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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 and landlords

The current ban on bailiff-enforced evictions, introduced as an emergency measure during lockdown, will end on 31 May 2021.

The government has announced that from 1 June 2021 notice periods in England which are currently six months, will now be reduced to four months.

As part of the government’s  phased approach through Step 3 and Step 4 of the Roadmap, notice periods are being reduced, apart from the most serious cases, which remain lower:

  • anti-social behaviour (immediate to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • domestic abuse in the social housing sector (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • false statement (2 to 4 weeks’ notice)
  • over 4 months’ accumulated rent arrears (4 weeks’ notice)
  • breach of immigration rules ‘Right to Rent (2 weeks’ notice)
  • death of a tenant (2 months’ notice).

Notice periods for cases where there is less than four months' unpaid rent, will reduce to two months’ notice from 1 August 2021.

This is to support both landlords and tenants and responds to the greater difference between Covid and pre-Covid notice periods for rent arrears.

The measures will also ensure renters continue to be protected with longer notice periods for the coming months while allowing landlords to access justice.

Subject to the public health advice and progress with the Roadmap, notice periods will return to pre-pandemic levels from 1 October 2021.

Renters will continue to be supported with living costs, including rent, through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until 30 September 2021.

Financial support remains in place to help people meet their outgoings, including the furlough scheme and the Universal Credit uplift, which have both been extended until the end of September.

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 government advice on for tenants and landlords on the eviction process

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 who 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.