The parliamentary housing select committee has decided to find out what YOU think of the government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis from a housing perspective. Here one expert gives his view.
MPs have asked landlords, tenants and suppliers to the private rental market to tell them how well the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has handled the Coronavirus crisis.
Tim Frome, Legal Director of Landlord Action, has submitted his views to the consultation under way. He largely praises the MHCLG’s handling of the crisis and the speed of its response to the day-to-day challenges thrown up by COVID-19.
But he also tells MPs that there are several areas where minister should have, and will need to, have sorted problems out.
This includes both now and in the future as the pandemic plays out within the private rented market.
- Make it clear to tenants that the ‘mortgage holiday’ offered to some landlords does not mean tenants are automatically due a corresponding ‘rent holiday’.
- Ensure tenants understand the recent changes to evictions and other measures have not cancelled tenancies; many, including thousands of student renters, have assumed it is acceptable to walk away from rental contracts without consequence.
“We are aware that some of the commercial student accommodation providers have gone above and beyond in assisting tenants by confirming they would end the tenancies early if the tenants so requested,” Frome points out.
- Deposits are likely to become a problem as tenants default on rent, but landlords use this money to help make up the shortfall. This means there will little money left to dilapidations and the end of tenancy.
- If the tenants have not been paying the rent it is unlikely they have been paying for other services such as council tax and utilities so there will be a knock-on effect to keeping these tenants in the properties.
- Lastly, Frome says the government needs to take action to help manage the huge backlog in eviction hearings in the courts that will have built up during the crisis, a situation that will get worse unless the courts re-open in June. The best way to do this would be to freeze proceedings until the backlog is cleared, he urges.