UK Landlords And The Coronavirus

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What does the coronavirus pandemic mean for UK landlords?

The Covid-19 pandemic took the whole world by surprise. In the UK, the impact has been pretty severe and at the time of writing this post we are in the clutches of a second wave. There is a tiered lockdown scheme in place and all of this is causing a great deal of uncertainty throughout the country.

One bit of good news is that the government has extended the furlough scheme until March 2021 which should help to prevent the country going into a deep recession with high levels of unemployment. But the pandemic has already increased the unemployment numbers leaving some tenants with little income.

The first thing that I want to say here is that I am not a solicitor and therefore not qualified to provide you with legal advice if you have a particular problem with a tenant. My aim with this post is to provide an overview of the current situation for UK landlords and the coronavirus.

You can find information to help you on various websites that I will refer to throughout the post. My aim is to make you aware of the most important changes to the law due to Covid-19 for you as a UK landlord and give you my opinion on what is likely to happen going forward.

Response from the UK government

The UK government has imposed restrictions, which relate to both tenants and landlords in the private sector. Nevertheless, landlords are still able to access their properties and market them as they see fit. If work is required on a property that you own to comply with the law you need to continue to supervise this work to ensure the safety of your tenants.

When you are inspecting your properties, you must observe the social distancing requirements and any other safety measures laid down by the government. You need to protect your tenants and yourself during these difficult times.

Tenant Evictions

A change to the Coronavirus Act 2020 means that as a private landlord you cannot begin proceedings for evictions without first giving tenants 6 months’ notice in advance. There are exceptions to this with cases considered serious and these include:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • The making of false statements by a tenant
  • Rent arrears accrued that have a value greater than 6 months’ worth of rent

If you are in a situation where you can legally enforce an eviction, the government has amended the law to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In England, a bailiff cannot enforce an eviction until 11 January 2021. You cannot provide an eviction notice to a tenant until this date, which means that the earliest evictions will be on 25 January 2021.

This does not apply if the case is serious as stated above.

Tenants Paying Rent

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us and you need to consider this when dealing with your tenants. Some of your tenants maybe facing financial hardship and loss of income due to the pandemic. If a tenant has the means to pay their rent then they should do so.

If you have a tenant that always pays their rent on time and this suddenly changes, you need to discuss this with them as soon as possible. It may be just a temporary problem or it could be worse of course. The government urges landlords to be as flexible as they can over a situation where a tenant cannot pay their rent.

One thing that you could consider is coming to a temporary arrangement over the payment of rent. This will be in your interest if your tenant has always been a good payer and has respected you and your property. Good tenants can be hard to find, so do whatever you can here to help them.

Some landlords think that the government has implemented a rent payment holiday for tenants. This is not the case. You should expect your tenant to continue paying rent if they have the financial wherewithal to do this.

The government has implemented some strong financial support for tenants if the pandemic affects their income. It may be possible for a tenant to apply for Universal Credit if they are experiencing a loss of income. Tell them that they might qualify for this and advise them to go to the government website for more information about this here.

In some cases, it may be possible for tenants to get financial support from local authorities. The government has provided local authorities with access to funding for the support of households (including tenants) that experience financial difficulties.

There are a number of organisations that a tenant can contact for advice about paying their rent. These include:

Advise your tenants that if they are concerned about not being able to pay their rent and the possibility of eviction that they should get in touch with their local council immediately.

UK Landlords and the Coronavirus – Paying your Buy to Let Mortgage

The government has extended the holiday period for buy to let mortgages and you can make an application for this up until 31 March 2021. If you have suffered due to the pandemic and not been provided with a mortgage payment holiday yet, you are entitled to a payment holiday of 6 months. No record of this will appear on your credit report.

If you have already taken advantage of the 6 month mortgage payment holiday then you can still negotiate further with your lender. The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) is keen that lenders continue to support their borrowers by offering a further extension of a payment holiday for example. It is essential that you discuss this with your lender immediately.

What about Tenancy Deposits?

The requirements for deposit protection have not changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. You must ensure that you carry out all of your Tenancy Deposit Protection responsibilities as you would normally. If one of your tenants ends their tenancy during the Covid-19 pandemic then you must return their deposit.

What about Client Money Protection? There are no changes to this either due to the coronavirus. Any agents that are holding money for tenants and landlords must comply with the existing laws for this.

For more details about how these changes to the law will affect you I recommend that you visit the government website that provides full information here. It is very important that you know where you stand with your tenants and the laws and regulations that you need to comply with as a UK landlord.

What does 2021 hold for UK Landlords and the Coronavirus?

The development of a vaccine against Covid-19 is the news that we have all been waiting for. Attempts by the government to prevent the spread of the virus using lockdown tactics has not been as effective as they had hoped. Some individuals fail to comply with the rules and weak enforcement from the authorities has not helped.

However, the vaccine does offer hope to us all. Administering the vaccine to all UK citizens will not be an easy task and is going to take time. Nevertheless, by the summer of 2021 I see things gradually returning to some form of normality. I believe that it will be some time after that, if at all, that the UK returns to what it was prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

I see a steady demand for private renting. People have to live somewhere and many do not have the financial wherewithal to purchase a property. In some areas of the country, the demand for private rentals is increasing. So I believe that 2021 will be a better year for UK landlords than 2020 was.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers a happy, healthy and successful new year. Let’s make 2021 a great year.

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