The recent coronavirus pandemic and caused many unexpected changes across society. We would like to offer landlords some advice and support in this time of high uncertainty.

The government have introduced social distancing to limit the interaction and movement of the entire population. Social distancing requires us to stay indoors, only shop for essentials, exercise once a day and only travel to and from work when we cannot work from home. Those who are high risk are advised to self-isolate for 12 weeks and may require extra support from those who are not classed as ‘high risk’.

These new rules will affect tenants in properties, and especially those living in multiple occupation (HMOs) where individuals share amenities. All tenants must follow social distancing rules but not all are required to self-isolate.

Landlords should consider if it is necessary or not to interact with tenants.

The best method of communication would be via phone, text or email. If visits are urgent, social distancing should still be practiced during the visit.

If tenants are showing symptoms, it may be best to avoid visiting the property as much as possible.

The government has put in place several measures. Some of these restrict the ability of landlords to repossess their property during the pandemic, though the government has agreed with lenders that buy to let landlords can claim up to three months of ‘mortgage holiday’ if rental income has been affected by tenants losing their jobs or having a reduced income due to the coronavirus measures. For the duration of this period you will not have to make your scheduled mortgage payments, however, interest will continue to accrue.

Unfortunately, landlords will not generally qualify for Self-employment Income Support Scheme, however, if landlords have an empty house, many authorities are looking for empty private rented sector property to support the homeless. This may be an alternative to extended void periods.

If tenants have asked to surrender the tenancy, we advise to communicate with them. You may be able to come to an agreement and assist them with guidance or you could apply for a mortgage holiday. It may be difficult to find another tenant over the next few months, so you should consider if surrendering the tenancy is the best decision. It may be better to work a payment plan to try and assist them with applying for benefits. You may want to offer a rent reduction to rent deferral.

Self-employed tenants may want to apply for a taxable grant equivalent to £2500 per month or 80% of their monthly profits averaged over the last three years (whichever is lower). For employed tenants, employers may want to apply for a grant from HMRC that covers 80% of salary (up to £2500 a month) for each employee.

If tenants are considered about paying their utility bills, we advise tenants to contact their energy supplier. Several emergency measures have also been put in place to ensure vulnerable tenants will not have their utilities suspended during this period.

To protect renters, the Government has enacted a series of changes and restrictions on landlords regaining possession of their property during this pandemic. 

These changes are temporary and are to prevent tenants being made homeless. The main changes are that:

  • Notice periods are now extended to three months until September 3rd, 2020.
  • All current possession proceedings are suspended for at least 90 days from March 27th, 2020. 
  • Landlords will be expected to abide by the pre-action protocols for social landlords in the future. 

Notices can be services, but they must abide by the new notice periods. For section 8s and 21 notices, the landlord must give at least three months’ notice. There are new forms published to use going forward. 

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