The law governing tenancy agreements is complex and is unlikely to change regarding ending tenancies in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and unless your landlord agrees to a change you are still contractually obligated to pay your rent (unless your contract contains an explicit break clause, which you have used).
THIS INFORMATION IS CORRECT AS TO THE MARCH 2020 LOCKDOWN. IT WILL BE UPDATED SHORTLY TO REFLECT ANY CHANGES IN THE THIRD NATIONAL LOCKDOWN JAN - MARCH 2021.
The Government are urging landlords to be as flexible as possible during the pandemic. From the Government's press release:
"Recognising the additional pressures the virus may put on landlords, we have confirmed that the 3 month mortgage payment holiday announced yesterday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. This will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.
At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.
To support this announcement the government has worked with the Master of the Rolls to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit. This will support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.
The government will also issue guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. The National Housing Federation and Local Government Association have welcomed the new support for social renters and made clear that no one should be evicted because of the coronavirus."
And from University Minister Michelle Donelan:
“The government urges universities and private hall providers to be fair in their decisions about rent charges for this period. A number of universities and large companies have waived rents for the summer term or released students early from their contracts. Students who are tenants with individual private landlords can discuss with them the possibility of an early release from their tenancy agreement."
You can find more information on the National Code's webpage.
Even if you have moved out you may still be liable for utility bill payments until the end of your tenancy agreement depending on what your contract states and what payments you have already paid. If you pay directly to the utility companies, contact them and say that you have moved out. If possible contact the landlord and ask that they take a meter reading which you can forward to the Utility company. If you are unable to get a meter reading they will base your final bill on an estimate from what you have used over the past year. You can update this if your return to the property (if you still have possessions there).
If you pay a fee per month to a third party energy supplier, let them know you have moved out and what final bills you need to pay. You may have to check any small print to see if you have agreed to pay equal instalments over the duration of your tenancy. If you have, ask the company for a detailed breakdown of the cost as the final payments may need reducing as you are not using the services.
If you pay rent inclusive direct to your landlord and they continue to charge you for the utilities, ask for a detailed breakdown of those charges, including dates, energy tariffs and cost. They have to provide you with this information.
If you have any concerns or need a helping hand get in touch with your Student Union Advice team.