COVID-19 Coronavirus & Private Housing Rights

This section answers frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 and how it may impact your privately rented student housing. Please note the advice on this page may change, particularly if there are changes to the law. 

Please also consider reading the UK Government's advice on Covid-19 and rented housing.

If you have questions around University of London Halls or other accommodation provided by our member institutions, please contact the hall manager or the relevant accommodation team directly.

If this page does not answer your question, or you feel confused by the advice in relation to your specific situation, please contact us for an advice appointment. You may also want to come along to one of our webinars on private housing.

  • 01. Should I sign a new tenancy agreement?

    Once you have signed a tenancy agreement you usually can't get out of it easily.

    You will still need to pay the rent for the duration of the contract, even if your university cancels in-person teaching. This applies even if you never move in to the property. 

    Cancellation clauses

    Some student hall providers may be offering clauses that allow you to get out of your tenancy if there is more COVID-19 related disruption. However, most private landlords are unlikely to offer this.

    If you are concerned about taking on a longer-term contract due to the changing situation, you may wish to request a shorter contract. You could ask for a break clause that would allow you to get out of the tenancy earlier if you chose not to stay for the full term.

    As the property market has slowed due to COVID-19 and there is some uncertainty, you may be in a better position to negotiate terms in your contract, such as contract length or break clauses.

    Advice Videos

    If you are currently looking for a property you may wish to watch our webinars on our YouTube page for tips on where to look, and what to look out for.

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  • 02. When should I look for housing?

    When to look

    London has a large supply of rented accommodation, unlike other towns and cities that may have a large student market but less private rented accommodation available at other times.

    Many non-students also rent in London and require properties at all times of the year. There will still be housing available even if you chose to only look a few weeks before you need to move in. There is no set deadline to start looking. 

    If you look earlier than 2-3 months before you need to move in, it's likely there will be less choice for your preferred start date.

    When to sign

    Many students are facing uncertainty at the moment, so it may be the general trend is for students to find accommodation shortly before term begins.

    Our advice is to wait until your university has confirmed the arrangements, unless you are certain you intend to live in the property even if all classes are online.

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  • 03. Can I be evicted?

    There was an eviction ban in place until 31st May 2021 which has now ended. This means evictions have started taking place again. Your landlord must go to to court to evict you, unless you are a lodger with a live-in landlord.

    Landlords must currently give a minimum of 2 months notice for most evictions of tenants. This will not apply to lodgers of live-in landlords. If you have a license, the minimum term will depend on your agreement.

    Notice periods

    The notice period for evictions has changed several times due to COVID. Your landlord must currently give you at least 2 months notice in most cases.

    - Before 29th August 2020, the eviction notice period was 3 months. If your landlord sent you an eviction notice before 29th August 2020, it will now be invalid unless they already started court action against you.

    - Most eviction notices sent between 29th August 2020 and 1st June 2021 required 6 months notice.

    - Eviction noticed sent beween 1st June 2021 and 1st October 2021 required 4 months notice.

    - Since 1st October 2021, the notice period is now 2 months, as it was pre-COVID. You may be given a shorter notice period if you are being evicted for rent arrears or breaches to your tenancy agreement. 

    Court delays

    Currently, after the notice expires, the landlord will be able to apply to the court for you to be evicted. However, the government guidance states that even if this does take place, it will likely be a further 6-8 weeks, or longer given the current circumstances, for any evictions to go through the courts. Bailiffs must give you at least 2 weeks notice before they can carry out a court-ordered eviction.

    Your rent is still due regardless of the pandemic. It has been advised that tenants and landlords are expected to work out a realistic repayment plan for any rent missed in this period, taking into account the circumstances. But no law requires landlords to do this. For the full advice from the UK government, please click here.

    Evictions

    The below advice still outlines the normal situation for evictions. 

    If you have an 'assured shorthold tenancy':

    Your landlord cannot evict you without an order from the court giving them possession of the property.

    If the landlord wants to evict you, he or she has to send you a notice requiring possession. This will be either a Section 21 or Section 8 notice.

    If you are in a fixed term tenancy:

    The landlord can only evict you during the fixed term of the tenancy by issuing a Section 8 notice and going to court. Once you get to court, if you have less than 8 weeks of rent arrears remaining, it is up to the judge to decide whether you should be evicted. You would be able to submit a defence that it was due to financial problems caused by coronavirus. If you have over 8 weeks rent arrears, it is a mandatory ground for eviction, so the judge will allow the eviction. 

    If you are in a periodic ‘rolling’ tenancy, or your fixed term is ending soon and has not been renewed:

    The landlord can use the accelerated Section 21 process to evict you with 2 months notice, whether you have any rent arrears or not. However, you should always seek advice if you receive an eviction notice, as many of them are invalid, which can significantly delay the eviction.

    If you have a license agreement 

    This advice applies if you have a license agreement but your landlord does not live with you - for example in a student hall. Your landlord can only evict you before the end of the fixed term if there is a clause in the contract stating they can do so. Any such clause should set out what notice you should be given. By law, you are entitled to ‘reasonable’ notice, and the landlord still has to apply to the court to evict you.

    If you live with your landlord

    Your landlord can evict you without a court order. You are still legally entitled to reasonable notice, unless it is the end of your fixed term. The landlord can change the locks themselves to remove you from the property. It is still a criminal offence to evict you by force or intimidation.

    If you go to court and the judge orders an eviction

    You should then get 2 weeks notice of the eviction date. A bailiff should not evict you if you have COVID symptoms or you have been told to self-isolate. You should contact the bailiff as soon as you know you need to self isolate. You should be given a new evicition date, with 2 weeks notice.

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  • 04. My contract hasn't ended, but I've left. Do I still have to pay rent?

    Leaving the property doesn't automatically end your contract, and you cannot always end a tenancy contract when you want to. It depends on the contract you signed.

    Whether you have to continue to pay will depend on your circumstances, for example:

    If you live alone, or everyone on the tenancy agreement wants to leave

    If you have signed a contract for a fixed period (for example, 12 months, or 24 months), and you are still in that fixed period, check if your contract has something called a ‘break clause’. This is usually at the beginning or the end of the contract. It could be anywhere though, so it’s best to read every part of your contract to look for it.

    You can only use a break clause if every tenant on the agreement wants to move out.

    If your contract has a ‘break clause’: this may mean that you can terminate your contract after a certain date, before the end of the fixed term, providing you give the required notice. You may have to pay rent until the required notice period has ended.

    If your contract does not have a ‘break clause’, or the break clause cannot yet be used, you will not have any right to end your contract. There have not been any changes to the law regarding ending tenancies in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Until you negotiate with your landlord, your obligation to pay rent will not change. You should discuss your wish to end the tenancy with your landlord.

    If the landlord is happy to let you go without further rent payments, then you will not be required to pay rent. You should ensure that your landlord confirms this in writing. However, if the landlord will not release you from the contract, they could still ask you or your guarantor for the money, even if you have moved out.

    If you want to leave but other tenants are staying in the property

    If other tenants are staying on, it is unlikely you will able to leave without continuing to pay rent unless you find a replacement tenant. You should discuss your wish to end the tenancy with the other tenants and the landlord.

    If the landlord is happy to let you go and will not require your rent to be paid in your absence, then you will not be required to pay rent. However, if the landlord will not release you from the contract without a replacement, they could still ask you, your housemates or your guarantor for the money, even if you have moved out.

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  • 05. Rent arrears

    Rent arrears

    If you owe rent, the landlord may decide to take action to get the rent from you, or from your guarantor if you have one. Not all landlords do this and it can be difficult to know if your landlord will. They will be able to claim the money you owe for up to 6 years.

    Your landlord may decide to take some of this money from your deposit, if you paid one at the start of your tenancy. If the amount you owe them is greater than your deposit, they may write to you to formally request the additional money.

    You might be charged interest on the amount owing which should not exceed 3% above the Bank of England base rate.

    If you still don’t pay, they may start a court claim against you.

    Court Action

    If your landlord starts court action against you for unpaid rent, this is not a criminal trial, and you will not get a criminal record.

    You will be asked to attend court, and if you do not attend, the hearing will go ahead in your absence. If you are not there, it is likely the landlord will win automatically.

    If the judge decides you should have paid the money, you will be asked to pay it as part of the judgement. You may also be asked to pay the landlord's court costs.

    If the amount your landlord is claiming from you is over £10,000, you may also be liable for any legal fees, such as solicitors costs. This can significantly add to the amount you will be asked to pay. However, it is not normally possible for landlords to claim these if the total claim is less than £10,000.

    County Court Judgements (CCJs)

    If you still don’t pay the money within 1 month after the court has decided you should, you will receive something called a County Court Judgement, that can negatively affect your credit rating in the UK.

    This may make it difficult for you to borrow money or pass reference checks for rented accommodation in the UK in the future. It may also affect your chances of being offered some jobs in the UK if the employer conducts credit checks during recruitment. 

    If you are worried about the impact of this on any current or future visa in the UK, please seek advice from an immigration advice service.

    If your landlord is threatening to take you to court, please book a legal advice telephone appointment with us.

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  • 06. Help paying rent

    If your landlord won't agree to end your tenancy, you will still be liable for rent. This means if you do not continue to pay the rent, your landlord may take you to court at a later date for the money.

    Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for some support.

    Benefits

    Home students may be eligible to benefits to help pay rent, although you may not be eligible if you are an EU student depending on your circumstances. If you are a full-time student, you will not be eligible for housing benefit or Universal Credit unless you meet the eligibility criteria. 

    Part-time students are more likely to be eligible as they are only assessed based on their income and circumstances. For more information for Universal Credit and part-time students, click here

    College

    Some colleges have financial assistance or hardship funds for students facing financial difficulty. Contact your university directly to find out if you are eligible.

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  • 07. My live-in landlord has asked me to leave.

    If you are a lodger with a live-in landlord, you are an 'excluded occupier', which means your landlord doesn't have to apply to the court to evict you. 

    Notice

    Your landlord can ask you to leave at the end of your fixed-term agreement. They can ask you to leave earlier than this agreement if the contract says they can.

    If your agreement doesn't set out a notice period, you should be entitled to 'reasonable' notice. This is usually a week if you pay your rent weekly, or a month if you pay your rent monthly.

    Challenging an eviction

    If your landlord is giving you less than reasonable notice, or are asking you to leave before the end of the fixed term when your contract does not permit this, you could dispute this with them. 

    In practice, it can be quite difficult to challenge an eviction with a live-in landlord though. We would suggest you contact us for advice if this is happening to you.

    It is a criminal offence for your landlord to use or threaten violence when evicting you.

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  • 08. What is Force Majeure? Does it mean I can end my tenancy?

    Some tenancy agreements have a “Force Majeure” clause. 'Force Majeure' means an event - beyond anyone's reasonable control - preventing the contract from continuing.  So for example, if something happened to your house that meant you couldn't live in it anymore, such as a natural disaster destroying the property.

    COVID-19 and 'Force Majeure'

    While COVID-19 may be a 'Force Majeure' event, it is unlikely to prevent you from occupying the property or stop the tenancy from continuing. The COVID pandemic has required people to stay at home, not leave their homes. It is therefore unlikely that a Force Majeure clause will allow you to end a tenancy early.

    Ending your agreement

    If you have chosen to go and stay with family or friends elsewhere due to the pandemic, this does not give you a right to end the tenancy. Your tenancy will continue and your liability for rent will not end. This applies even if you have returned to what is your normal home outside of term-time.

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  • 09. I'm having a dispute with my flatmate about guests

    Some students have found it hard to agree with flatmates about whether to invite guests into the property during the COVID pandemic.

    Legal rights

    Disagreements between tenants are often not really ‘legal’ problems. You should consider what is reasonable and fair to everyone involved. Think carefully if you are exposing your housemates to unnecessary risks.

    Joint Tenancies

    If you have a joint tenancy (one agreement for the whole property) disagreements between tenants must be solved between the tenants. Sometimes the landlord can help you reach an agreement but they do not have any formal legal responsibility here.

    Renting an individual room

    If you rent a room and the landlord or other tenants are stopping you from bringing in guests you should bear in mind that they may be following the latest Government guidance.

    Everyone does have legal duties to their ‘neighbours’ not to cause them harm that someone could reasonably see coming. That means there might be a legal duty not to expose your housemates to additional risk of infection – but the law here is complex.

    Communication

    You should consider that your housemates might be vulnerable due a medical condition you do not know about. You may want to discuss attitude to COVID risks when looking for suitable housemates. 

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  • 10. Can I refuse a 'Right to Rent' check due to COVID-19?

    'Right to Rent' checks are still a legal requirement that you cannot refuse. A landlord must check tenants have a valid passport or visa before allowing them to rent a property. However, the government has recently updated advice on right-to-rent during the pandemic.

    Tenants can now send copies of documents, and right-to-rent checks can be carried out over video call.

    For more information see the full statement from the government here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-landlord-right-to-rent-checks

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  • 11. My university told me to go home for Christmas. Do I still owe rent?

    The government issued guidance to universities in order to manage the risk of COVID spread over the 2020 Christmas break, and at the start of the spring term. Due to the national lockdown, only students from specific courses were asked to return. You can read more about this online here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/students-returning-to-higher-education-from-spring-term

    This guidance does not have any impact on any contract you may have signed for private accommodation. Your rent will still be due in full unless your accommodation provider agrees to reduce or waive your rent as a gesture of goodwill.

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  • 12. Can I prevent my annual gas safety check?

    Gas safety checks are very important. You should try and accommodate a gas safety check if possible. The government guidance has been updated to say that Landlords are still expected to carry out gas safety checks when they are due.  

    Self-isolating

    If you are self-isolating or shielding the advice suggests you can refuse access until the end of your isolation period. If you are at high risk from COVID-19 and your gas installation is well maintained this might be the case.

    Legally, tenants have a fundamental right to stop anyone entering the property without permission – even the landlord. Landlords should never force their way in.

    Refusing access

    If there are any signs to suggest that your boiler is faulty or you smell gas you should not delay the inspection. Your boiler would need urgent attention. You may be liable for the costs of repair if you allow the problem to get worse.

    If you decide to refuse access to the landlord, you can refer them to the guidance from the Health and Safety Executive to landlords. This says that landlords should make reasonable efforts to conduct a gas safety check annually. If this is not possible, they should keep evidence of the reasons why the inspection could not be done. 

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  • 13. Can I prevent in-person viewings in my house or flat?

    If you are on an assured shorthold tenancy:

    Landlords do not automatically have the right to enter a property to do viewings. They can only do this if there is a term in your tenancy agreement saying that they can. Have a look at your contract to try and find this.

    Tenants have a fundamental right to stop anyone entering the property – even the landlord. Landlords should never force their way in.

    If you have agreed to allow viewings in your contract but refuse in practice, the landlord could object and take you to court for a breach of contract.

    Terms in tenancies usually say access for viewings must be given at a ‘reasonable’ time.

    If you refuse access, you could argue that the timing was not reasonable due to the ongoing situation - and that having people enter your home at this time would be unreasonable. However, you may find this is more difficult now guidelines have been relaxed.

    It might be possible to negotiate a compromise such as allowing the landlord to come to the property once and take photographs or make a video. That would be less risky than allowing lots of people to visit the house.

    If you live in a shared house (renting a room individually) the situation is different – the landlord is entitled to access the common parts. You could still negotiate with the landlord and make sure that any viewings are at agreed time. You could also refuse to allow viewings in your room – although again, there is a risk that you might be breaching you contract.

    If you are self-isolating, you may wish to refer your landlord to the NHS guidance on self-isolation.

    If you have a live-in landlord

    If you have a live in landlord, you do not have a right to exclude people from the property. Your landlord can bring visitors into the property for any reason and can usually enter your room without notice. You may wish to direct your landlord to the guidance on self isolation if you are concerned.

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