Private Rented Housing: Coronavirus

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government written question – answered on 3rd September 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Chair, Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP Committee, Chair, Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what plans he has to support private tenants who find themselves unable to pay their rent debt after evictions are allowed to resume as covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

To help prevent tenants getting into financial hardship or rent arrears, the Government has put in place an unprecedented support package. This has included the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, £9.3 billion of additional support through the welfare system, and increasing the Local Housing Allowance rate to the 30th percentile. These significant financial measures will help support tenants to continue to pay their living costs, including rental payments.

The Government has brought forward legislation that means from 29 August, landlords must provide six months’ notice in most circumstances, including for Section 21 notices and rent arrears under 6 months. This will be in force until 31 March 2021. If tenants are unable to afford their rent, they should in the first instance speak to their landlord to agree a solution, or consider moving to avoid building up unsustainable debt.

When courts do reopen, they will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, including anti-social behaviour, fraud, and domestic abuse. New court rules will also require landlords seeking possession of their property to set out in their claim any relevant information about a tenant’s circumstances, including information on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. Where this information is not provided, judges will have the ability to adjourn proceedings. If a landlord made a claim to the court before 3 August, they must notify the Court and their tenant that they still intend to seek repossession before the case will proceed.

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