Landlords and tenants have a lot of questions about how the current pandemic is impacting the private rental sector and what support is available.
To help you as best we can; we’ve put together some of the primary information issued by the government regarding rental properties and lettings. As you know, things are continually changing – but we’re keeping a close eye on the news and will be updating this page as new guidance and support is issued.
Click the links below to navigate through this update:
- Mortgage payment holidays
- Rent 'holidays'
- Financial support
- Paying the rent
- Right to Rent checks
Can landlords apply for buy-to-let mortgage payment holidays?
Back in March, 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 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 temporarily defer or reduce their mortgage payments. 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 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.
Here are some of the bigger high street banks offerings mortgage payment holidays:
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 6-month ban on eviction proceedings – meaning tenants who can't pay their rent due to the Coronavirus don't have to worry about immediate eviction.
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.
UK Landlords: Download a free rent payment holiday agreement letter here.
What financial support is available for landlords and tenants affected by the coronavirus?
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. To find out what support is available to you, please visit GOV.UK.
The Welsh government have issued guidance for landlords and tenants in the PRS: read it here.
Support for workers
The government have announced a national Job Support Scheme available from 1st November 2020.
As the furlough scheme winds down, this new scheme aims to support workers in lower demand jobs contributing to the wages of employees.
More information is available here: GOV.UK Job Support Scheme.
The Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grant (SEISS) has also been extended through to next year.
Those who are self-employed and have been affected by coronavirus, may be eligible for a lump-sum grant for the period of November to January 2021. More information is available here: GOV.UK Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
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 2020, Local Housing Allowance rates has increased to the 30th percentile of market rents. This applies 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
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 and make your application here: GOV.UK Claim a Grant Through the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
I am concerned about paying the rent during the pandemic
During these challenging times, being concerned about your rent payments is perfectly understandable.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick issued an important statement reiterating the aim of government support for landlords and renters:
"The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to Coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.
These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.
These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time."
Financial support available for tenants affected by the coronavirus
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.
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.
Support for landlords concerned about late rent payments
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 us and your tenant has contacted you about their rent payments, please get in touch with our team at [email protected].
6-month notice periods
As part of their series of measures to protect landlords and tenants, the government have introduced 6-month notice periods.
This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions.
This means that until March 31st 2021, landlords will have to give all renters six months' notice if they want to end their tenancy.
Landlords are still able to issue an eviction notice, but they will have to wait six months before they can apply to start the court process of possession.
How can I carry out Right to Rent checks?
The government have temporarily changed Right to Rent check procedures so that landlords are now able to carry them out via video call.
You can now:
- Ask the tenant to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
- Arrange a video call with the tenant – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents
- Record the date you made the check and mark it as “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19"
Checks will continue to be necessary and you must continue to check the prescribed documents of any tenant moving into your home. It remains an offence to knowingly lease premises to a person who is not lawfully in the UK.
If your tenant cannot provide documents from the prescribed lists, you must contact the Landlord’s Checking Service.
More information on the COVID-19 changes to Right to Rent checks can be found here.
Government advice on maintenance, viewings and move-ins
Further guidance has been announced following the ‘all clear’ on landlords showing tenants around, tradesmen visiting properties, assessors having access and tenants having the ability to move in or move out of a property.
The guidance does warn however that “The process of finding and moving into a new home will need to be different given those involved in the process will have to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible”.
Virtual viewings are to be encouraged as a key way for landlords to show off their rental properties. We have all the advice you need to take the best video you can of your property or we can arrange a professional to do it for you.
As mentioned, the guidance also reveals that all ancillary activities within a rental property may resume. This includes EPC assessments, Gas Safety certification, fixed wire and electrical tests, inventories, removals, property photography, floor plans and more.
Guidance relevant to viewings
- If your property is being viewed, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing, allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.
- As most people choose to do, the guidance encourages that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household.
- When viewing a property, all parties should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible.
- As landlords, you should restrict the number of people who attend a viewing so that social distancing can be practised, and only those in your immediate household should be there if necessary.
- Once the viewing has taken place, the homeowner should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.
To read all the details related to government advice on home viewings and moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak you can do so here.
Further information: GOV.UK COVID-19 and Renting: Guidance for Landlords, Tenants and Local Authorities
Guidance from the Welsh government: GOV.WALES Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Tenants and Landlords in the Private Rented Sector