A ban on landlords evicting their tenants has been extended until 31 May for people living in England.
Under the ban, bailiff-enforced evictions will not be allowed except in the most serious circumstances, such as cases of fraud or domestic abuse.
The requirement for landlords to give their tenants a six-month notice period before they can evict them has also been extended until the end of May.
The government said the extension would ensure tenants in both the private and social rental sectors could stay in their homes and have enough time to find alternative accommodation as the UK comes out of lockdown.
The eviction ban was first introduced last March as part of emergency legislation to help people whose finances had been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The ban has been extended several times, and the current one was due to expire on 31 March.
The government said it would consider the best approach to moving away from emergency protections at the beginning of June.
Who does it affect?
The move is good news for tenants who are struggling to pay their rent as a result of the pandemic and its associated lockdown measures.
Many workers from sectors that have been hit hardest by the pandemic rent their home, with 49% of hospitality workers and 36% of retail ones living in rental homes, according to government figures.
A free mediation service has also been set up to help landlords and tenants resolve disputes without having to go to court, in a bid to help more people stay in their homes.
Despite these measures, the ban on tenant evictions has been criticised as being less generous for tenants than the mortgage payment holiday is for homeowners.
The mortgage payment holiday enables homeowners to suspend payments for up to six months. While the eviction ban means tenants do not lose their home, it does not offer them any breathing space on their rent.
What should you do if you can’t pay your rent?
If you are struggling to pay your rent, it is important to contact your landlord as soon as possible.
Landlords with buy-to-let mortgages are included in the mortgage payment holiday scheme, on the understanding that they will pass on the benefit to tenants.
But people who have not yet applied for a payment holiday must do so soon as the scheme ends on 31 July.
It is worth checking to see if you are eligible for any government benefits, such as the universal credit, if your income has fallen.
You may also be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment from your local authority, after the government made £180m available to councils to support renters with housing costs.
If you can still afford to pay some of your rent, it is worth asking your landlord if they would accept a reduced payment for a set period of time, particularly if you think you will be able to make up the shortfall once lockdown is lifted.
What are your rights as a tenant?
It is illegal for your landlord to evict you without giving you written notice or obtaining a court order.
If you are in an assured shorthold tenancy, the most common type of tenancy, they can start the eviction procedure through giving you either a section 21 or section 8 notice.
Your landlord does not need to give a reason to evict you under a section 21 notice, but they must give you a warning period. This period was previously two months, but it has been extended to six months because of the pandemic.
If you do not leave the property at the end of this period, your landlord must go to court to evict you legally.
You cannot be issued with a section 21 notice during the first four months of your original contract.
Landlords can only issue a section 8 notice if they have legal grounds to end your tenancy, for example if you are in rent arrears. They must apply to a court for a possession order to evict you.
Prior to the eviction ban, the notice period varied, depending on the grounds for possession.
Landlords are not allowed to harass you or lock you out of your home, even temporarily, while they are waiting to evict you.
Read our guide for more on your rights as a tenant.
What measures are in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
Landlords in Wales currently have to give their tenants six months’ notice if they are going to evict them, up from a normal notice period of two months.
Scotland has also passed an emergency law due to coronavirus under which tenants must be given six months’ notice, except under certain circumstances, such as cases of criminal or anti-social behaviour or if the landlord or their family need to move into the property.
In Northern Ireland, landlords must give tenants 12 weeks’ notice, up from 28 days’ notice under normal circumstances, before applying for a court order to have them evicted.
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Top three takeaways
A ban on landlords evicting their tenants has been extended until 31 May for people living in England
Under the ban, bailiff-enforced evictions will not be allowed except in the most serious circumstances
The requirement for landlords to give their tenants a six-month notice period before they can evict them has also been extended until the end of May