Can't afford your rent because of coronavirus? Experts explain what you can do

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Coronavirus is having a huge impact on homeless young people in the UK, as more people are losing their jobs or being asked to leave their family home because of breakdowns in relationships.  

Between January and March 2019, an estimated 24,455 young people approached their council in England as they were homeless or at risk – with over 3,500 of them in London. 

Because of coronavirus, council offices are closed or operating with fewer staff, which is negatively affecting one of the main ways you can access housing support.

Centrepoint is a charity that supports homeless young people. And we’re here to help you with our services and our free national helpline.

If you can’t pay your rent and you’re worried about becoming homeless because of coronavirus, here's what you can do.

🗣 I can’t pay my rent

Get in touch with your landlord if you’re struggling to pay your rent. Your landlord might be understanding and willing to be flexible if your income’s changed or you’ve lost your job. They might work with you to find a way to help you stay in your home, like offering you a temporary rent decrease or accepting a late payment.

If they do agree to something like this, it’s really important to get the agreement in writing, like a letter or an email. Keep this safe! You might want to make a new folder in your email inbox, or put letters in a safe spot at home. And make a note in your phone and take a picture so you don’t forget where you put them.

Buy-to-let landlords might be able to get a mortgage holiday if their tenants are struggling to pay rent because of coronavirus, which could give you and your landlord a buffer.

A buy-to-let landlord is someone who buys a property to rent out to tenants. So if you’re renting, your landlord should fall into this category.

🗣 My landlord’s asked me to leave. What now?

If you can’t pay your rent and your landlord wants to evict you, there are a few steps they have to take. And it’s illegal for them not to follow these steps.

Illegal eviction is a criminal offence, and coronavirus doesn’t mean these rules don’t apply!

It’s likely that your landlord is evicting you illegally if:

  • They’ve tried to make you leave with no written notice or prior warning

  • They’ve locked you out of your home or changed the locks

If you think you might’ve been evicted illegally, you might want to:

  • Speak to Shelter or Citizens Advice for some free advice. They can help you work out if you’re being evicted illegally.

  • Ask your council for help by speaking to the tenancy relations officer or housing team.

To evict you, your landlord would usually need to start court proceedings.

But on 18th March 2020 the Government announced that landlords wouldn’t be able to apply to the courts to do this for at least three months. This should give you as a tenant extra protection, as your landlord won’t be able to start proceedings to evict you legally for a while.

If you’re a lodger, your landlord doesn’t need to apply to the courts. But they should give you reasonable written notice that they want you to leave. You can read a bit more about your rights as a lodger here.

If you have questions, please call our helpline on 0808 800 0661 or talk to us on webchat

🗣 I’m facing homelessness because of coronavirus. What can I do?

If you’re homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the next 56 days, the first people to get in touch with are the housing team at your local council.

Just remember, your council might be operating slightly differently because of coronavirus. For example, they might’ve changed their opening hours or not be seeing people in person any more.

If you’re not sure which council you’re in, you can enter your postcode on the government website to check.

If you’re struggling to find the contact details for the housing team in your council, you can call our helpline on 0808 800 0661. 

🗣 I need to talk to someone at the council, but they aren’t seeing people in person any more

The support your council can give you might be more limited because of coronavirus. But you’re still entitled to their help.

If you're homeless or facing homelessness, the council has to carry out a homeless assessment. This usually involves an interview with a housing officer, who’ll help create a personal housing plan for you. The aim of the plan is to try and make sure you have somewhere to live for at least the next 6 months.

Some councils won’t see you face-to-face right now to protect people from coronavirus. So call your council’s housing team before you try and go to their offices.

Your council shouldn’t refuse to give you a homelessness assessment because of coronavirus. So ask for a phone assessment if you can’t see them in person. 

If you’re homeless, eligible, and in priority need, you’re still entitled to get immediate emergency accommodation.

If you’re at risk of homelessness within the next 56 days but you still have relatively stable accommodation, they might ask you to wait a few weeks before they do your homelessness assessment. But you’re still entitled to one.

Each council has an emergency out of hours number. Please call this if you’re facing homelessness and it’s after 5pm or the weekend. If you can’t find this number easily, please call our helpline on 0808 800 0661.

Through the helpline, we can also advise you if there are any other local services who might be able to give you some support.

The services on offer are changing every day, as some are closing temporarily because of coronavirus. But if you call our helpline we’ll give you the most up to date information we have.

The way the government’s responding to this crisis is also changing, so it’s worth trying to keep up to date by checking GOV.UK if you can to see what support they’re adding.

🗣 My mental health is suffering because of coronavirus

An outbreak of an infectious disease like coronavirus can be scary, and really impact our mental health. And you might be especially worried about how coronavirus will affect your housing situation if you don't have anywhere stable to live. 

That's why it's really important to take care of yourself during this time, and reach out for support when you need it. 

If you need to talk to someone about how you're feeling, you can speak to these mental health support services for young people:

  • The Mix: Mental Health support and signposting for 13-25s. Call them on 0808 808 4994 or you can use their webchat service which you can find on their website

  • Shout: This is a text service which is free on all major mobile networks. They provide support if you're struggling to cope with how you're feeling. You can text 'Shout' to 85258.

  • Mind: This service provides support around mental health problems and where you can get help. Call their info line on 0300 123 3393.

  • Samaritans: If you feel in crisis or you just want someone to listen to how you're feeling, you can also call Samaritans on 116 123.

How Centrepoint can help

Here are a few of the ways we can help you if coronavirus is affecting you and your housing during the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Our free Centrepoint helpline is open for young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. We’ve already seen an increase in calls from young people who are at greater risk of homelessness because of coronavirus. 

  • If someone in our residential services needs to self-isolate, we’ll make sure they have access to food and other essentials, including mobile data so they can keep in touch with friends and family. And we’re exploring gift in kind donations to support this. 

  • If a young person or staff member has coronavirus, we’ll do a deep clean of the services if we need to. If they’re in a shared service, we’ll draw up a rota for residents to access the kitchen and bathrooms safely, and increase how often we clean them.

  • Our health and wellbeing service is still open, and includes psychotherapy, substance use, mental health advice, nutrition and dietetics, and healthy relationships advice.

  • We’re working hard to minimise the impact on our services if staff can’t work if they’re ill or self-isolating. We’ve worked quickly to identify other members of Centrepoint staff who could support our residential services if people can’t work, and we’re training them so they’re ready.

How you can help support Centrepoint 

1. Donate or raise money

As you know, the Coronavirus outbreak has been difficult for everyone, not least the homeless young people we support. To compound this, as an organisation we are now looking at a significant loss in voluntary income over the next year; projected at a staggering £2Million.

However, far from demoralising us, it has only worked to make us even more determined to do whatever we can to help to support our incredible services and the young people who so desperately need them. And we know that with our amazing community of partners and supporters we’ll come through this stronger than ever.

We have launched a new Centrepoint Coronavirus appeal website which contains information about the impact that the Coronavirus is having on homeless young people and Centrepoint; how we are supporting homeless young people; and importantly how you and your colleagues can support us.

There is a Fundraising Pack that’s full of simple, easy ways to fundraise from home, and what’s more, we hope they will be a great way to engage your colleagues and help to maintain that sense of togetherness – despite the social distancing.

Click here for the appeal website

2. Help us raise awareness

We want to spread the word about our emergency appeal and get as many people to donate and fundraise as possible! So spread the word to friends and family if you can.

We’ve invited charities and organisations working hard to support people through coronavirus to share their work and answer your questions.

Look out for more guest blog posts and tell us what else you’d like to hear about 💚