Coronavirus and Housing
With all that has happened in the past month, we know this is a difficult time in so many ways. We hope you will find this blog helpful with advice on how to cope with housing issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis. Please note the disclaimer on the bottom and my final thoughts.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 brought temporary changes to serving section 8 and section 21 and a new prescribed Form 6A notice can be found here. From 26 March until 30 September, landlords must give all renters at least 3-month’s notice if they intend to seek possession of the property. This date is subject to review and may be extended. All housing possession cases have been suspended.
Rent Reduction/Rent Deferral/Early Surrender
Many tenants have found themselves in a position where continuing to pay the full rent is no longer possible. The government advice is to take a ‘common sense’ approach, which provokes more of a moral issue than a legal one. Legally, tenants are to continue paying rent as usual and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement. Morally, landlords should offer support and understanding to their tenants. An early conversation can help both parties agree a fair and workable plan. If this results in a payment plan, make sure everything is documented in writing.
Right to Rent
As of 30 March, the government relaxed the Right to Rent checking procedure, so it isn’t necessary to physically meet. A remote check is sufficient and specific wordings should be noted. The in-person check will resume when the health crisis is over and will need to be carried out within 8 weeks of the government announcing the end of temporary measures.
The renewing or obtaining of EPC when letting a property, as well as gas safety certificates, is still in place and should be done in line with the safety guidance. However, if access to the property has been restricted, then the onus is on the landlord to have written evidence that a reasonable effort has been made to obtain them. Unless postponed, the new electrical regulation is still due to come in on 1 July for new tenancies and all existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.
Landlord obligations have not changed. Most tenants will understand if normal maintenance cannot be performed, but the rule of thumb is that if the issue might be hazardous to health, the landlord should make an effort to get a contractor to attend. There are many contractors who may be sick, but due to restricted help for the self-employed, may still be working. You should always send out a health questionnaire and have it confirmed in writing that they are not ill and understand the social distancing requirement. If it is an empty property, the best practice is to leave 72 hours between visits.
Lenders have agreed for a payment holiday of up to 3 months, including for buy-to-let mortgages. This holiday does not mean free money but rather delayed payment with interest accrued. This will be useful if the tenants are unable to pay the rent in full. Landlords should check when the interest is due and whether delaying payment will affect their credit score.
Final Thoughts From Lia
Renting and sales have taken a nosedive since the middle of March. This is such a shame as we had seen a promising rebound after the Brexit decision at the end of January. Rents are falling due to oversupply, although new enquiries have increased; presumably, DIY landlords are no longer able to look after their property or do not want to face this slow market to look for new tenants themselves.
And what about us? Well, we have not stopped working. In fact, we’ve been busier than ever, answering questions from landlords, tenants and prospective clients. Truth be told, it has been one of the toughest times to run Marybow Property, as housing issues touch a nerve in everyone and we have often been at the sharp end of people’s anxieties.
Even so, I am grateful I have built a company that can work remotely and so is well prepared for a crisis like this. Our viewings have always been offered virtually and move-ins and move-outs were mostly carried out with zero contact. I am also grateful for this opportunity to superpower my education. I have engaged in no less than 10 hours of webinars to keep myself up to date with the latest legislation as well as countless hours of reading to keep taking the pulse of the market. Lastly, other than regular maintenance that cannot be done, we continue to maintain our full quota of staff.
Renting is still going on – tenants have to move for many reasons – and we continue to offer 24-hour property management service. It is in these times that prepared agents like us can best look after your property.
Don’t have the time to keep up-to-date on compliance? Not keen to deal with maintenance in this difficult time? We can help. Call us today on 0203 588 5115.
Disclaimer: The information on Marybow Property website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.