Moving into your private-rented property during Covid-19


So you’ve decided to move back to Durham and take up your tenancy for the next academic year. You’re excited to see all your friends again and be back in the city that you love, but perhaps you’re not sure what’s allowed and what isn’t when it comes to moving during these strange times. We’re here to make sure you know what your rights are.

Moving house – what’s allowed and how do I keep safe?

The government announced on 13 May that people who wish to move home can now do so. For example, if you have signed a contract that begins on 1 July (as most student tenancies in Durham do), then you have a right to live in the property from that date onwards.

One of the simplest steps that you can take when moving home is to wash your hands regularly, for 20 seconds, and stay two metres apart from others. If you or any member of your household is vulnerable or shielding and you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, try to pack all of your belongings yourself, to minimise contact with other people. If you need help from a removal firm, make sure you speak to them in advance about any particular concerns you have, and allow them to work within your home whilst adhering to social distancing guidance. You can find out more here.

It’s also important to remember that you should be prepared to delay your move-in date if any of your household becomes ill with coronavirus symptoms – whether that’s a member of your current household, or the household that you are about to move into. In this instance, whoever is experiencing symptoms should self-isolate for at least 7 days, and fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. If in doubt, you can find out the latest information on the NHS website.

In terms of collecting keys, lettings agents should be operating an appointment system, to minimise a build-up of people. Make sure you communicate fully with your landlord or agent about your intentions for moving in as far in advance as possible.

How can the Durham SU Student-Landlord Pledge help me?

We asked all private landlords and agents in Durham to sign the Student-Landlord Pledge, and stick to the principles of fairness, compassion and flexibility throughout the Covid-19 outbreak. You can use the pledge as a starting point for raising concerns or negotiating during difficult circumstances arising from the pandemic.

Has your landlord or lettings agent signed? You can find out by viewing the pledge below. And if they haven’t, you can ask them to sign using the template on the pledge page.

View the pledge here.

Becoming a new household – what are the rules?

Now when you move in with your friends, you’re not just gaining housemates, you’re becoming a “household”. The concept of households is important for understanding the latest guidance.

The government has announced that, from 4 July, you are allowed to meet in groups of up to two households anywhere, whether indoors or outdoors (whilst adhering to social distancing at all times). You are free to meet with different households at different times.

The government also announced that, from the middle of June, all households can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other single-person household. Social distancing measures do not apply, and as such these households can act as one household.

It is against the law to gather in groups of more than 30 people. You can find out more about this here

If anyone within your household becomes ill with coronavirus symptoms: whoever is experiencing symptoms should self-isolate for at least 7 days, and fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. If in doubt, you can find out the latest information on the NHS website here.

Becoming a new household – what does this mean for me?

All of this will affect how you and your new housemates act as a household. You must be mindful of your fellow tenants and respectful of how they choose to live their lives. You should also think about whether any of your fellow tenants are vulnerable or shielding, and how this will affect how you operate.

You may need to be more proactive in your attitude to asking others about how comfortable they feel with certain arrangements or social gatherings, as well as being prepared to respect their wishes if they say no to something. It may create some challenging situations in certain households, and we hope that everyone continues to act with the principles of fairness, compassion and flexibility in mind.

Finally, it is important to remember that the current guidance may change, and you should be prepared to adapt your activities accordingly. It may be that government restrictions are tightened again, and at that stage it may be necessary to once again carry out social distancing within your household, and intensify your cleaning regimen, for example.

Where can I get further advice and support?

We understand this guidance might be confusing, or affect you differently depending on your individual circumstances. Durham SU’s Advice Service is here to help if you need any further guidance on your personal situation. You can chat to one of our advisers and find out what your options are, whether a problem has arisen within your household, or you need advice on your housing rights. Contact us using the details below:

Helpline (09:00-17:00): 07922648802*


*Please note: the Advice Service helpline is not a crisis number, in an emergency please use 999 as usual.

We will be releasing more information and guidance throughout the academic year about your housing rights through Covid-19. If you want to find out more in the meantime, you can check out this advice about what to do if you have problems in your private rented home.

Page last reviewed: 07/07/20