COVID-19 - Advice for Landlords & Tenants - 25/03/20
During this very troubling time we are constantly keeping up to date with the changing legislation surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak and its implications on the rental sector, our client landlords and tenants and the ongoing well being of our staff.
As of yesterday, some of our staff were self-isolating and already working successfully from home as we obviously take their health very seriously. Some of our older Accompanied Viewers, especially those with underlying health issues have been advised to remain at home indefinitely to avoid the risk of infection.
We are endeavouring to keep our service as normal as possible in very abnormal times. Following the latest government guidance last night, all our offices are now closed but working remotely and we can still be contacted on our normal numbers, via email and via our website 24/7. We will offer advice on moving forward but it really changes on a daily, if not hourly basis. Obviously, we can no longer conduct Viewings or Market Appraisals until the situation changes.
We are still dealing with every aspect of our property management duties with the exception of property visits for the moment. We have written to every tenant to offer advice and help on their options and to assure them we will still be on hand to resolve repairing issues as far as we are able with our sub-contractors.
We are advising tenants that all non essential repairs will be put on hold in the short term and only essential repairs or those that are health and safety related will be dealt with immediately.
As a landlord you may wish to contact your bank/building society to see if you can take a payment holiday or if you haven’t got a mortgage, perhaps you could offer a temporary deferred payment to ease the pressure on your tenant.
We are working hard to obtain all the rents and when they are paid they will still be sent to landlords as normal. We will be checking the bank accounts daily and if the rent does not come in then we will obviously be chasing the tenants – however legally we are not allowed to chase rent payments until they are more than 3 days late.
Should the office be forced to close the office telephone number will be diverted to a designated telephone number so if landlords or tenants do want to get in touch there will be no interruption in communication.
We understand that many of our tenants will be worrying about families, friends and now possibly how to pay their rent over the next few months. We want to reassure them that we will be working with all our landlords and tenants to ensure we all come through this together.
At the time of writing, it is a tenants’ responsibility to contact their local authority if they are having difficulty in making their rental payments. They need to do this to access any benefits available to them and make them aware of any Government schemes that may assist with rental payments over the coming weeks.
We believe all help will come via the benefit system, so it is important to claim as early as possible if they are experiencing hardship. In addition, if they are not working due to contracting Covid-19, they should be eligible for additional statutory sick pay. If they have life/illness insurance cover they should contact their insurer and those tenants who are self-employed should contact their insurer accordingly to see if there are any necessary provisions for interruption of work within their policy.
It has recently been announced that eligible landlords may be able to apply for a three month mortgage payment holiday. To be clear, a “holiday” simply defers payment into the future, usually adding additional interest. Most landlords are yet to establish if their lenders are offering payment holidays and are naturally worried about being able to pay their own mortgages as well as their buy-to-let mortgages should they be similarly affected by the viral outbreak. Other landlords may rely on their rental income as their only source of income therefore communication is absolutely vital to allow us to find a way forward together.
Mortgage payment breaks are only being offered to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulty due to the Covid-19 outbreak and as such, tenants will need to provide us with the following information to allow the landlord to apply (if they have a buy-to-let mortgage):
- Sign off note from Doctor (obtainable via 111)
- Comparable wage slips showing a decrease in income or SSP payments
- Bank statements for comparison showing the same decrease in income
- Letter from the employer showing reduced hours/layoff
- Letter from the accountant confirming a reduction of income
- Copy of benefits claim
Similarly, to a mortgage payment holiday, the rent will be deferred rather than written off. It will still be owed and accrue on their account so anything they can do to minimise the debt will help them in the long term.
Should a tenant wish to apply for a payment holiday (or temporary reduction/deferment of part rent), we ask that they put forward a payment plan for us to take forward to your landlord on their behalf.
It has not been made clear by the government what should happen if a landlord is in financial difficulty and unable to make mortgage payments after this three month period, so we can only hope that the situation is resolved by this point or the government rolls out further financial support.
Please do also remember that the non-payment of rent poses other issues from a management point of view, such as a lack of funds to pay maintenance and safety testing contractors, or our own overheads such as salaries to enable the business to continue operating during this time.
The situation we are all faced with is unprecedented. Please be assured that we will work closely with you and your landlord to enable us to overcome and get through this difficult time together.
For further information, the following links might be useful:
In the meantime, we thank you for your support and please all stay safe.
And remember this won’t last forever.