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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.

  • Evictions are currently banned. You cannot be evicted until at least 23 August 2020 – court proceedings for possession hearings are currently suspended.
  • A landlord cannot evict you for any reason unless they have a court order.
  • If your landlord tries to evict you without a court order you are subject to an unlawful eviction.
  • Landlords can serve an eviction notice, but they must give three months' notice if they intend to seek possession for any reason.
  • If you are having trouble paying your rent, you can 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.
  • If you have experienced a loss of income and having difficulty paying your rent, financial support is available.
  • More detailed guidance for renters is available on the government website.

For advice or information please contact Housing Advice at housingadvice@towerhamlets.gov.uk or call 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.

  • All housing possession action has been suspended by the courts to 23 August 2020. This measure protects all renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
  • You must give renters three months’ notice if you intend to seek possession for any reason. This requirement is in place until 30 September 2020. There are new possession forms to reflect the new legislation.
  • Tenants having difficulty making rental payments are recommended to speak to their landlord. The government has is encouraging landlords to ‘show compassion’ and work together 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.
  • 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 who we believe are acting outside the rules to remind them of their responsibilities and to make clear that we will prosecute where the actions they take are unlawful. A copy of that letter has been published online.
  • More detailed guidance for landlords is available on the government website.

For advice or information please contact private sector policy officer Katya Metay at katya.metay@towerhamlets.gov.uk.

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 who we believe are acting outside the rules to remind them of their responsibilities and to make clear that we will prosecute where the actions they take are unlawful. A copy of that letter has been published online.