uk

Alisha Eversley-John: 0756231568 / Alisha@daviesdavies.co.uk

If I can’t pay all or some of my rent what do I need to consider:

If you’re having difficulties paying your rent, we may be able to help you find a solution with your landlord. Please be aware, however, that we have to ask for proof of your current circumstances. This might take the form of:

  • an email or letter from your employer confirming that you have been made redundant, put on furlough or your hours/wages reduced;
  • proof any pre-existing health condition;
  • an email or letter from your accountant.

We may also call your current/previous employer, accountant or GP on their registered business telephone number to verify your status. Unfortunately, these steps are a necessary part of the process to protect those landlord’s who are willing to support their tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Benefits and other financial help:

If you lose your job, can’t work because you’re sick or self-isolating, or your pay goes down because of the COVID-19 outbreak, you could qualify for benefits or statutory sick pay.

Different circumstances qualify for different benefits, so it’s worth checking out what you, or a partner you live with, can claim using an online benefits calculator. It’s also wise to check the Department of Work & Pensions website where you can obtain the guidance you require regarding pay, statutory sick pay (SSP) and other relevant up to date information.

If you require statutory sick pay, or benefits if you’re self-employed, check out Citizens Advice for more information.

You can usually get universal credit if you or a partner you live with:

Universal credit includes a housing element. It won’t always cover your full rent but can certainly help towards your payments. You can apply for universal credit here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

Contact Citizens Advice if you need help with the online process.

Call the universal credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 if you:

  • can’t apply online
  • need a universal credit advance
  • can’t access your universal credit account once you’ve set it up

If you can’t wait 5 weeks for your first payment, there is help available, as it might be possible to get a universal credit advance within a few days. This must normally be repaid over the next year. Due to the outbreak, you won’t have to attend Jobcentre Plus or medical assessments for at least the next 3 months.

3. Expecting to be moving soon?

We understand the ‘Should I…? Shouldn’t I…?’ motions you may be going through right now if you’re due to move during the lockdown period, so hopefully we can shed some light on this for you.

The answer is you shouldn’t. The government’s stay at home regulations clearly state that people should stay in their homes for the next three weeks, except in very limited circumstances, and this may go on for longer. While we understand this is a very pressing issue, your health comes first so it’s important you take the necessary steps to stay protected.

If you’ve already signed a new tenancy agreement, you could ask us to try to negotiate a new start date to avoid paying the rent before you move.

If your fixed term contract ends if you’re still living there, your current tenancy will usually continue as a periodic tenancy, meaning your tenancy will run on a month to month basis.

Its important that we all work together and both landlords and tenants show goodwill in order to comply with the public health guidance over the next coming weeks.

If you find that moving is completely unavoidable due to contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, its important to follow the advice on maintaining strict separation to minimise the spread of the virus. If you are due to move into an empty property this is much easier and safer to organise.

It’s important to note that the government have thus far (at time of writing) not passed legislation that moving house is illegal or not possible, it is just advised that wherever possible you should avoid moving or take additional safety measures.

4. What are my rights?

We can’t stress enough that your health comes first, so it’s really important to be aware of your rights, as well as what’s considered as safe practice in the current situation.

Can my landlord still go ahead with visits and inspections?

As this is not considered an essential visit, the answer is no. We will be postponing all non-essential visits such as:

  • routine tenancy inspections
  • viewings towards the end of your tenancy

Do I have to move if my landlord does not have a court order?

The government have asked landlords not to issue new notices seeking possession, and the suspension of housing possession claims from 27th March 2020, meaning that any existing notices doing so cannot progress.

If you’re a tenant, the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 means that you can’t be forced to leave your home without a court order and a warrant for execution of that order.

If you had been issued with notice prior to this date, your landlord will still not be able to take action through the courts to make you move, and the suspension will initially apply for the 90 days from the 27th March 2020.

Landlords should not expect tenants to move, even where notice was already issued with intention to regain possession of the property, or if notice is issued for any reason during the next three months.

Under no circumstances can the landlord use violence or threat of violence to evict someone. If this were to happen, this is a criminal offence and you must notify the police of this immediately via 999.

So I can’t be evicted?

As a result of governmental measures being put into practice, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time, therefore emergency legislation will be taken forward so that landlords can no longer start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a 3-month period.

Buy-to-let landlords may also be eligible for mortgage payment holidays if their tenants have financial difficulties due to the current outbreak, but the mortgage payments will normally increase after a payment holiday, meaning your rent may increase also

5. Helpful information

Council Tax

If you’re struggling to pay council tax due to your circumstances under the current outbreak, its worth speaking with your local council directly to explain your situation as they may be sympathetic to your case and offer assistance.

Both Haringey and Hackney Council have stated you may be able to claim a discretionary reduction in Council Tax if you’re experiencing exceptional hardship.

For Haringey Council click here to find out whether you qualify.

For Hackney Council click here to find out whether you qualify.

Islington Council has provided a helpline for anyone who has concerns for themselves or someone else they know and need support. You can contact the help line on 020 7527 8222.

Here are more contact details for more information on council tax from local councils we serve:

Haringey

Website: https://www.haringey.gov.uk/council-tax-and-benefits/council-tax

Email: council.tax@haringey.gov.uk

Contact Number: 020 8489 1000 – Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Hackney

Website: https://hackney.gov.uk/menu/#council-tax

Contact Number: 020 8356 3154

Islington

Website: https://www.islington.gov.uk/council-tax

Email: weareislington@islington.gov.uk

Contact Number: 020 7527 8222.

Utility bills

If you’re struggling financially, or are in arrears with gas or electricity bills, it’s worth contacting your supplier, as they may provide support including:

  • Reduced bills or debt repayments
  • A temporary break in your bills or debt arrangements

If you have a pre-payment meter, examples of what they may be able to do include:

  • Arrange for someone else to top up your meter
  • Add credit to your account automatically
  • Send you a pre-loaded top up card.

This may require leaving your meter box unlocked if you need someone else to top it up.

Please note that disconnections of pre-payment meters are suspended.

For more help on bills and finances during the COVID-19 pandemic, its worth checking out the advice from Money Saving Expert here: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/03/uk-coronavirus-help-and-your-rights/

 

If you have any other concerns or questions that haven’t been answered here please get in touch with your property manager on the details below:

Katrina Fernandes: 07737151290 / Katrina@daviesdavies.co.uk

Fabio Sampaio: 07581081085  / Fabio@daviesdavies.co.uk

Alisha Eversley-John: 0756231568 / Alisha@daviesdavies.co.uk


We’ll keep this information updated as things change but for now we’re available on our direct emails, mobile phones, office phone (0207 272 0986) and on info@daviesdavies.co.uk.

Please note: all advice given within this article is for general guidance only and should not be considered legal advice.

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info@daviesdavies.co.uk

020 7272 0986

Address

Finsbury Park Office,

85 Stroud Green Road,

London, N4 3EG

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Fri 0845 – 1800
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