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FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR RENTERS DURING COVID-19

Following the announcement from Government that renters cannot be evicted from their properties during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is now extra financial support available.

Nearly £1bn is made available to support renters by increasing the generosity of housing benefit and Universal Credit, so that the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30 per cent of market rents in the claimant’s area. Statutory Sick Pay has also been made more accessible with claimants able to receive sick pay from day one of being off work due to coronavirus symptoms, or if you are isolating due to a family member having symptoms.

Do I need to pay the rent?

Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay

In work and not claiming benefits

If you cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of your illness.

If you are out of work because of COVID-19 you can now claim SSP. This includes individuals who are caring for people in the same household and have been advised to do a household quarantine.

Changes to how much claimants get

From 6 April the Government is increasing the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit for one year. Both will increase by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating. This will apply to all new and existing Universal Credit claims and to existing Working Tax Credit claims.

This means that for a single Universal Credit claimant (aged 25 or over), the standard allowance will increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.

Propertymark has long called for Local Housing Allowance rates to be increased as the amount afforded to claimants was far too low. These rates will also be increased to cover at least 30 per cent of market rents in your area. This will apply to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants.

Changes when making a new claim

You can apply for Universal Credit online. If you need to claim Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of coronavirus, you will not be required to produce a Fit Note.

If you are affected by coronavirus, you will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a jobcentre.

If you are suffering from Coronavirus or are required to stay at home and want to apply for ESA, the usual seven waiting days for new claimants will not apply. ESA will be payable from day one. For more information about any aspect of Universal Credit, including how to make a claim, visit the website by clicking the button below.

Understanding Universal Credit

Council Tax Hardship Fund – England

The Government has confirmed further support for renters with a £500 million hardship fund which will provide council tax relief for vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by Coronavirus.

The Hardship Fund will go to local authorities in England to enable them to reduce the 2020 to 2021 council tax bills of working-age people receiving Local Council Tax Support.

Energy payments

With immediate effect customers with pre-payment meters who may not be able to add credit can speak to their supplier about options to keep them supplied. This could include nominating a third party for credit top-ups, having a discretionary fund added to their credit, or being sent a pre-loaded top-up card so that their supply is not interrupted. 

Any energy customer in financial distress will also be supported by their supplier, which could include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary, while disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended.

What to do if you can't top up your meter

If you are unable to top up your pre-payment meter, then contact your supplier immediately to discuss keeping it connected and working. Ofgem recommends consumers leave the meter box unlocked if they need someone else to top up the meter. Smart meter customers should be able to top-up remotely, such as by phone, mobile application or online.

Suppliers phone lines could get busy with longer than usual waiting times—due to staff shortages and/or high volumes of customers trying to get through. Where possible please try online options—through your supplier’s website, app, email or social media. Many of these channels will be able to help with queries, leaving phone lines free for urgent enquiries.

More information

Further guidance

For more guidance in relation to COVID-19 for employees, visit the GOV.UK website where you’ll find individual guides to help you understand your rights and obligations.

 

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