Coronavirus (COVID 19): information and guidance for tenants

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The situation during the pandemic is changing regularly and we are aware that private renters may be feeling concerned about their income and their tenancy. 

Speak to your landlord if you're struggling to pay rent. They could be sympathetic especially if you've lost your job or seen your income reduce suddenly. They might agree to a rent reduction or accept a late payment to your rent. Get any agreement in writing.

If you are earning less, worried about paying your rent, mortgage or bills, or have other financial concerns as a result of the coronavirus, please contact the Council. We can discuss what support might be available through our discretionary housing payment and our welfare assistance fund.

Shelter and Citizens’ Advice also have good advice on their websites about how to deal with rent arrears and claiming benefits.

New national lockdown restrictions apply from Thursday 5 November. This page has been updated in line with new government guidance.

Private tenants’ rights during COVID-19

The government’s temporary ban on evictions that was in place through the first lockdown ended on 20 September. The Courts are now open again, but the legal process to evict tenants is likely to take several months.

With the current lockdown that started on 5 November, the government has said that there will be no evictions by bailiffs during the national lockdown (except in very limited circumstances such as an existing eviction order relating to anti-social behaviour).

The government has also said there will be a temporary pause on evictions between 11 December and 11 January 2021.

The government have issued advice for landlords and tenants.

Can I be evicted if I’m a private renter in Camden during the pandemic?

Your landlord or letting agent has legal powers to serve an eviction notice. However, although eviction action can be taken, we can advise you on your rights and can protect you from illegal eviction. 

Camden Council can help:
•    support to prevent you from becoming homeless
•    advise about your rights as a private renter
•    talk to your landlord or letting agent on your behalf
•    advise on financial support available to you.
Visit: camden.gov.uk/at-risk-of-being-homeless  or call us on 020 7974 5801 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) for more information.

The housing charity Shelter also has helpful information and advice on legal action and tenant rights.

What notice period must my landlord or letting agent give me?

In most cases, landlords should now give tenants 6 months’ notice before taking eviction action. You could be given shorter notice in some circumstances, e.g. if you have rent arrears of more than 6 months or if there have been problems with anti-social behaviour.

My landlord has issued me with a notice or asked me to leave my home, what should I do?

If you are an assured shorthold tenant, your landlord cannot:
•    make you leave without giving you the appropriate notice 
•    when notice expires, your landlord must go to court to get a court order
•    you still do not have to leave the property after the court order expires 
•    your landlord will have to return to court to get a bailiff warrant before they can evict you

It is important to note that even if your landlord has given you what they call a ‘licence’ agreement you may still have the rights of a tenant depending on your living arrangements at the property. Please contact the council for further advice on this matter.

If you are a lodger, and live in the same house or flat as your landlord, you do not have the same rights. If you have a written agreement, then your landlord should only give you notice as stated in the agreement. If you do not have an agreement, then the landlord only has to give you reasonable notice (usually 2-4 weeks).

What if my landlord is pressurising me to leave?

You have the right to stay in your home until your landlord or managing agent takes the action outlined above. 

It is illegal for your landlord to:
•    Harass you e.g. by turning off the gas/electricity/water, gaining access without reasonable notice or at unreasonable times
•    Lock you out of your home, even temporarily
•    Make you leave without a court order

If your landlord attempts the above action you can contact the private sector housing team on 020 7974 2543 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email hmolicensing@camden.gov.uk. 

You can also contact the police on either 999 (if you are being physically threatened) or 101. They should always respond to illegal evictions.

Should my landlord be carrying out repairs to my home during the pandemic?

Landlords or their managing agents should be contactable by telephone or email. Offices will generally be open, but a face covering must be worn as per government guidance, unless exempted. You should let landlords know of any problems with the property.

Where work is needed it should be carried out following government guidance to help prevent further spread of the virus. It should be done by agreement and preferably when tenants are not present or near the area where work is being carried out. Ensure social distancing. It is advisable for everyone to wear a face covering and to keep windows open as much as possible. Strict hygiene measures should be followed, such as regular hand washing and cleaning of surfaces.

No work should be carried out in a household which is self-isolating because one or more members has symptoms or where an individual is clinically extremely vulnerable, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to safety of the tenants. Examples of this would be would work to fix an electricity or gas cut off, a severe water leak, suspected gas leak or emergency works to make your home safe and secure. 

What about routine gas and electricity safety inspections?

Annual gas safety inspections are a very important legal requirement as the check is to ensure that boilers are operating safely. If you smell gas and/or there are any other signs that your boiler is faulty report it immediately. You are advised to allow access for these checks but see above if self-isolating or clinically extremely vulnerable.

There is also a new requirement about electrical installations in rented properties that comes into force on 1 July 2020 for all new tenancies (1 April 2021 for existing tenancies). It requires landlords to ensure that any electrical installation is safe before a tenancy begins and throughout its duration. Tenants should be provided with a copy of the five yearly electrical safety report.

You can complain to the Council if your landlord won’t deal with your repairs

The Council is continuing to provide a complaint response service to tenants during this period. This is as part of our commitment to ensure all tenants have a safe place to live. 
Landlords should be acting on requests for repairs though it is accepted that there may be limitations or delays in how and when this can be done. This will depend on the health status of tenants and to ensure that contractors are operating in a safe way.  Where necessary the Council will still take enforcement action if a landlord fails to carry out essential works.

If your landlord refuses to carry out necessary repairs, you can contact the Private Sector Housing team on 020 7974 2543 or email: hmolicensing@camden.gov.uk

Can my landlord move new tenants into the property?

Your landlord is allowed to show new people around the property, although initial viewings should be done virtually where possible.
Physical viewings should be done in agreement with other tenants living in the property, and should not take place in properties where tenants have symptoms, are self-isolating, or are clinically vulnerable.

If people are being shown the property, it is preferable the other tenants vacate the property while viewings are taking place. Otherwise, you should ensure you open as many window as possible, maintain social distancing and clean down any surfaces which may have been touched after each viewing e.g. door handles.

Can I move house at the moment?

You can still move home. People outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary.

Follow the national guidance on moving home safely, which includes advice on social distancing and wearing a face covering.

Should my landlord continue cleaning the common parts of buildings that I share with other residents?

In some houses in multiple occupation, the landlord is responsible for cleaning the shared areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, hallways/stairs etc. If these areas are the landlord’s responsibility, then these should continue to be cleaned.

Landlords should ensure cleaners are following government guidance and wearing protective clothing such as disposable gloves and aprons.

It is very important that regular cleaning still takes place.

How can I protect myself in a shared house or flat?

It is good practice to try maintain social distancing and minimise interaction with others, including others who you share a home with. Everyone in the household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face and clean frequently touched surfaces.

In shared flats or houses this can be challenging. You should minimise the time you spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas as much as possible and keep shared spaces well ventilated. Ensure regular cleaning of shared spaces, including all surfaces e.g. door handles, handrails, table tops and remote controls.

Follow the government guidance and read NHS advice on how to stop germs spreading. You can also read this advice to help you stay safe and protect yourself from coronavirus.

What to do if you or someone in your house or flat has coronavirus?

If you live in the same house or flat as someone who has coronavirus, they can pass it on to others 2 days before they started to have symptoms and for 10 days afterwards. There is a big chance others in the household might catch it after they develop symptoms (or if they have no symptoms, then after they have a positive test). This is why you are required to self-isolate too by staying at home and away from other people for 14 days.

Wherever possible the person who has coronavirus should separate themselves from other people in your household. 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.

If you share a toilet and/or bathroom, it is important that you clean them after you have used them every time. For example you should wipe surfaces you have come in contact with. You could consider drawing up a rota for showering/bathing, with the tenant with COVID-19 using the facilities last. Then they should thoroughly clean the shower, bath, sink and toilet.

If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it whilst others are present. Take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry your used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly, remembering to use a separate tea towel.

You should only use your own toothbrush, and use separate eating and drinking utensils. This includes cups and glasses in the bathroom and bedroom, dishes, drinks, towels, washcloths and bedlinen. You should not share these items with other members of your household. Make sure that you thoroughly clean the area you have used with an anti-bacterial cleaning fluid.

Support for tenants with coronavirus

If you need support with accessing food, prescriptions or other essential support, there are a range of organisations across Camden who can help. You can also telephone the Council on 020 7974 444 (option 9).

Additional advice is available from these organisations:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): information and guidance for landlords

The private sector housing team recognise and appreciate the uncertainty you may be experiencing during this time. You will be aware the situation is changing regularly and we will continue to refer to guidance from the Government.

We have changed some of our procedures in light of official government guidance. Information on these changes is provided on this page.

You still need to apply for an HMO licence

It is important to still apply for an HMO licence as it remains a criminal offence not to and could lead to an unlimited fine upon conviction or the issuing of a civil penalty notice of up to £30,000. In addition, tenants can apply for a rent repayment order (RRO). To apply for a licence, and find out more details about HMO licensing, including RROs, please visit camden.gov.uk/hmolicensing.

Applying for a temporary exemption notice (TEN)

A TEN is only issued for a short period (three months) when a property is actively being taken out of being licensable e.g. it is on the market to be sold or the owner is moving back in. 

Officer inspections and the coronavirus

During this time inspections will not be taking place. We will instead issue licences based on the information provided with the application. If needed, we will contact you for further information by phone or email. We may also contact your tenants. A future compliance inspection will be carried out to all properties with a licence issued in this manner, when information will be checked and works required on the licence should have been completed. If the inspection finds that the property or the way the property is occupied differs to the information supplied, the licence may have to be varied. This may include an alteration to the permitted number once we have undertaken a measurement of room sizes

The schedule of work which forms parts of the HMO licence is based on the Council’s HMO standards which you should read and familiarise yourself with.

You still need to carry out essential works to your property

Landlords or their agents should still be accessible to tenants by telephone or email.

You should work with your tenants and contractors to ensure repairs and maintenance, and legally required gas and electrical checks are carried out safely. You should also follow the Government guidance for working safely in people's homes 

If tenants are self-isolating please see advice below.

The Council is continuing to provide a complaint response service to tenants during this period as part of our commitment to ensure all tenants have a safe place to live. Where necessary the Council will still take enforcement action if a landlord fails to carry out essential works.

How you can make sure the contractors you use follow official government guidance

Each company offering services will have to carry out its’ own risk assessment in terms of protecting the health and safety of their employees and any members of the public. 

You should ask to see the risk assessment when you choose a contractor. It is important the risk assessment is up to date with information about how the contractor will protect their employees and residents and help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Flexibility on HMO licence deadlines

If you are experiencing difficulties as a result of coronavirus, please contact us as soon as possible. We will look at each licence on a case by case basis. Please document any communication with your tenants and contractors so we can assess the situation fully.

There may be circumstances where we will consider other means of reducing the risk of a hazard in the property on a temporary basis. You should seek advice from the officer who issued the licence before carrying out any alternative works.

You should still make sure the common parts of your HMOs are clean

In some houses in multiple occupation (including houses converted to self-contained flats), the landlord is responsible for cleaning the shared areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, hallways/stairs etc. If these areas are the landlord’s responsibility, then these should continue to be cleaned. 

You should ensure your cleaners or the company you use has carried out an up to date health and safety risk assessment. It would be sensible to treat all areas as potentially having been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, and so protective clothing such as disposable gloves and apron should be worn. Hands should be washed with soap and water after all protective clothing has been removed. Where a higher level of contamination may have been present (for example, where unwell individuals have slept) additional protective equipment such as a surgical face mask and full-face visor should be considered.

Follow NHS advice on how to stop germs spreading.

In some cases, tenants may not feel comfortable with cleaners coming into the property. In such cases you should speak to all the residents to see if you can agree on alternative arrangements, at the same time ensuring that cleaning does take place in accordance with government and NHS guidance.

What to do if your tenant is self-isolating

Any tenants who are self-isolating are advised to avoid any visitors, and in these circumstances we advise you to keep a dialogue going with your tenant. 

However, essential works will still need to be addressed as these might seriously affect the health and safety of your tenants. These include remedying problems with water supply, safe electricity and gas supplies, fire safety, drainage, heating and hot water, pest control, leaks and works to windows and doors that may affect security.

In these circumstances you and your contractors must take the precautions needed (i.e. full protective clothing) to keep everyone safe. See this Government guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection 

If the tenant is clinically vulnerable

If your tenant has been notified as being ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ they will need to follow strict social distancing measures. Only essential works should be carried out, for example remedying problems with water supply, safe electricity and gas supplies, fire safety, drainage, heating and hot water, pest control, leaks and works to windows and doors that may affect security. In these circumstances please refer to the government advice on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.   

In order to reduce social contact, inspections and non-essential repairs and maintenance should not take place during this period.

What you can do if your tenant is not paying their rent

We urge all landlords to work with their tenants to reach an agreement in terms of paying rent if they are experiencing difficulty because of the coronavirus. The Council is providing support for tenants to ensure they do not suffer from evictions nor harassment during these difficult times. 

Tenants can obtain more information, including financial advice, by calling 020 7974 4444 (option 9) or visiting their Covid-19 webpages to find out more information.

The temporary freeze on evictions ended on 20 September 2020. However, the Government's Coronavirus Act 2020 was amended so that from 29 August 2020 landlords must provide six months’ notice to their tenants in most circumstances. Government guidance in relation to possession proceedings can be found here.

The Council is committed to ensuring private tenants have a safe place to call home, particularly during this current crisis, and so are maintaining a complaints service for tenants to report disrepair, harassment and any threats of eviction. The Council takes this matter most seriously and it should be noted that any person(s) convicted of illegal eviction or harassment may be liable for up to 2 years imprisonment. 

What to do if you are in financial difficulty

The Government has a package of financial support for businesses. You can also find more information on the Council's website

Additional advice is available from these organisations:

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