COVID-19 FAQs

1.    My Landlord is threatening me with eviction or has sent me a notice to leave or notice to quit

The Scottish Government has (finally) moved to ban all evictions following on from a successful campaign from Living Rent. The Scottish Government have promised that it will mean that no one is losing their home because of the pandemic. The legislation banning evictions has changed the notice period required for landlords to evict, the legislation will be in place for 6 months from April 7th (so at least until the end of September) and can be extended in 2 month blocks depending on the crisis. It applies to all tenants in Scotland in the private and social sectors. 

Please see Shelter’s website for the changes to required notice periods.

If your landlord tells you to leave your flat, you should stay put and refer them to the legal changes introduced during the Coronavirus crisis here. If they are still trying to make you leave - this is illegal - you should get in touch with Living Rent’s Member Defence Coordinator ASAP.

If you have been given a notice to leave/quit before 7th April, you can stay put beyond the end of the notice period. The landlord will be unable to gain an eviction order until at least May 28th, due to the First Tier Housing Tribunal being temporarily shut until then. It is also against government guidelines to move home while social distancing measures are in place.


2.     I have lost my job and can’t pay my rent.

If you have been struck off by your work, you should contact any colleagues who are in the same boat and join a trade union as soon as possible. If your company sacked you due to Covid 19 before the 80% commitment was announced, they can re-hire you and re-enlist you in the scheme. The government is committed to paying 80% wages for 3 months currently to all workers who were in employment before February 28th who can’t work because of the virus and this period may be extended further. So your work should be paying you, if they are not, you can direct your employer to here:   https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

This covers full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hours employees.

If you are not covered by the scheme and do not have an income, you may be able to claim benefits. You can use a benefits calculator to see how much you can claim and apply here. If you are receiving Universal Credit or Housing Benefit already and are in a crisis situation, you may also apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund.

 

3.    I can’t pay my rent and am worried about getting into loads of debt with my landlord

If you are not able to pay your rent, we would advise you to notify your landlord of your financial situation immediately in writing (e-mail), explaining your change of situation and negotiate a rent suspension or a rent reduction. Join Living Rent, and get in contact with a Living Rent Member Defence team, who can support you during this negotiation. The best way to negotiate with your landlord is with your Union by your side.

If your landlord or letting agent try to charge you any fees that are not your rent or deposit, this is illegal, contact Living Rent immediately. 

 

4.    I am needing repairs done in my flat and my landlord is refusing to do them or ignoring me.

Landlords still have the same legal requirements to carry out repairs during the Coronavirus outbreak; but government guidance has said that they should only be carrying out urgent repairs and other requirements can be delayed until after the outbreak is over. You can find the guidance and the list of repairs considered urgent here. In the first instance you should email your landlord or letting agency to ask them to sort the urgent repairs. If they are refusing, join Living Rent and get in touch with your local Member Defence team. If your landlord continues to refuse to do the repairs, a potential next step could be to withhold rent by following this procedure, but you should seek further advice before taking this course of action. 

5. My Landlord is trying to carry out an inspection, can I stop it?

The Scottish government has made it very clear that all unnecessary visits from landlords or letting agencies should be postponed until after the pandemic. This includes inspections or flat viewings. Your landlord or letting agent should only be attending your flat if they need to do urgent repairs. If you make them aware of this and they are still trying to organise an inspection then get in touch with a member defence team.  

 

6.    Can I check whether my landlord has been granted a mortgage holiday?

Unfortunately, there is no way for tenants to check if their landlord has been given a rent holiday. However, the UK government has required lenders to grant a 3 month mortgage holiday to any landlord who needs it. This means that your landlord can get a mortgage holiday if they need it, and not being able to pay their mortgage is no reason not to give you a rent reduction. The landlord is not required to show documented evidence of their tenants loss of income, so you do not have to provide any proof of income loss to them.


7. Can my landlord use my deposit or guarantors to pay off rent arrears?

Whether your landlord can use your deposit to pay off arrears depends on what it says in your tenancy agreement. Most tenancy agreements (including the model PRT agreement given by the Scottish government) will include a provision that allows the landlord to use the deposit for unpaid rent. However if this is not included in the tenancy agreement then your landlord cannot use your deposit to pay for rent arrears. If the arrears are more than the value of the deposit, landlords would have to make a court claim if they want to recover the rest of your arrears.

If you have guarantors on your tenancy agreement, they are liable for making up any arrears accrued during the tenancy, but your landlord would have to pursue them in court with a civil case in order to recover the money. This means that it is important to try to reach an agreement on rent payment with your landlord. 

8. Common areas in my block are not being cleaned properly and it is a risk to my health, what can I do about it?

We are aware that many landlords are not meeting the high level of communal hygiene required to ensure that our communities are safe from the virus. Living Rent is campaigning for strict cleaning standards to be enacted across housing associations during this time. If you live in social housing or your factors are registered social landlords, join this Facebook group to report any reduced cleaning services or disrepair in common areas. To demand the implementation of better hygiene measures from Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, sign this letter.

9. One of my flatmates has left and I am stuck in the tenancy, what are the rules for ending joint tenancies. 

In order to end a joint tenancy, all people living in the property have to hand in their notice at the same time. The tenancy will continue unless all tenants agree to end the tenancy. In a joint tenancy, everyone is equally in charge of providing the rent stated in the lease. If one flatmate has left and refuses to or cannot pay rent, get in touch with your landlord/agency in writing (email) and let them know the situation. 

If the landlord still demands the full amount of rent, join Living Rent and get in contact with a Living Rent Member Defence team, who can support you to negotiate a more reasonable rent plan. 

 

10.      I’m a student and have lost my job income because of the pandemic, can I claim Universal Credit?

Full time students are not normally entitled to claim benefits, however there are a list of exceptions including if you are responsible for a child, or if your partner is eligible for benefits. You can view the list of exceptions here. If you are in a difficult situation and you are not eligible for benefits, the best option is often discretionary funds which are provided by the Scottish Government and run by your institution. Different institutions will have different criteria for discretionary funding and there will often be somewhere you can get advice such as a student union or advice department.

11.     I’m stressed!

You should remember that you are not alone in this situation. Hundreds of thousands of tenants across the country are in the same boat. Living Rent is fighting for a rent waiver (that you wouldn’t have to pay back) for all tenants during the Coronavirus pandemic, and you can sign the petition for this here. We should also realise thousands of tenants in huge amounts of debt is not just a problem for renters but for the government and the economy.  Coronavirus is a collective problem and we cannot allow it to be individualised and put onto tenants who have done nothing to cause this crisis. If you want to see safe, secure affordable housing for all, join Living Rent.

 

Most of all, let’s look after each other during this pandemic- no one left behind!

 

livingrent.org/join

 

Useful links:

Shelter advice on Coronavirus:

https://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/scottish_housing_advice_coronavirus_COVID_19

 

Glasgow City Council Advice: 

https://glasgow.gov.uk/coronavirus  

 

Edinburgh City Council Advice:

https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/coronavirus

 

Help with gas/electricity bills:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-agrees-measures-with-energy-industry-to-support-vulnerable-people-through-covid-19 

 

Coronavirus Act 2020: 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2020/7/contents/enacted/data.htm

 

Scottish Government advice for landlords and letting agents (but useful for tenants):

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-landlord-and-letting-agent-faqs/ 

 

Support for victims of domestic abuse:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-and-domestic-abuse/coronavirus-covid-19-support-for-victims-of-domestic-abuse