Sue Sims is a busy landlord. As well as a 42-property portfolio in and around Birmingham, she runs a high street lettings agency, specialising in HMO management and a networking group for property investors.
But all this has been put on the back burner in recent weeks as she’s helped her tenants deal with the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sims says a minority of her tenants have stopped paying their rent, largely because her portfolio is both in the social housing and private rent sectors, and because she’s been working hard to help those who are struggling.
“At my agency we’ve worked with some of the private rental market tenants to agree payment plans, but among the rest of my tenants a higher percentage have begun paying their rent quicker and more on time since the pandemic began,” she says.
With her tenants who have said they can’t pay, she’s undertaken what is essentially a free financial health check. This has included asking for all their documentation such as confirmation of their furlough status, working out what they can afford and also helping them apply for Universal Credit.
“The secret is to do as much hand holding as you can and just make people aware of what their options are and make them feel that they were being supported,” she says.
But like some of her landlord friends in the area, Sims has been helping out frontline workers.
“For example, we were approached by a mental health nurse who needed to isolate away from her family so we suggested she rent one of our serviced accommodation apartments at cost for £400 a month which we normally let out for £80 a night and told her she could stay as long as she liked.
“The nurse was very happy because it was the most affordable property she could find; many serviced apartments in Birmingham are managed by rent-to-rent operators who can’t drop what they charge.”