Where do I start?  Every industry is affected by Covid-19 and the complete shutdown of business. We are in unchartered waters and all just trying our best to adapt to this new, hopefully temporary, ‘norm’.

I have been inundated with phone calls from landlords worried that their tenants may not be able to pay the rent because of possible job losses, and my sympathy goes out to every tenant and landlord facing such uncertainty. What I cannot stress is enough is we are all in this together and therefore must work together to come through the other side.

So, what do we know?

The government has brought in lots of new legislation and fiscal measures to try and help ease the burden of this virus, from the job retention scheme and non-repayable grants to increasing Universal Credit and deferring income tax and VAT payments.  But we know for many, it is still going to be a real struggle to stretch finances over the next few months, so it is understandable that both tenants and landlords are concerned.

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  • Notice period extended: Until September 2020, landlords must give tenants three months clear notice for all Section 8 and Form 6a (Section 21) notices. This law may possibly be extended.
  • Evictions banned: The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has also halted all ongoing housing possession claims. Therefore, no new claims can be issued, any hearings will be adjourned and also bailiff appointments will be vacated for this three-month period. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed.  The government has made it clear no tenant should face eviction during this pandemic.
  • Tenants’ still liable:  However, guidance also states that tenants are still liable for their rent and should continue payment as usual, with support available to those who find themselves in financial hardship.
  • Mortgage holiday available: The Government has also introduced a ‘mortgage holiday’ of up to three months for landlords whose rental income is affected. Landlords apply to their lender for this and must be able to prove that their tenants have been affected by Covid-19.

What now?

First of all, communication is key, now more than ever.  I am urging landlords to work with their tenants. Pick up the phone, drop an email, send a text, reach out to see how they are affected by this crisis and similarly explain how it is affecting you.

Letting agents’ branches have had to close, although some do have skeleton staff answering the phones remotely. If you have your property managed, you may want to contact the letting agent to see if they have spoken to the tenant, otherwise get in contact with the tenant yourself.

No viewings, check outs, inspections or inventories will be taking place. The Government has advised against move-ins, but if there are contractual obligations, then the guidance of maintaining a safe distance must be adhered to. Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standards therefore landlords still need to deal with urgent essential health and safety repairs, especially for elderly and vulnerable tenants.  Non-essential work can be delayed but I would advise landlords to keep a record of communication explaining to tenants why certain maintenance requests have not been carried out.

Support your tenant

Many landlords choose to evict tenants when they fall into arrears, but as we all know, these are unprecedented times, and landlords will find that previously punctual tenants may struggle to pay rent on time. That is why it is in the best interest of all tenants and landlords to work together, understand each other’s limitations and establish a reasonable payment and review plan when the time is right.

The government is also looking to strengthen the “pre-action protocol” on possession proceedings to include private renters – meaning that private landlords looking to begin possession proceedings will have to engage with their tenants more extensively first. This will help landlords and tenants to agree reasonable repayment plans where rent arrears may have arisen as a result of the crisis.

If your tenants have been forced to reduce their earnings, what capacity do you have to mirror this in their rent? If you are struggling to keep up with mortgage payments, contact your lender as soon as possible to see if you can take a mortgage holiday. Ultimately, landlords want to retain good tenants and tenants want to remain in their homes, so my plea to you all is to take a long-term view and support each other.

If you need some advice feel free to write to me. Paul@landlordaction.co.uk or call Paul Shamplina on Twitter. Any questions, just Tweet your question to LandlordZONE and Paul Shamplina with the hashtag #AskPaul

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6 COMMENTS

  1. It will be interesting to see what happens in the HMO sector.
    A lot of inexperienced landlords being brought into the sector by “Gurus”.

    I would expect one HMO tenant who stops paying rent will soon influence the remaining tenants to copy.

    Worse still, those HMO landlords who are not properly licensed etc. They’ll get a shock when they discover they can’t realistically evict anyone.

    Plus the R2R, the sub letters, etc.

    When the tide goes out, you see who’s been swimming naked.

    • Hi Bill,

      The HMO market will take a bigger hit then most in the PRS, I’ve been contacted by so many landlords, whose tenants have stopped paying. A lot of these tenants are in retail, construction and hospitality have all lost their jobs.

      Also student have just packed up and gone to the family home, as Universities have shut down.

      Gaining possession will not happen until then end of the year and even if you have vacate possession, are there tenants waiting, wanting to move in this crisis, with an issue of affordability in the referencing procedure.

      You have a very valid point, small organisations offering Guaranteed Rent and Rent to Rent, will be struggling to pay the landlord and they will end up just giving the keys back, even though they will be liable under a commercial agreement.

      We are in the unknown, feel free to listen to my webinar tonight at 7.30pm, I will be delving deeper.

      Regards

      Paul Shampllina (submitted on his behalf)

  2. Hi, I am a commercial landlord and my tenant has refused to pay this quarters rent because of the Covid 19 outbreak.he argues he has closed his takeaways and thus can’t pay. I have tried negotiating with him and asked him to pay monthly but he has plainly refused . What are my rights in this matter ?

    • Tasleem- The rental holiday does not extend to commercial tenants, he is liable under the terms of your lease, I’m not sure whether he is a company or you have a personal guarantee.

      Most commercial landlords are arranging payment plans, him not communicating does not help, tenants should not bury their heads in the sand. I suggest you speak to your lender and explain the situation, they must have some sort of help or understanding policy in place.,

      A bailiff would not be able to foreclose and gain possession in this crisis either.

      At Landlord Action we have a service for Commercial Landlords, I will arrange for our solicitor to contact you.

      Regards

      Paul Shamplina (posted on his behalf)

  3. What do you do if you have had a tenant/squatter that hasn’t paid any rent since the moment they entered your premises. You finally after 8 months of non payment got a court order to evict them and then on the week of them having to leave the government bans all evictions. Now this tenant will be applying for his rent to be covered by the government however he will not pass on that money ? You are now saying evictions won’t happen until the end of the year. How is this fair to landlords. These criminals have just got a free pass.

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