I’m worried I won’t be able to pay my rent this month because of Coronavirus. What should I do?
Ask your Landlord for a rent reduction or suspension. If you are in touch with an agency, try to speak to your landlord directly. You have the legal right to know who your landlord is and their address.
You should work out how much you can afford to pay in rent, once you have met your basic needs such as food and medicine. You could start by offering your landlord what you can afford to pay. Other advice on dealing with rent arrears is available here.
Some people have already had a good experience talking to their landlord to ask for a reduction in their rent. The government has told your landlord or letting agency that they should be compassionate during the time of COVID-19 and work together with tenants to reach an agreement. We’ve got a template letter you can download here.
If you are facing a loss of income you may be able to apply for Universal Credit, which includes Housing Benefit. If you can’t work because you are ill, you should be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Generation Rent and Citizens Advice have useful information on their respective websites.
Landlords make money out of the fact that we all need somewhere to live. Most of us pay more than half our income on rent. At a time when lots of us will be unable to pay the rent, it’s important we support each other against evictions.
The government has announced a ban on evictions, but hasn’t taken any action to suspend rent payments. Millions of renters who are losing their incomes will soon be clocking up huge amounts of debt to their landlord. Get in touch and get involved with collective action by filling out this form.
I’ve asked my landlord for a rent reduction but they’ve said no. What should I do now?
If you are in touch with an agency, try to speak to your landlord directly. You have the legal right to know who your landlord is and their address.
We can write to your landlord on your behalf. If you would like support from us in contacting your landlord, email us at email@example.com
Get in touch with the tenancy relations officer at the city council, on T6@oxford.gov.uk or 01865 252267.
If you’d like to take collective action, get in touch with us by signing up using this form. We’d also encourage you to share your story on social media using the hashtag #C19RentCrisis and tag us using @oxtenantsunion
Can my landlord evict me if I don’t pay my rent in full?
Your landlord has to give you the proper notice (the notice period under the Coronavirus legislation has been extended to 3 months) and then go to court to get a possession order. There are lots of steps that the landlord has to follow, and they may make mistakes that delay the process.
The government has announced new legislation and regulations meaning you are now entitled to 3 months notice and has suspended all court action until the 23rd August.
Usually, if you are in 8 weeks of rent arrears, a court is likely to grant the landlord possession of the property. Under this new legislation, landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants until at least the end of June. Even once the courts are working normally again, the eviction process often takes several months.
Your landlord can only start possession proceedings at the end of the 3 month notice period stated on a valid Section 21 or Section 8 notice. You can legally stay in your home until the day the court bailiffs are authorised to come to evict you. If you get a Section 21 notice, check that it is valid.
If your landlord tries to change the locks or use force to remove you themselves, this counts as illegal eviction. Take video of your landlord’s actions so you can get compensation.
If you are being harassed or told to move out of your home by your landlord, you can get in contact with Oxford City Council’s Tenancy Relations Officer for help and advice on 01865 252267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone you know is facing eviction: Acorn Oxford can offer support in different ways. Acorn UK have successfully stopped or delayed evictions by non-violently getting in the way of bailiffs. This ‘eviction resistance’ can buy more time for people to stay in their homes beyond the eviction date given by the court.
For more information about the evictions process, check out page 8 of the London Renters Union Renters rights guide and this Shelter page.
Can we all go on a rent strike?
Oxford Tenants Union is currently focused on pressuring the government to suspend all rent payments and halt all evictions. Things are moving really quickly. If the government continues to refuse to provide proper protections for renters, huge numbers of us will soon simply be unable to pay rent. We’ll have to take collective action. If we do, we will have to know that the action we take can win us the demands we want.
My landlord wants to put the rent up. Do I have to start paying more?
There are legal steps and rules regarding when a landlord can increase the rent. Normally they will have to give you reasonable notice, and can’t increase your rent more than once a year without your agreement. If you don’t agree with the rent rise, do not pay the new amount, as this will be seen as you ‘agreeing’. If you are worried because your landlord is trying to raise your rent, and want more information, join our open meetings and get in touch. Or for more information visit this Shelter page.
I’m a lodger, what are my rights?
You are a lodger if you live with your landlord and share a kitchen. bathroom, or other living accommodation with them. Unfortunately, the recent Government halt of evictions doesn’t include lodgers and lodgers can be evicted without going to court. However, the landlord still needs to give you reasonable notice and you should check what your contract says.
See this helpful advice from Shelter for more details on lodgers rights.
My tenancy contract is due to end soon/there’s a spare room in my house and the landlord wants to show people round – what can I do?
The recent government guidance is clear that no one should be moving home during this time, and buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new home. Landlords have also been asked to not make any visits to properties unless they are ‘serious and urgent’.
Showing someone around your home and normal inspections are not serious or essential and is putting you at risk.
I’ve lost my income. What government support is available right now?
The government has announced increases to housing benefit and universal credit and an 80% income guarantee for some workers.
There are still lots of people who don’t qualify for this extra support but it is worth checking out what you are entitled to.
We’re demanding that the government ends the five-week wait for Universal Credit, experienced by claimants between the time of application and the time of first payments.
What support can the OTU give me?
We are a group of concerned citizens who aim to build a mutual support network and safe space for renters in Oxford, the least affordable city in the UK. Affordable, safe, habitable and secure housing is a human right (see Universal Declaration of Human Rights). We want to unite and build a movement for housing justice that makes this a reality.
Currently we are working in the following areas:
- Building a support network for renters: providing a space for tenants to come and share their problems in a safe space that offers solidarity and anonymity
- Providing information on renter’s rights
- Building a database around agents and landlords to rank their cost and quality to highlight issues around rogue landlords and agents
- Fighting housing discrimination, by standing in solidarity with those faced with housing issues and eviction
- Raising awareness on Housing Crisis
- Demanding from the government to enforce the law on landlords and basic Human Rights as per their commitment and engagement in the UN
- Developing new campaigns and actions relating to specific housing issues in Oxford
- Empowering individuals and building skills to take action on their own housing situations and to tackle the global housing crisis as a group.
For now, in this pandemic, our tactics will be adapted. We are trying to:
- Create a community space that listens and makes sure you don’t feel alone
- Work together to form a collective response to the Coronavirus rent crisis
- Support renters to take collective action against the landlords and letting agencies that exploit us.
- Support you in writing letters to your landlord/letting agent
- Make sure you are aware of your rights as a renter
- Signpost and direct you to the right service/legal advice
- Platform your experience (anonymously) of bad landlords to get the attention of journalists and politicians, so the voice of renters is being heard and demand change for better rights.