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Coronavirus – housing advice

We understand that the coronavirus outbreak has impacted on the lives of all our residents. For some, housing may have been a concern before this crisis but it will now be a concern to many more people. On this page we hope to be able to provide you with useful information about your rights in these unusual times, as well as some points of contact to seek further support.

Homelessness

Like all councils, we have a duty to provide support to our residents when they become homeless or are faced with the risk of becoming homeless. Sometimes that support is in the form of accommodation but at other times it can be in the form of emergency financial assistance or mediation with landlords or housing associations.

Because of the need to limit the spread of the coronavirus, we have temporarily closed our Housing Options office. Instead, we are operating a telephone service for urgent cases and an email service for routine enquiries.

If you are homeless or at genuine risk of becoming homeless, call 020 7364 7474.

If you have a non-urgent enquiry or you need information on an existing case, email homeless@towerhamlets.gov.uk

Rough sleepers

While rough sleeping is the most visual form of homelessness, it actually accounts for only a small number of those who are without permanent housing in Tower Hamlets.

We are pleased that the majority of the borough’s homeless are in accommodation and we are working with our partners to arrange safe housing options for the limited number of people still sleeping rough during this crisis. We have secured hotel space which, in addition to our hostel network and other temporary accommodation sites, means we have more options at our disposal.

Street LinkAs always, if you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, the most effective action is to ‘tell StreetLink’ either online or by downloading the StreetLink app. This creates a report which can be accessed directly by our own outreach team, getting the help to the people who need it.

Tower Hamlets Housing Forum pledge

Housing associations from across Tower Hamlets have come together to renew their commitment to residents with a united pledge to do the following:

  • To keep critical services going during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • To look after the welfare of our most vulnerable residents.
  • To offer support and advice if you fall behind with your rent or service charge
  • during the pandemic.
  • To keep estates clean – including sanitising and wiping down touch points.
  • To keep you informed when things change.

Read the pledge.

Advice for private tenants

There are new measures in place to ensure that private renters get the support and protection they need at this time of national crisis.

  • Renters will continue to be protected from eviction during the current national lockdown period. The government has extended existing legislation to ensure bailiffs do not serve eviction notices, except in the most serious circumstances. These include illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector, where a property is unoccupied following death of a tenant and serious rent arrears greater than 6 months’ rent. This legislation will be in place for at least six weeks until the 31 May 2021 and will be kept under review.

  • Notice periods may be shorter where there are significant arrears of more than six months. Court rules and procedures which were introduced in September 2020 to support both tenants and landlords which remain currently in place and will be regularly reviewed by the Government. If you are having trouble paying your rent, you should speak to your landlord about a rent reduction and coming to an arrangement to repay arrears in line with your individual circumstances. Please note that landlords are under no legal obligation to accept a rent reduction and as a tenant you remain liable for your rent.

See more guidance for private renters on the possession action process

If you have experienced a loss of income and having difficulty paying your rent, financial support is available.  For advice or information please contact Housing Advice

Email: housingadvice@towerhamlets.gov.uk 

Tel: 020 7364 3558 (during normal working hours)

Advice for landlords and homeowners

The government has introduced a range of measures for landlords and property owners during the coronavirus emergency.

  • There is a ban on evictions in place for England until at least 31 May 2021. No bailiff enforcement action can take place under the new national restrictions, except in exceptional cases involving are illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector, where a property is unoccupied following death of a tenant and serious rent arrears greater than 6 months’ rent.
  • Landlords must give renters 6 months’ notice to move out. This will be reviewed by the Government. Notice periods may be shorter where there are significant arrears of more than 6 months.
  • Tenants having difficulty making rental payments should to speak to their landlord. The Government is encouraging landlords to ‘show compassion’ and to work with tenants to put in place an affordable rent payment scheme. Landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together to resolve disputes and arrears, taking account of tenants’ individual circumstances.
  • Landlords with buy-to-let mortgages whose tenants are impacted by the crisis can access a payment holiday on the understanding that landlords offer a similar rent holiday to their tenants.
  • Those with a Help to Buy equity loan will be offered interest payment holidays if they are struggling to pay due to coronavirus.

See more guidance for landlords

Landlords that ignore protections

While most landlords and property owners are being responsible, we have had reports of some who are ignoring the protections and putting unacceptable pressure on tenants. We have written to those landlords we believe are acting outside the rules to remind them of their responsibilities and to make it clear that we will prosecute where the actions they take are unlawful.