• Maritsa

Covid-19: Your right to rent and bill reductions

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

The end of the month is fast approaching. For many, this means paying rent and utility bills soon. I'm seeing online campaigns calling for total rent strikes all over the world (Canada, Australia, the USA)

As much as I would love to say you should stop paying rent for the next few months - because only through solidarity and bold actions will change be made - I worry for the repercussions to tenants with asshole landlords.

So...I'm not going to say that yet. Maybe I should. I want to..but this is real life.

This article is for renters feeling worried about surviving for the next few months.

click here to see the London Renters Union's email template to ask your landlord to reduce your rent next month

It was announced last week that 80% of wages for those not working in Covid-19 crisis would be paid if businesses kept employees on the payroll.

But...what about renters that have already lost their jobs? What about students who can't simply pack up and move back in with their parents? What if it's still going to be a struggle?

Can't afford rent next month?

The biggest news - you probably already know this - is that landlords won't be evicting tenants for at least a 3 month period (click here for more info)

But how can we manage the next few months, so the threat of eviction isn't a problem?

If your ability to pay rent has been directly or indirectly affected by the virus (lost your job, have to self isolate etc), current advice is to get in touch with your landlord. They should apply for a mortgage holiday. They won't have to pay their mortgage for 3 months, meaning they should be willing to at least reduce the amount of rent you are paying right now, or offer you a 3 month rent freeze.

If you're nervous about starting this conversation - cause landlords can be...difficult...unpleasant...scum of the earthANYWAY - I went onto some landlord support websites, and they are saying to prioritise keeping current tenants happy;

"arrange a rent holiday with the tenant...it may be difficult to relet the property at this time".

It's a gross way to think about it, but be confident, keeping you as a tenant happy is in your landlord's best interest in a time like this.

But the rent freeze option shouldn't be taken lightly. Any rent that is deferred will have to be paid eventually. So be careful about what you agree to. You don't want to end up a couple grand in debt in a few months when this is all over. Work out how much rent you can afford to pay now instead of skipping rent entirely, so you don't end up with an overwhelming debt later.

The London Renters Union (an incredible resource, find out more here) wrote a great template email to send to your landlord to get the conversation started. Hope it helps. Click here.

Can't afford bills and utilities this month?

The statements regarding bills have been a little vague (click here for more info), but there are some things you can do. Bare in mind, the Government set aside £330 billion to help businesses during this time. So your energy supplier has support to help you. They might not want to...but you have the right to it.

"...any energy customer in financial distress will also be supported by their supplier, which could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary" (quoted from here)

The idea of going to your energy supplier is to work out a payment plan that you can afford. Citizens Advice has a great budgeting tool to calculate what you can afford (click here)

Energy supplier unhelpful?

Every time I've dealt with my energy company, I'm left feeling frustrated. So..I don't really have much faith in this tactic of "work something out with them". It may be a great idea, and I hope it works and you are left feeling a little less worried. If not, here's a list of grants and benefits that will help you pay your energy bills.

It's unlikely, but if you are disconnected from your energy supply, Citizens Advice offers great guidance on what to do next, if you click here.

It isn't much, but it's the best I can find for now. I'll keep searching.

Good luck, stay safe, take care of each other.

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