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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

Many of the rules around private renting have been temporarily changed as part of the emergency coronavirus response and we want to make sure that our residents understand the protections put in place to ensure that they do not face financial hardship or homelessness.

The government has brought in measures to protect renters during this time of crisis. These include:

  • A three month suspension of evictions from private rented accommodation in place for 90 days from Friday 27th March 2020.

  • No new possession proceedings are to start during the crisis and all ongoing possession cases are suspended by the courts for 90 days from 27th March 2020. This means that no evictions can legally take place during this 90 day period. 

  • Landlords can still serve an eviction notice, but they must give 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession for any reason.

  • Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay as usual, but financial support is available for those who need it. If you will have difficulty meeting a rental payment you should speak to your landlord. Once the emergency is over, landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together to resolve disputes and arrears, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.

  • If you have concerns or need support, you can speak to a member of our housing advice team by emailing: housing.advice@towerhamlets.gov.uk or calling 0207 364 3558 during normal working hours.

Advice for landlords and homeowners

The government has introduced a range of measures to protect landlords and homeowners during the coronavirus emergency. These include:

  • Evictions are suspended from 27th March 2020. This means there are to be no new housing possession claims and all ongoing housing possession action is suspended by the courts. This measure protects all renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
  • Landlords must give renters 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession for any reason. This requirement is in place until 30th September 2020. There are new possession forms to reflect the new legislation here.
  • If tenants think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment they are recommended to speak to their landlord, and landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme. Once the emergency is over, landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together to resolve disputes and arrears, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.
  • Landlords with buy-to-let mortgages whose tenants are impacted by the coronavirus crisis, can access a three month payment holiday, on the understanding that landlords will be expected to 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.

More detail is available on the government website. Our licensing, environmental health and trading standards team can be reached as usual on 020 7364 5008 or at licensing@towerhamlets.gov.uk; trading.standards@towerhamlets.gov.uk or environmental.health@towerhamlets.gov.uk

More detailed guidance, for renters and landlords, is available on the government website.

If, after reading the government guidance, you still have concerns or queries, you can speak to a member of our housing advice team by emailing housing.advice@towerhamlets.gov.uk or calling 020 7364 3558 during normal working hours.

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.