What should I do if I can’t pay my rent?

The Coronavirus pandemic has been worrying and stressful on so many levels. The worry of keeping yourself and your loved ones safe from a harmful virus is enough. Yet, combining this with lockdown and too many life changes overnight, losing your job can just add to the ever growing stress, worry and loneliness. 

The government has had a blanket approach so far in financially helping people, by offering some companies the option to furlough existing staff and offering to pay 80% of salaries through PAYE. Yet some people have slipped through the net, with companies pulling roles and not being able to furlough staff if they’re not on the payroll in time. Some HR departments have said that furloughing staff can cause a range of issues for them with time and resources. Other companies just simply haven’t done it and made redundancies.  

Freelancers and companies can get government grants, however this hasn’t covered everyone. Thousands of individuals have been left looking for jobs at a time when things have stood still.

This has left people without adequate financial help and the only other support has been Universal Credit/job seekers allowance. If people are renting, often the housing benefit doesn’t cover the cost of the rental amount and so this needs to be topped up with Universal Credit. This doesn’t leave much room for Council Tax (even with a reduction), bills and food. For some renters, they’ve had to make the decision between paying rent and affording food. 

The economic impact of lockdown has hit people unequally but it has caused immediate impacts on mental health. The Mental Health Foundation reports that  “a quarter reported not coping well with the stress of the pandemic (twice as many as those in employment), almost half were worried about not having enough food to meet basic needs.”

Credit: Mark Oliver Paquin

First steps to take 

  1. If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn’t cover all of your rent and you need more money, you could make a claim for a discretionary housing payment (DHP). A DHP is extra money from your local council to help pay your rent. 
  2. You could also look to get a council tax reduction if you haven’t already done it here.
  3. Check out the benefits calculator too,  to see if there is any additional support you can get. 
  4.  4. You may also be able to speak to your utilities company and try and get a payment plan to help with the costs, discover more.

Speak to your landlord

If you’re unable to get additional financial help and still you’re struggling to pay your rent, speak to your landlord as soon as possible. Please let them know what your situation is and that you’re struggling. They may be able to come to an arrangement. Perhaps you could pay half of your rent and then when you’re back on your feet, you can increase it over the coming months. Landlords would rather know the situation than receive radio silence and then no money at the end of the month. Your landlord may even be able to have a mortgage break and then pass this break on to you. 

If you aren’t able to come to an agreement with your landlord, get in touch with Citizens Advice who can signpost you to a range of help and advice. 

Credit: Co-worker

Speak to housemates

If you’re a lodger in a property, then speak to your live-in landlord and see if you could take on some additional work to lower your rent like cleaning. If you live with other housemates too, look to club together to buy food to help reduce your costs. Perhaps see if you could distribute the rent amongst yourselves differently to help each other out – if others are in a more stable position.  

Can I be evicted if I can’t keep up with the repayments?

Your landlord can’t evict you if you don’t keep up with your rental payments as there is now a tenant eviction ban in place until 31st March 2020. Your landlord will have to give you six months notice to leave. This doesn’t apply where there is domestic abuse or anti-social behaviour within a property. 

If domestic abuse is occurring within a property that you are in, get in touch with the National Domestic Abuse helpline. If you’re in life threatening trouble, ring 999 and if once dialed you can’t speak, press 55. 

We would strongly urge tenants to seek as much financial support as they can get and to be open and honest with their landlord about their current situation. 

We understand that dealing with financial worries can result in a range of issues and if you are struggling with your mental health as a result, please check out these links for advice and support.