Everything changed on the 16th March 2020, a date that will be forever famous for all the wrong reasons, when our first lockdown came in.  The country was in shock, but the property market showed how resilient it was.

One positive was that the property market was able to reopen earlier than some other industries on 13th May. But landlords had to adapt quickly and learn to communicate with their tenants more than ever before. 

During lockdown, I was inundated with calls from both landlords and tenants looking for advice on non- payment of rent.  As tough as it was, I heard some incredible stories of landlords going above and beyond to help their tenants who had been affected by COVID and subsequently lost jobs or been furloughed. 

I saw some great examples of both parties working together but, of course, there were also some tenants taking advantage of the situation.

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The Government announced that lenders should be given three-month mortgage holidays, which in fact were deferrals and they encouraged landlords to pass that onto their tenants.

Evictions ban

Then of course there was the evictions ban. Courts were put on hold and notice periods extended to six months to prevent the mass threat of homelessness.

Unfortunately, this has had devastating consequences for landlords, particularly those who had cases pre-COVID, as many of these landlords have still not managed to evict their tenants.  Of course, it was, and still is, important to help tenants who have lost their job, but so many landlords are struggling too. 

We have numerous landlords at Landlord Action who now who have more than one year’s rent arrears, and very little chance of recovering it. The courts are due to re-open in the middle of January but now with the introduction of Tier 4, who knows when this could be extended to.

Discredit

Universal Credit has hit over 2.5 million claimants, meaning more landlords have tenants in receipt of housing benefit.  Frustratingly, tenants are still being forced to wait five weeks for their first payment and are unable to set up direct payments to landlords.  This totally baffles me as it puts all parties under financial strain from the outset. 

In Wales, tenants can apply for the Welsh Government Tenancy Saver Loan Scheme, which enables tenants to apply for loans. These are paid directly to landlords and agents, which can be repaid for a period of up to five years. This is a great way to sustain tenancies and avoid evictions but has not been introduced in England!

We were always going to see the commercial property sector hit worse than the residential market.  Working from home means thousands of offices are vacant and many are now considering whether they need that space in the future or whether their companies have adapted to a new remote way of working. 

That is why, as of 8 October, British Land collected 69% of rents it was owed for the third quarter, and even less in the previous quarter. 

As we move into 2021, this could present opportunities for landlords and developers buying commercial properties, looking for change of use to residential housing in 2021 under permitted development reforms. The high street in many areas will look different in the future.

I also believe a lot more landlords will consider the Social Housing market, tying up longer-term schemes with providers.  Councils will now have many landlords approaching them to do deals on three or five year lets so that they have the security of a council being their tenant, rather than an individual.

Goodbye Section 21

Section 21 is definitely going and I believe it will be abolished in the next twelve months, COVID and the ongoing crisis will accelerate this, especially now that a section 21 notice period is six months which dilutes its powers. 

Read this report Landlord Action has participated in called – BEYOND SECTION 21.  I believe there could be as many as 150,000 claims issued in the courts in 2021.

When Rishi Sunak made the announcement of the Stamp Duty Concession until the 31st March 2021, which we know now will not be extended, we saw a frenzy of activity, in October alone we saw 97,500 house purchase loans approved. While there are over 140,000 more people in the process of buying a new home now than this time last year

But The Guild of Property Professionals carried out a survey to 1,000 buyers last week and 31% said they would ditch their potential purchase if completion takes them beyond 31 March, when the holiday is due to end, so we could be in for a tsunami of fall-throughs.

Slower transactions

Upon speaking to our mortgage broker at Total Landlord Mortgages, Daniel Lee (pictured), mortgage applications are taking longer then ever before, conveyancers working remotely are much slower and lenders are changing lending criteria daily.

Other considerations for landlords next year will be Brexit and how this impacts landlords’ requirement to check their tenants “right to rent” and immigration status. Currently, EU citizens are considered in the same way as UK citizens but this could change after Brexit.

Finally, landlords await Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spring Budget which it is thought could bring a potential hike to capital gains tax. If this goes ahead, we could see a flurry of landlords trying to sell up before it comes in, which could drive prices down.

But, of course, landlords who were thinking of selling, but cannot sell in time, will hold on to their properties. There has never been a more important time for landlords to seek specialist tax advice and get their tax planning in place.

There will be opportunities for landlords next year without a doubt but now landlords must focus on being compliant and taking good care of their properties and their tenants.

From all of us at Landlord Zone, we wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy new year and see you in 2021

11 COMMENTS

  1. Good article. I would agree with all those points.
    I think the number of smaller “amateur” landlords will probably decrease. Those with 2 or 3 properties will sell to larger incorporated landlords. Larger landlords can weather these storms better, especially if they are better diversified.

  2. A very good description of what has happened. Not a good analysis of approaches moving forward – and I mean moving forward at multiple levels. An obvious starting point is what does the individual landlord do, incurring substantial debts him or herself, whilst the tenant enjoys a self-awarded rent free period, in fact a seemingly indefinite one. But what about the bigger picture where Governments of all political colours, uninterested in housing for whatever reason, have simply, in effect ceded housing policy to pressure groups, ever more powerful pressure groups which will only become even more powerful as a matter of basic demographics. What I mean by that is ever more renters, the balance older, better educated, etc. No problem there, in fact that should be a positive for landlords as well as the renters themselves but only if one-sided perceptions don’t continue as now, if renters are concerned to work in partnership with landlords for the good of both. That is not happening except in individual cases (I have tenants that I trust who have joined with me and we worked out how we both survive, whereas I have other tenants who have simply stopped paying rent months back and refuse to even talk let alone negotiate with me – they see a green light to live rent free). The pressure groups such as Shelter or Generation Rent have simply zero interest in equitable solutions – it’s winner takes all and they sure as hell aren’t going to be the losers. Us and Them. Literally in the sense that we hear (loudly) of the pressure group positions in the popular press then come on here to see a weak rejoinder from the landlords’ side. There simply shouldn’t be those sides and taking sides but working for common good. But that won’t happen.

    • Crises such as Covid usually end up benefiting the larger players in any sector, those with less debt or who are in a stronger position for whatever reason.
      In the property sector this will probably mean those landlords in a weaker position (more debt, less diversified, less cash reserves, etc) will end up losing their properties and those landlords in a stronger position will be able to buy them.

      If I was a small time landlord with a single property and a non paying tenant, I’d be tempted to sell at a low price to another landlord, keeping the tenant in place.

      The alternative is to stick it out and wait for things to improve. Ask the bank if you can suspend mortgage repayments, etc.

      Some smaller landlords may be in the situation where they actually need money, because they have lost other income. In that case, selling may be their only option.

      Another factor is what happens in the coming years. Does the government just weaken the currency further, or will they try to raise tax revenue? I think they’ll just weaken the currency, but if they do go for tax increases, property is an obvious target.

      • I believe your contentions are totally correct regarding the small LL.

        It is simply impossible for the small LL to cope with a dysfunctional eviction process.

        Consequently these LL will as you suggest need to sell up to richer LL who are better able to cope with feckless rent defaulting tenants.

        With eviction made so difficult and to be made even more so the days of the small LL are over.
        To cope with the completely dysfunctional eviction process LL will need deep pockets.

        Inevitably as you suggest this means that larger LL will take precedence as they will be able to cover costs of a few lengthy evictions every tax year.

        This is not something your average small LL would be able to cope with.
        It makes the tenant business model unviable.

        Can’t believe how many mug LL there are piling into the market.
        They clearly haven’t a clue what is going on with the PRS.

        Only very rich LL can afford the costs of rent defaulting tenants.

        There certainly won’t be sufficient of those to house even the existing tenant demographic.

        Where those homeless tenants rent will be the major question.

    • I also think you’re right about the increasing influence of tenants.
      I can’t see any reason why the tenant groups would decide to give up now.
      It’s not just demographics on their side, it’s also progress. By that I mean the increasing use of networking, social media, etc. The tenant groups benefit more from these than landlords.

      There’s a large overlap between the demographic involved in renters unions and those involved in Extinction Rebellion and BLM. They understand now that they can’t win an election, as they’re concentrated in the cities. That’s why they will focus on direct action and media influence.

      However, most of the young Corbyn supporters have parents who may be landlords. That’s what holds back the “socialist” youth, they are actually biting the middle class hands that feed them.

      If we ever see a socialist leader who appeals to the working class, then I will probably sell up. Because that would be a real threat to landlords.

      • Had Corbyn won the GE I was ready to put all my properties up for auction the following day!

        The threat of a Labour Govt to LL would necessitate selling up.
        This threat persists as a Labour Govt is far more likely now.

        Before the next GE I hope to be all sold up.

        • But what would your properties sell for once that Labour government was in power?
          Would the prices not have dropped?
          Why would your prospective buyers be unaware of the risks that are persuading you to sell?

          What makes you think a Labour government is more likely now?

  3. Renting to the council for a fixed term seems a good idea. However, i have approached my local council (Bromley)and the only 2 options are using the private management company on their books, which I have heard not flattering reports or getting lumbered with a council tenant with all the pitfalls of eventually not being able to evict them and possibly having your property trashed with no financial comeback.
    I did take a 3 year contract with a management company, they specialise in managing short term temporary tenancies for councils for such as single mothers or families waiting on the council merry-go-round permanent of larger housing with the added increase in benefits.
    The advantage quoted was that no problem tenants would be allowed to stay and guaranteed rent every month.
    However, did not work well for me, rents arrived late, problem with tenant caused major repair works and a deep clean was required when she left after just 10 months. I cancelled the contract with the company at a high penalty cost, plus loss of rent whilst repairs and finding a new tenant which took 2 1/2 months.

    • I’ve had good experiences letting to tenants on benefits.
      However, I’ve never involved the council in choosing the tenants for me.
      I’ve always just advised the properties to let with “DSS/HB welcome”.
      I’ve not involved a letting agent either.
      I’ve always met the prospective tenants and vetted them myself.
      I have a local solicitor arrange the tenancy agreement and guarantor deeds.
      Never had an unsuccessful letting to a tenant on benefits.
      What advantage does involving the council bring?

  4. Has anyone gone through the process of having to complete statutory declaration forms? I’m trying to claim bond back for none paymen of rent. Council paid the bond but haven’t replied. Next is completing the forms and getting The Justice of the Peace to sign. It’s just seems a load of hassle …

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