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On the move again: but how can tenants stay safe?

15 Mai 2020

The government says the housing market can start up again, provided social distancing advice is followed. Private rental tenants may be asked to allow viewings, or to give letting agents access to take photos and videos, but may feel uncomfortable about how this can be done safely.

What does the guidance say:

  • Viewing should not occur where tenants are self-isolating or symptomatic, or are extremely clinically vulnerable or shielding

  • Re-letting should only take place where the tenant/s have initiated the move voluntarily

  • Initial viewings should be done virtually 

  • Physical viewings should be limited to as few people as possible. And there must be no ‘open house’ viewings

  • Precautions such as opening internal doors, cleaning of surfaces should be taken

  • Tenants should leave the property for the duration of the viewing where possible.

What rights do tenants have:

  • You do not have to leave your home just because a fixed term has come to an end - unless your landlord has obtained an order for possession

  • Even in this instance, in many cases measures to delay the process have been put in place. There’s more detail on this page of our website

  • If you don’t want your landlord or letting agent to organise viewings you can refuse and they may not enter without your permission

  • However, allowing access may be a part of your contract, and breaching the terms of your contract may allow your landlord to take steps to enforce it - through an injunction or serving notice and make a claim for possession

  • But to succeed the landlord needs to prove they are being reasonable, and a court may not consider it reasonable if the tenant is taking steps to protect themselves against a potential health risk

  • A landlord who serves a so-called ‘no fault eviction’ section 21 notice, however, does not need to prove that they are acting reasonably. 

What is Citizens Advice calling for:

Citizens Advice wants the government to extend the measures put in place to protect tenants from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In particular the government should accelerate its policy to scrap section 21 - so called ‘no fault evictions’. We’re also calling for temporary changes to allow courts further discretion when faced with tenants whose rent arrears have been caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Without these changes, tenants face a cliff edge when current protections end on 25 June.

Amy Hughes, housing expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“The most important thing is that tenants are safe - and feel safe. Tenants should not be pressured to allow viewings. The government guidelines stress that social distancing must be adhered to and that there should be no viewings at all in properties where tenants are shielding, or self-isolating because they have symptoms of coronavirus.  

“In addition, properties should only be put on the rental market if the tenant has said they want to move.

“However, existing measures to protect people who are having difficulty paying their rent because of the pandemic are only temporary. Possession proceedings to allow landlords to evict tenants are only paused until 25 June.”

Notes to editors

  1. The government committed to ending Section 21 in April 2019 in this press release.
  2. Citizen Advice includes the national charity; the network of independent local Citizens Advice charities across England and Wales; the Citizens Advice consumer service; and the Witness Service.
  3. Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for energy and post. We provide supplier performance information to consumers and policy analysis to decision makers.
  4. The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free, independent support for prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
  5. Citizens Advice offers Pension Wise services at 500 locations in England and Wales.
  6. Citizens Advice’s services are free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to all regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  7. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  8. For consumer advice, call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133 or 0808 223 1144 to talk in Welsh.
  9. We helped 2.6 million people face to face, by phone, email and webchat in 2017-18. For service statistics see our monthly publication Advice trends.
  10. Citizens Advice staff are supported by over 23,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 locations in England and Wales.