I Negotiated a Rent Suspension with My Landlord – Here’s How You Can Too
Emily Buchanan was not feeling optimistic about her housing situation. She and her partner had lived in their flat in east London for three years, but as freelancers, the coronavirus outbreak put almost an entire stop to their income. As they wondered how they would pay rent, an email arrived from their estate agents. It was a friendly reminder to all tenants that while the company would not carry out any work on the properties during the outbreak, all tenants were still required to pay rent. “Most of our landlords are private individuals and depend on the income not only to pay the mortgage but also to live on,” the email read.
Buchanan tells me over the phone: “We're standing to earn nothing in the next 12 weeks, and I don't have any other financial option for paying our rent. We were in panic mode. Me and my partner were like, ‘How the hell are we going to afford to live?'”
During the pandemic, young people across the country are faced with daunting financial situations. Many staff in industries including hospitality, music and entertainment are now without employment, while freelancers like Buchanan find an already precarious work life even harder.
Coronavirus may have put a stop to their incomes, but it hasn’t changed the state of renting in the UK, where the majority of tenants in their 20s pay a third of their income on rent. While the government has implemented mortgage holidays for landlords, legislation protecting tenants is weak – even the alleged “ban on evictions” only extended the notice from two months to three. As the outbreak worsens, many millennials are unsure of what to do.
But there may be hope. After the “cold, horrible” email from her estate agents, Buchanan didn’t think that she could do anything about her renting situation. But then she read that Burger King and Primark were intending to delay their rent payments. She decided to ask her landlord for a rent suspension – which is how she and her partner were able to negotiate to live rent-free for three months. Here’s how she did it.
DON'T BE SCARED TO TRY
“My brother was like, 'You should just stop your standing order',” Buchanan tells me. “I thought, 'If all these massive corporations are doing it, there's no way we should have to pay our rent.'”
Currently, organisations like the London Renters Union are calling for the government to implement a rent suspension. While you can’t simply stop paying your rent (unless you want to rent strike), you can contact your landlord and ask for either a rent holiday – which means that your rent will be paid, but delayed – or a rent suspension. The latter is what Buchanan negotiated with her landlord, and allows tenants to not pay rent for an agreed period of time. After that period is up, you will continue paying rent as usual, but don't have to pay the landlord for the months that you missed.
“We've never really had much contact with our landlord,” Buchanan tells me. “I didn't expect it to work at all, but I kept thinking to myself, 'Don't ask, don't get.'”
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