Money saving guide to real-world renting: Coronavirus edition

Money saving guide to real-world renting: Coronavirus edition

If the coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it’s the importance of being flexible. We’re changing our ways of working, adapting our social lives and adjusting to a constantly evolving new normal.

With many of us facing financial uncertainty due to salary cuts and the impending end of the furlough scheme, be sure to check out our money-saving guide for renters.

It’s packed with top tips for managing your finances and handy hacks for increasing your income, as well as practical advice on what to do if you can’t pay your rent.

 

How to get your finances on lockdown

If you’re a renter feeling the pinch as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and looking to save your pennies, then look no further. These handy hints can result in savings, despite the tricky circumstances:

  • Being stuck at home may feel like an inconvenience, but it can also be an opportunity to save money. Do you usually buy lunch out? The pounds you save on Pret a Manger could add up to a handsome sum. Be sure to tuck the saved money away before you spend it though, out of sight is out of mind; by setting it aside you’re less likely to overspend. Read the Which? guide on budgeting tools to learn more about how to take control of your finances and see all your spending
  • Right now, many businesses have closed their workplaces, so millions of people are having to work from home. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) says it will consider claims from employees working at home due to coronavirus. So, if your employer requires you to work from home, you might be able to claim tax relief for your job expenses such as lighting, heating and electricity – every little helps!
  • If you aren’t going into the office, the chances are you’re saving a significant sum on travel each month, but how can you put that money to good use? Why not transfer it into a savings account to pay for household bills or other expenses? Check out our blog Can commuter savings help tenants overcome the cost of renting?
  • Money saving guide to real-world renting: Coronavirus editionWas your holiday cancelled this year? Although the prospect of curbs on overseas travel might be getting you down, try to focus on the savings you’ll make. Our blog, How holiday savings can contribute towards rental costs highlights just how much money you could save
  • Save big bucks by switching your energy supplier. Investigate cheaper alternatives for gas and electric suppliers, so your bills are reduced. And remember, you can still switch energy supplier even if you have a prepaid meter. Citizens Advice provides useful guidance on switching your energy supplier
  • Make sure you are covered – your landlord will have buildings insurance, but you are responsible for your personal contents, so get contents insurance to protect your own contents as soon as you move in, to limit potential losses and protect your possessions

 

Income hacks: how to save money and supplement your income

Everyone loves a money saving tip. And now, even though we might be watching the pennies and facing financial uncertainty, it’s undeniable that the coronavirus has created time and space for some to start online businesses. Not to mention a market for new types of products, for example, homemade facemasks.

Our income hacks aim to stretch your salary and prevent unnecessary expenditure:

  • Find discount codes – the internet is full of free codes and coupons, so before you make your next purchase, research whether discounts are available
  • Use cashback websites – earning free money for online purchases might sound too good to be true, but it isn’t! Do your research and get to know cashback sites in order to get some of your money back on online purchases
  • Sign up for market research – jobs might be hard to come by but there are potential market research and secret shopper opportunities which can offer a handsome rate

Money saving guide to real-world renting: Coronavirus edition

  • Sell your stuff – Instead of throwing away or donating unwanted clothes/shoes, why not sell them on depop/ebay. You never know, it could become a successful side hustle
  • Use your talents – can you sew masks, bake delicious cakes, create gorgeous artwork or make unusual jewellery? Well they say if you’re good at something never do it for free. Lockdown has seen more of us than ever turn our talents into a business venture
  • Haggle – You might think the art of haggling is reserved for marketplaces, but nothing ventured nothing gained, so next time you’re renewing your phone, internet or TV subscription contract, why not negotiate the price?
  • Sign up for loyalty cards – by simply signing up for and using loyalty cards at your favourite shops and restaurants you can gain big benefits
  • Go off-peak – Spending can be slashed when travelling off-peak on trains, and tickets prices for leisure activities like the cinema are also reduced during off-peak hours, so get online to investigate the cheapest time to travel and go out

 

The cost of coronavirus

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of employees on payrolls in the UK decreased by 695,000 from March to August 2020. With so many of us impacted by reduced incomes as a direct result of COVID-19, financial security is harder than ever to achieve.

If you’ve done all you can to save your pennies and make some extra cash, but you simply can’t make ends meet, fortunately there is government support available for those struggling to pay their rent as a result of the pandemic.  If your income has been affected by coronavirus, you might be able to claim Universal Credit, or other benefits. More information on what benefits you might be able to claim is available from Citizens Advice.

 

What shall I do if I’m behind on my rent?

Despite government attempts to minimise financial disruption with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, there are a whole host of reasons why it might be difficult to meet rental payments at the moment.

Even on the furlough scheme, a 20 per cent salary drop could be potentially devastating for some renters, whilst many others have been hit with redundancy.

The financial implications of the coronavirus are not going to disappear any time soon, so keep an open channel of communication with your landlord, make them aware if your working circumstances change or you become ill, and try to build a transparent relationship so that difficulties can be resolved promptly.

  • Talk to your landlord or agent to explain your financial situation – they may be understanding and offer you an affordable way to pay your rent
  • Your landlord cannot evict you without giving six months’ notice, unless you have exhibited anti-social behaviour
  • If, after speaking to your landlord, you are unable to come to a suitable agreement, it might be beneficial to use a mediation service like the Property Redress Scheme’s mediation service, in order to devise a payment plan and settle the matter out of court; this will avoid costly court fees and save time

 

Sean Hooker, Head of Redress at the Property Redress Scheme, advises:

“It is essential for tenants to engage with their landlord or agent and to try and negotiate with them to reach a settlement. This will help avoid the lengthy and costly court approach wherever possible and save you both time and money in the long run. If you have built up a good relationship with your landlord or agent, this route is very likely to be more productive than relying on a court. Of course, in these uncertain times, the previous good relationship you may have had with your landlord or agent may have deteriorated. If this is the case, the solution is to seek neutral mediation by a third party.”

 

What are my rights as a renter during the coronavirus?

Should the worst happen, and you are threatened by eviction, it is important to know your rights. In a move to protect renters affected by coronavirus, the Government acted in March this year to temporarily suspend evictions in England and Wales, with the Secretary of State saying that ‘no one will be evicted due to coronavirus’. Although the ban ended on 20 September 2020, landlords must still abide by the notice period, which has been temporarily extended due to coronavirus.

Under the March 2020 Coronavirus Act, the required notice period for evictions was increased from two to three months. So, if you were told to leave by your landlord between 26 March and 28 August 2020, then the notice period is three months.

The notice period was extended as of August 2020 and now landlords must give tenants six months’ notice if they plan to evict before March 2021. So, if you have been told to leave since 28 August there is now a six-month notice period, unless you are exhibiting antisocial behaviour. More information is available on GOV.UK.uk website.

 

Paul Shamplina, Founder of Landlord Action, says:

“If you’re struggling financially and your employment has been affected by COVID-19 please don’t bury your head in the sand. Speak to your landlord at once so that you can work something out with them.

Secondly, always make sure you are exploring all the Government support mechanisms in place like Universal Credit.

A lot of people are facing financial uncertainty at the moment, but in my experience it’s best to face up to those problems and have that difficult conversation with your landlord as soon as possible; you never know that transparency could end up strengthening your relationship with your landlord.”

 

Remember, you are not alone. Slashed salaries and disappearing jobs as a result of the pandemic mean that many tenants have struggled to meet their regular payments and have fallen into arrears. Ome research has indicated that it is anticipated to take the average tenant seven months to repay just three months’ rent, climbing to 14 for the worst hit.

If you’re finding it difficult to meet your rental payments due to coronavirus, speak to your landlord as soon as possible to work out a payment plan.

Make sure you know what government assistance you are legally entitled to and if you are vulnerable to eviction, consider the Property Redress Scheme’s mediation service. This scheme aims to mediate between tenant and landlord and come to a solution whilst avoiding costly court battles.

 

Ome’s Deposit Replacement Membership offers unrivalled flexibility via small monthly payments.