Covid-19: ASK FAQs

Housing questions due to the current situation answered by ASK

We know how difficult the current situation can be to you, and the unknown can be quite scary. Whilst ASK can't provide all the answers, we've been able to produce a small FAQ about housing but you should contact ASK on su.ask@keele.ac.uk about specific circumstances

If you live with your landlord and would like housing advice please contact ASK on su.ask@keele.ac.uk as your rights can be different to below
 
This FAQ was last updated on 1st June 2020. 
 
The government has produced updated guidance for landlords and tenants with more questions and guidance. 

 

I can’t afford to pay my rent, what should I do?

If you cannot afford to pay your rent or already have arrears, contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss your situation. An early conversation with your landlord can help to agree a plan if you are struggling to pay your rent.

The government have asked landlords to offer support and understanding to tenants during this difficult time. Landlords should be sympathetic especially if you've lost your job or your income has suddenly reduced.  Your landlord might agree to a rent reduction or to accept rent late. Get any agreement in writing.

You may want to complete a budget to get a better understanding of what you can afford to pay. The National Debtline website has an excellent budgeting tool.  

You may want to consider making an application to the Keele University Hardship Fund.

 

Do I still have to pay rent even though I have moved out of my privately rented house?

Most students will have signed an Assured Shorthold tenancy agreement for a fixed term. It is understandable that many students will have returned home when face to face classes ended at Keele, however returning home will not have ended your tenancy agreement early.

You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if either:

  • your contract has a clause allowing you to leave early (break clause)
  • you negotiate an early end to the agreement with your landlord

If you want to end your tenancy agreement early you'll probably have to negotiate with your landlord. Your landlord may be sympathetic to your request to leave if they understand your reasons. For example, if you need to move urgently because you or a family member are sick or need support.

Leroy, your Activities & Community Officer, with the help from ASK, has produced a letter for you to send to your landlord asking for rent relief. Download the document here.

If your landlord refuses to end your agreement early then you will need to continue to pay your rent until the fixed term ends.

 

Do I have to pay rent even though I have moved out of my on-campus accommodation?

The University has produced an FAQ for students that covers on-campus accommodation.

 

If my landlord is getting a mortgage break, why should I pay my rent?

There is no payment break or holiday for renters. You can only pause or stop your rent payments if your landlord agrees.

Some landlords can apply for a break in mortgage payments if their tenants are struggling to pay rent due to coronavirus, but this won’t always be possible and landlords will have their own bills to pay or may have been impacted by the pandemic. The landlord will still have to make up missed payments later.

 

Can my landlord ask me to leave or evict me?

The government has announced new rules on evictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new rules do two things:

  • extend the notice period for evictions
  • suspend eviction court action

All court proceedings for eviction are on hold until at least 25 June 2020, regardless of when your landlord applied to court.

This means most tenants can’t be evicted before the end of June at the earliest.

If you live with your landlord your rights are different and you may not have the same protection from eviction. Contact ASK for further advice.

 

I am worried about becoming homeless, what support can I access

If you are threatened with homelessness contact your local council’s homelessness prevention team as soon as you can. The closest to Keele is Newcastle Housing Advice who can be contacted on nha@midlandhart.org.uk or by calling 0345 850 9698.

 

I have signed a tenancy agreement for 2020/21, what will happen if I can’t move in?

It is still too early to know what the situation will be for the start of the 2020/21 academic year, landlords and students will be relying on government updates as the pandemic progresses. Issues such as social distancing and restrictions on movements may have an impact on your ability to move into your rented property or those restrictions may have been lifted by that point, we just don’t know yet.   

However, as things stand students who are signed to a fixed-term tenancy agreement for 2020/21 may be liable for their contract even if they do not move into the property. Keep in touch with your future landlord and talk about what your options are as things move on. It may be that your landlord can be flexible on rent payments, amounts or the fixed term of your agreement.

We will update this FAQ as and when we know more.

 

I have paid a holding deposit for 2020/21 but not signed or verbally agreed to the tenancy agreement yet. Can I back out?

A holding deposit is a payment to a landlord or agent to reserve a property. In most cases, you should get the money back if the landlord decides not to rent to you.

Only pay a holding deposit if you're serious about taking on the tenancy. Your landlord or agent can normally keep the holding deposit if you either decide not to go ahead with the tenancy or you don't take the necessary steps to agree on a tenancy by a deadline.

If a landlord is arguing that you are bound to a tenancy agreement because you paid a holding deposit contact ASK for further advice on su.ask@keele.ac.uk.

 

Can the landlord keep my deposit?

You'll need to contact your landlord at the end of your tenancy and ask them for your deposit. If your home is managed by a letting agency, you'll need to contact them instead.

It's best to write or email when you ask for your deposit back - if you do, you'll have a record of when you asked for it.

You might not get the full amount of your deposit back if, for example:

  • you owe rent
  • you've damaged the property - this could be something like a spill on the carpet or a mark on the wall where you've hung a picture
  • you've lost or broken some items from the inventory, like some cutlery or mugs

 

Should I sign a tenancy agreement for 2020/21?

It is still too early to know what the situation will be for the start of the 2020/21 academic year, landlords and students will be relying on government updates as the pandemic progresses. Issues such as social distancing and restrictions on movements may have an impact on your ability to move in to your rented property or those restrictions may have been lifted by that point, we just don’t know yet.

Think very carefully before signing a tenancy agreement for the 2020/21 academic year. It is possible that you would still be liable for the rent even if you don’t move in or you move in late. If you do want to sign speak to the landlord about what would happen in these circumstances. Get anything that you agree in writing. There is a surplus of rental accommodation in the local area so there is no need to panic and sign a tenancy agreement.

Seek advice from ASK if you are unsure.

 

My landlord is asking to do viewings in my accommodation, is this permitted?

The government announced on 13th May 2020 that they are now allowing activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property, this includes allowing viewings.

Landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where they have been determined clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding.

The landlord should follow the latest government advice on social distancing to ensure everyone remains safe, giving at least 24 hours written notice and only arranging viewings at reasonable times of the day. Speak to your landlord about any concerns you have about viewings. 

Landlords should consider whether a virtual viewing would be more appropriate at this time. 

The government has published detailed guidance on viewings that both tenants and landlords should read. 

 

Should I continue to report disrepair to the landlord?

Yes, during the Covid-19 pandemic your landlord’s repairing obligations remain unchanged, however, delays may be inevitable.

Tradespeople can visit people’s homes to carry out any work or maintenance provided it is carried out in accordance with guidance for professionals working in people’s homes. You can find further guidance on visits to properties to make repairs here

If you are not shielding or self-isolating, you can allow local authorities, landlords or contractors access to your home in order to carry out a range of works. This includes:

  • routine inspections, including annual gas safety checks;
  • essential and non-essential repairs and maintenance; and
  • planned maintenance activity inside and outside the home.

More information on repairs and access to your property is available on page 16 of the government guidance

 

I have left my property should I let my landlord know?

Yes, you should keep in touch with your landlord about your situation.

Make sure you pay all your household bills - for example, gas, electricity or broadband.

Read through your tenancy agreement, it may have things you have agreed to do at the end of the tenancy. Contact your landlord if any of them are not possible under the current circumstances.

Check your contract before the fixed term ends to see if you have to give notice to end your tenancy. If there is a clause in your agreement, it will tell you how much notice to give.

It’s a good idea to tell your landlord that you plan to leave even if it's not mentioned in your agreement.

 

I have left some belongings behind and my tenancy will end, what should I do?

If you are a student who left student accommodation and now wishes to travel back to that accommodation to recover your belongings, you can do so providing you continue to avoid public transport wherever possible and follow the latest travel and social distancing guidance of the nation where you are currently residing. 

You should discuss a date and time to collect your belongings with your private landlord or accommodation provider. 

It is important to communicate with your landlord as any abandoned belongings may incur costs to remove or store by the landlord and this can be taken from your deposit. Check your tenancy agreement before the fixed term ends to see if you have to give notice to end your tenancy. If there is a clause in your agreement, it will tell you how much notice to give. 

On campus accommodation students should follow instructions in the email sent by the Accommodation Team on 26th May 2020. If you have questions about collecting belongings that you have left in on campus accommodation please email accommodation@keele.ac.uk. 

 

I am experiencing domestic abuse, what support is available?

If you are unsafe in your home because of domestic abuse there is still help available during the outbreak.

Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Women’s Aid is still operating webchat and email support.

 

Can I claim welfare benefits now that my income has reduced?

Welfare benefit entitlement is very complex and the government have made some changes following the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the government has not extended welfare benefits to more students.

Most students are not able to claim welfare benefits, however, if you are a disabled student, a student parent or a student without parental support there may be some help available. The Turn2Us website has more information.

If you have any questions please contact ASK on su.ask@keele.ac.uk.

 

Are there any websites I can use to get specialist housing advice?

You can find detailed information on housing issues on the Shelter website.