Covid-19 coronavirus crisis – tenant help
Since the start of the pandemic, members have been in touch with SAL outlining some highly distressing financial and business issues. Many UK households have suffered and continue to suffer financial losses as a result of the virus.
Under the terms of the tenancy agreement the rent is still due as normal. However, we have from the outset suggested working with your tenants to try to help them through this period if possible, particularly if they have a history of good payment in the past.
Agents should discuss any coronavirus related rent arrears with their landlord clients to get their instructions. If the landlord wishes you to, you should follow your standard debt recovery procedure.
Guidance on rent arrears and debt recovery can be found in our factsheet here, (members remember to log in to see and download documents).
The SAL position is that part of the solution to the current crisis, is that the government needs to help tenants to pay their rent. If rents are paid, there will be no need for evictions and later arrears recovery. With rents paid, business, employment and housing situations can be more secure for everyone.
Tenants should be encouraged to seek their own advice on any benefits or sick pay they may be entitled to. They can get free advice from:
- Shelter Scotland
- Citizens Advice Scotland
- The Money Advice Service
- Scotland’s Financial Health Service
New Tenant Hardship Grant fund
From day one of the pandemic SAL, as part of the Scottish Government PRS Covid-19 resilience group, lobbied for support for tenants to be able to pay their rent and later for help for them to pay off Covid-19 related rent arrears.
We are therefore pleased that the Scottish Government has now distributed a new £10 million grant fund to local authorities which is to be used to support tenants who are struggling as a direct result of the pandemic. The grant funding is available from now until 31 March 2022. It can be used to pay off arrears which arose between 23 March 2020 and 9 August 2021 and the money is paid directly to the landlord.
The grant is being administered by local authorities and landlords, letting agents or tenants can enquire about eligibility by contacting their local authority housing options or homelessness departments. See local authority contact details on our webpage here.
People affected by coronavirus who are concerned about paying their rent can claim Universal Credit (UC) from the Department for Work and Pensions which includes support for housing costs, if eligible. The UK Government has introduced some temporary changes to make this easier. The following website provides further information on applying for UC: www.gov.uk/universal-credit
If a tenant is getting Housing Benefit or UC, but still can’t afford their housing costs, they may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). Further information on DHPs and how to apply is available at: www.mygov.scot/discretionary-housing-payment
Tenants may also be able to get support through the Scottish Welfare Fund. Further information on how to apply is available on: www.mygov.scot/scottish-welfare-fund/crisis-grants
To assist tenants to find help to pay, some members are providing information to pass to tenants who are saying they think they will not be able to pay some or all of their rent. We have published templates as below for members to adapt and use, (members please log in to see and download our documents).
Letting agent version
Additional advice for tenants
Landlords may like to consider issuing guidance to their tenants, particularly where they have properties let to multiple individuals on separate leases who may not know each other well. Guidance should cover the importance of letting their housemates and any potential visitors to the property know if they are symptomatic/self-isolating and highlighting the precautions we should all be taking to reduce the spread of the virus which can be found on the NHS website here.
Landlords and letting agents – do you need individual help and advice? Please join SAL to access documents and advice and ensure you are sent all the new and updated information directly to your inbox. Show your support by adding your voice to our campaigns as a member.