There is no doubt we are living in challenging times. Until recently I thought, the main talking points this April would be around changes to EPCs and EICRs – but things are a little different now.
Walsall Landlords and tenants have a lot of questions about what all of this means for them and what support will be available during the coronavirus pandemic if they need it.
Over the past couple of weeks information/ announcements have been coming through thick and fast. To help you as best as possible I’ve put together some of the primary information issued by the government for the private rental sector. We’re all aware that things are changing almost daily, and we’re keeping a close eye on the news as the government continues to issue further guidance and support. The information I have to date is as of 31/03/2020.
Mortgage payment holidays
On Wednesday, March 18th, the government announced that a 3-month mortgage payment holiday would extend to Buy to Let mortgages to help landlords cope with the challenges of COVID-19.
This announcement formed part of a series of measures brought forward by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to support landlords and tenants across the UK.
Full details available here: GOV.UK Complete ban on Evictions and Additional Protection for Renters.
A mortgage payment holiday will allow those financially affected by COVID-19 to defer their mortgage payments and pay it back later. It should be understood that a ‘holiday’ does not mean mortgage payments are waived; they will still have to be paid at some point – and most likely with interest (depending on the mortgage lender).
What landlords should know about applying for a mortgage payment holiday
If you wish to apply for a 3-month mortgage payment holiday on your rental property, you must:
- Be up to date with your mortgage payments
- Be able to prove that your tenant has been affected by COVID-19 (such as being off work ill with the Coronavirus or losing their job)
To apply for a mortgage holiday, you should contact your mortgage lender directly for further details and clarification.
What tenants should know about mortgage payment holidays
If your landlord applies for a mortgage payment holiday, it’s important to remember that this does not automatically mean you don’t have to pay your rent.
Your landlord will be required to pay their mortgage – regardless of whether their payments are deferred.
The mortgage holiday aims to minimise unnecessary pressure on tenants regarding their rent and ease the financial strain for everyone as much as possible.
Can tenants apply for rent payment ‘holidays’
The government have not announced that they will be granting any form of ‘rent holiday’ that would allow tenants not to pay their rent.
The government have provided further clarification on this:
Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. The government has a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
In many if not most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. If your ability to pay will be affected, it’s important to have an early conversation with your landlord. Rent levels agreed in your tenancy agreement remain legally due and you should discuss with your landlord if you are in difficulty.
Further information available here: GOV.UK COVID-19 and Renting: Guidance for Landlords, Tenants and Local Authorities
They have, however, introduced a 3-month ban on eviction proceedings – meaning tenants who can’t pay their rent due to the Coronavirus don’t have to worry about being evicted.
The government are continuing to put together financial support for everyone affected by COVID-19, which will help people to pay their rent if they need it.
What financial support is available for landlords and tenants affected by the coronavirus?
Every day the government are issuing new means of support for those who are financially affected by COVID-19. This could be losing your job altogether, having no work during this time or being unable to work because you have fallen ill with the Coronavirus.
If you are concerned about being able to pay your rent, we firstly advise that you take a look at the support offered by the government.
The initial government announcement regarding COVID-19 financial support is here: GOV.UK Coronavirus Support for Employees, Benefit Claimants and Businesses
Support for businesses
A range of support is available for all UK businesses. This includes a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help businesses pay their employees during this time.
The scheme is available to all UK businesses and aims to reimburse the wage costs of individually affected or “furloughed” workers by 80% – with a cap of £2,500 per employee per month.
Further help available to UK businesses can be found here: COVID-19 Support for Businesses
Universal Credit, Housing Allowance and Benefits
Changes to the rules of Universal Credit allowances and applications to help current and new claimants have been introduced, as well as self-employed workers.
From April, Local Housing Allowance rates will increase to the 30th percentile of market rents. This will apply to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants, and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.
Full information on Universal Credit, Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit are here: GOV.UK Coronavirus and Claiming Benefits
The government will also be increasing Working Tax Credit. If you are already a claimant, you don’t have to do anything. Your payments will automatically increase as of April 6th 2020.
You can read more information about Working Tax Credit here: GOV.UK Increase to Working Tax Credits – What This Means
Support for self-employed
A Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been introduced (April 26th 2020) to support self-employed people (including members of partnerships) who have lost income due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).
This scheme will allow self-employed people to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months. This may be extended if needed.
There are a few conditions that must be met. You can read the full information here: GOV.UK Claim a Grant Through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online.
Absence from work and sick pay
If you fall ill with the Coronavirus and must stay at home, you will be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day you are off work.
More information about Statutory Sick Pay can be found here: GOV.UK Statutory Sick Pay.
Anyone unable to work for more than seven days due to the Coronavirus outbreak can obtain an online self-isolation note to give to your employer here.
For more advice on what to do if you have the Coronavirus, please visit: NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) Advice for Everyone
During these challenging times, being concerned about your rent payments is perfectly understandable.
If you are worried about paying your rent, you should take a look at all government financial support currently available. If you still have concerns about your rent payments, you should contact your landlord directly and explain your situation to them.
Again, while it is natural to feel overwhelmed by the current situation, you must remember that you will not be evicted if you cannot pay your rent because of the Coronavirus.
More about the COVID-19 changes to evictions can be found here.
The best thing you can do is be honest about your situation and have an open line of communication with your landlord.
If you are concerned that your tenant may not be able to pay their rent during this time, it’s best to talk to them and get a full understanding of their situation.
If your tenant has contacted you to say they cannot pay their rent, you should inform your letting agent immediately.
If you are a landlord that manages your rent directly, then it is wise to follow the government guidelines as best you can and take a sensible and understanding approach to your tenant’s situation.
If you are a landlord with my agency and your tenant has contacted you about their rent payments, please get in touch with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maintenance, inspections and inventories when the country is on lockdown…
If you have maintenance work, an inspection or other services scheduled that would typically take place at your property, the first thing you should do is contact your contractor to find out whether it’s still going ahead.
The government have issued the following guidance to provide clarification:
Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live – and it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.
Good management requires regular review and maintenance of a property, but we understand that planned inspections may be more difficult at this time. However, that is no reason to allow dangerous conditions to persist.
The company your service is provided by will likely be able to give an update on how they are dealing with scheduled appointments.
Some maintenance/inspection companies will have stopped carrying out in-property visits, whereas others may be continuing their services while taking precautionary measures to protect themselves and others.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have stated:
“Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.
Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild. ”
This information can be found at GOV.UK Further Businesses and Premises to Close Guidance.
The Gas Safety Register have also issued their own guidance for Gas Safety Inspections.
Like many things at this current time, each case of scheduled work is likely to be assessed on an individual basis – taking into account the particular urgency and risk of that situation.
If you are a Walsall property owner looking to sell or rent your property and require advice around marketing/ advertising your property, please get in touch for further advice on how to circumnavigate the current situation. As always I am happy to share my thoughts whether you are a client of mine or not. Above all stay safe everyone!!
Phone: 01922 637672 (leave voicemail for call back)
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