Skip to the main content

We want to make sure you’re well-informed and feeling supported regarding your housing situation, which is why we’ve put together some commonly-asked questions about renting in light of COVID-19. We hope this may help you when thinking about your accommodation plans for next year.

Don’t forget to also check out the Union’s Advice on Housing and Accommodation

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I leave my tenancy early because of coronavirus?

There has been no change to the ways in which tenants can end their tenancies early due to Covid-19. This means that you can only end a fixed term tenancy early if either:

  • Your contract has a break clause
  • You negotiate an early end to the agreement with your landlord

What is a break clause?

A break clause allows the tenant(s) to end the tenancy early by giving notice. Your tenancy agreement will tell you when the break clause can apply. For example, your break clause might say you can end your tenancy six months after it starts if you give one month’s notice.

It’s unusual for a student tenancy agreement to include a break clause but it’s still worth checking. There’s no standard format for a break clause in a tenancy agreement, so look for anything about giving notice or terminating the tenancy early.

If you have a joint tenancy, then all tenants must give notice jointly under the break clause in order to bring the tenancy to an end.

How can I negotiate with my landlord?

If you do not have a break clause, you may be able to reach a mutual agreement with your landlord to end your tenancy instead. This is known as a surrender.

If you have a joint tenancy agreement, all tenants will need to agree to the surrender.

It may be easier to reach an agreement with your landlord if you can suggest a replacement tenant. Whilst it could be difficult to find a replacement during the lockdown period, you may be able to find a new tenant by putting up adverts online or if you know a friend of family member who is looking to move out.

You can find tips on negotiating a surrender on the Shelter website here.

Can I pay less rent because of coronavirus?

There is no payment break or holiday for renters due to coronavirus. You can only pause your rent payments if your landlord agrees.

If you are struggling to pay rent, speak to your landlord as they may agree to a rent reduction or to accept a late payment of rent. They could be sympathetic especially if you or your family’s income has been reduced.

You can find a guide to negotiating a rent reduction with your landlord on the Shelter website here.

Ideally any agreement should be confirmed in writing in case of problems later on. 

You can find more information on how to deal with rent arrears on the Shelter website here.

What happens if I don’t pay my rent?

If you can’t reach an agreement with your landlord and don’t pay your rent when it is due, your tenancy will still continue with the same rent payable. A number of things could then happen. This ranges from your landlord keeping any deposit you’ve paid to cover some of the unpaid rent at the end of the tenancy, to them taking legal action to end your tenancy and/or recover money from you. Your landlord may also pursue your guarantor to pay the rent you have failed to pay.

If you share accommodation with other people, then unless you each have a separate agreement, you’re likely to be jointly and severally liable for rent. This means that the landlord can pursue any of the tenants (or their guarantor) for any rent due under the joint agreement, regardless of which tenant failed to pay their share. So, if you just leave without ending the tenancy the landlord could try to get the unpaid rent from your joint tenants (or their guarantor). 

You can find more information about what happens if you stop paying rent on the Shelter website here.

Can I be evicted?

Landlords are now required to give a minimum of three months’ notice for any evictions of tenants.

Your rent is still due during this time. It is advised that tenants and landlords are expected to work out a realistic repayment plan for any rent missed in this three-month period, taking into account the circumstances. But there is no law which requires landlords to do this.

What is Force Majeure?

Some tenancy agreements have a ‘Force Majeure’ clause. ‘Force Majeure’ means an event or sequence of events which are beyond a party’s reasonable control, and that prevent or delay it from performing its obligations under the tenancy agreement.

While Covid-19 may seem like a ‘Force Majeure event’, it is unlikely to prevent you from occupying the property or stop the tenancy from continuing. It’s therefore unlikely that you would be able to argue that your contract is impossible to perform if the accommodation continues to be available, but you are choosing not to occupy it.

Is UCL offering any financial support for students struggling to pay rent?

There may be some additional help available to pay your rent if your financial circumstances have changed. The Students’ Union has put together a list of financial support options available to our students which you can find here.