So far, the Government has been working hard to ensure that tenants and landlords get the financial support they need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also reported that in most cases, the outbreak isn’t affecting tenants’ abilities to pay their rent. This is something we have found ourselves, with 96% of our tenants paying on time since the first lockdown was implemented in March last year. This should bring huge relief to landlords in and around Chichester who might be worried about the implications of another national lockdown.
However, should a landlord find themselves in a situation where their tenant has been financially affected by COVID-19, there are a few things Hancock & Partners suggests you can do to help rectify the situation…
Offer support and understanding to your tenants
Whilst tenants are advised to speak with their landlord as soon as possible, the Government is also asking for landlords to offer their support and understanding to renters. We always advise our landlords to create a good relationship with their tenants anyway, but by being flexible and open with each other, you could reach a temporary agreement of accepting a lower level of rent for example or agree for them to pay off the arrears once their situation has improved.
Make tenants aware of the Government’s financial help available to them
Tenants may not be aware of the financial help available to them. There is a major package of financial support to enable people to continue paying their living costs, which includes rental payments. For example, their employers can apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme which has now been extended until the end of April. This will enable employees to receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked. Meanwhile, tenants can apply for Universal Credit and local authorities have made £500million available to fund households experience financial hardship. There’s also an existing £180million of Government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments for councils to help tenants pay their rent, including in the private sector. Mention these options to your tenants as it will help provide them with the reassurance that you care about the stressful situation that they are no doubt in.
If disputes arrive, then it’s worth considering mediation which will allow an independent third-party to try and help everybody reach a mutually acceptable agreement without having to attend court.
Apply for a mortgage holiday
The mortgage holiday has been extended, to include buy-to-let mortgages, so currently, landlords can apply for up to a six-month break until 31st March 2021. This is regardless of whether you have already had one before, and it’s not recorded on your credit file either. Your lender should also offer further options should you still be in financial difficulties after this period.
Understand the Coronavirus Act 2020
If you have already tried all the above to no avail and feel the eviction route is the best option for you, then it’s really important that you are aware of the Coronavirus Act 2020. This provides tenants protection by delaying when you can start proceedings to evict – and six months’ notice is now required. During a new national lockdown period, you can’t evict anybody at all. There are of course exceptions for the most serious cases, for example, rent arrears being greater than six months’ rent, anti-social behaviour and other crimes, but this legislation is in place until the end of 21st February and will be kept under review.
The eviction process should really be a last resort, so Hancock & Partners will do everything we can to support both parties to find an agreeable solution first, as part of our property management service. As most of our tenants have been paying their rent on time during the pandemic, we have experienced little issues around this subject, but if you would like to speak to a professional for further advice, contact a member of our team on 01243531111. Or you can also complete the contact form on our website and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.