Coronavirus Landlord Guide

Coronavirus (COVID-19): What you need to know as a landlord 

The economy and income have been significantly affected by the pandemic, which, reasonably has been a cause for concern for tenants and landlords. We reassure all our tenants and landlord that we have every intention of working together with you during this difficult time to ensure a positive outcome. Times like these can be difficult so we will maintain regular contact with tenants which will allow us to work together and closely to bring about the best solution

Together we can get through this.

The following is advice regarding any concerns or questions you may have. If we are managing your property for you, we will be carrying out the discussion and negotiations with your tenant. If you manage the property yourself, you will need to speak directly with the tenant and below will give you a good guideline to what you can and cannot do, as well some strategies to bring about the best outcome for you and your tenant.

Please visit "Coronavirus: Tenant Guide" which will give you an insight into the conversations we are currently having with our tenants.

Am I eligible for a mortgage holiday?

Lenders have agreed to allow people with 'Buy to Let' mortgage to apply for a three-month mortgage holiday.

As of 19th March 2020, mortgage lenders have agreed to suspend all repossessions and will not start any new court actions for 90 days.

You will need to apply for this by contacting your mortgage lender.

Can I take our rental insurance?

Rental insurance policies currently in place will remain effective. All new tenancies are subject to approval.

Underwriters have increased their requirements in light of the pandemic and will be looking at each case individually and will approve each policy individually. The risk for insurance providers has increased by many folds. Many providers have totally stopped providing insurance until the situation improves.

What are my responsibilities for property maintenance during this time?

All urgent repairs must be attended to as punctually as possible. All non-urgent repairs are to be done once safe to do so. You should, however, still agree a time period with your tenant for non-urgent repair. We recommend leaving non-urgent works as late as possible and have a mutual agreement between yourself and the tenant, this is the best solution for you and your tenants safety and most tenants will be very understanding in a time like this.

If a tenant is affected by Coronavirus, or even if they aren't, they will be required to exit the property or moved to a different area of this house whilst the contractor resolves the problem.

What would classify as an urgent repairs?

Emergency repairs required to avoid danger to health, risk to the safety of Residents & or neighbours or serious damage to buildings or Residents' belongings. Things such as:

  • Blocked drains, toilet pans and soil stacks (where there is no other working toilet in the property)
  • Blocked sinks, baths & basins internal
  • Taps which cannot be turned on or off
  • Leak from tanks, cisterns, boilers, heating systems & water pipes within the property
  • Boiler breakdown leading to loss of hot water/heating
  • Loss of electric supply due to an electrical fault within the property
  • Defective or exposed electrical wiring/plug sockets or equipment
  • Blocked or leaking WC
  • Unable to secure the property due to broken/damaged locks on external doors & windows caused by break-ins (Not due to loss of keys)
  • Blocked flue pipes
  • Loss of water supply.
  • Total loss of gas supply before meter
  • Gas leak after meter
  • Leaking roof
  • Covering of exposed manholes or gullies within the property & grounds

My tenant has defaulted, what should I do?

Figure out a solution:

One thing to remember is that your tenants may possibly have never defaulted in the past and this is likely to be their first time. This is a situation which they've not had control over and had it not been for this they would have not defaulted.

Considering the above, and should the tenant contact you to advise you of their intentions to default, you or your agent should work closely with tenants to see how this situation can be resolved in the short-term.

Short-term payment plans:

For many, weather you've had long term tenants or even if they've just recently moved in, we would suggest that it would be better to work with the tenants to build a short-term payment plan to bring them up to date with their rental payments. This could mean splitting the rental arrears amount over a 6 months period, during which would pay their normal rent plus a top up towards becoming free from arrears. By the end of this the tenant should be arrears free.

Long-term payment plans:

Similar to the above, if you have a good relationship with your tenant, or depending on your agents relationship with the tenant and how much confidence they have in the tenant, you may allow the tenant a longer period to cover any rental arrears. Tenant with a positive track record are worth being flexible with because they always pay on time and maintain the property well. They may have lost their job and have built up 2 or 3 months or arrears which can be very challenging to pay off in a short period of time just after getting a new job, hence it is worth allowing 12 months for them to make their regular rental payment as well as monthly top ups that contribute to their rent arrears. These top ups can be calculated as 12 split payments to bring them to being arrears free by the end of it. Key thing to remember is what type of relationship you have with your tenants and how much confidence you have in their ability to keep up with payment. Their history of rental payments as well as their attitude towards resolving this situation may be the ideal indicator to help you decide the right course of action.

Making the best of the situation:

Although any of the above aren't ideal, they are an attempt at making the best of the situation. It may affect your cashflow in the short-term, but it will give your tenant the confident that you care and have supported them during a difficult time. Many tenants will appreciate this and will reciprocate it in ways you will only find out later.

My tenant has lost his job. What should I do?

Communication is key here. Ask your tenant:

  • What they are doing to ensure future rental payments are made?
  • Do they have savings to be able to afford future rental payments until they've found a job?
  • Are they actively looking for a new job?
  • Does their partner still have a job? Or anyone else in the house who is still employed?
  • Have they applied for help from the local council?

Tenants can apply for help and they should do this right away to prevent any delays in money reaching them. The government is doing a lot right now and many are not aware of what they are entitled to. Ensure that your tenants know where they can receive financial support from and that they are prompt to do so.

Discuss what arrangements their employer has put in place for them. Many tenant are currently placed on furlough which enables them to keep receiving income whilst they are off from work.

Should I evict my tenant?

This depends on how things are going right now with your tenant. If the tenants have assured you that they will become up to date with the rent, it would be worth keeping them on. This of course depends on how confident you are with what the tenants have told you. Their past rental history and their attitude towards resolving this issue will be the ideal indicator for you to choose the right course of action.

If they still have a job, it may be that it will only be a short while before their cashflow improves. If they've lost their job it may take longer, and you should have a discussion as to what their plans are.

If you decide to evict, please keep in mind the recent changes in legislation for evicting tenant. The government has put emergency measures in place to prevent tenants from being evicted. From 26th March 2020 landlords will have to give 3 months' notice instead of the original 2 months' notice. This is subject to change and can be extended by the government if needed.

It is worth noting, as of 27th March 2020 following a decision by the Master of the Rolls with the Lord Chancellor's agreement the court service has suspended all possession action. This suspension will last initially for 90 days but may be extended by the government if needed.

Tenants remain liable for rent and should pay as usual. If they face hardship they should speak with their landlord or agent and agree terms to resolve this issue. If tenants are facing hardship and struggle to pay, specific measures have been put into place to help tenants which can be found in our "Coronavirus: Tenant Guide". Support is available and should be attained.

How is Abbey Property handling rental arrears?

Please visit "Coronavirus: Tenant Guide" which will give you an insight into the conversations we are currently having with our tenants. Our approach is to make the best of the situation and:

  • work closely with tenant to prevent rent arrears in the first place
  • to manage rent arrears through close monitoring should they start
  • and to evict a tenants should the future rental payments not look promising.

As majority of our tenants are long term tenants who have no history of defaults, we are aiming to work closely with them over a short-term period to prevent it from escalating and resolve this as promptly as possible.

"Communication is Key"

Many tenants we deal with are great with rental payment and have a history of regular payments. Had it not been for this current pandemic they would maintain that strong history of 'on time' rental payments. In a time like this, if you don't have an agent managing rental arrears for you, we would recommend maintain regular contact with your tenants and have regular conversations.

Be sure to not speak only about rental payments as many tenants, like the overall UK population, are experiencing a great deal of stress due to uncertainly the current situation has bought around. As much as they would wish to keep up with rental payments, for many having enough cashflow for food and necessities will be priority until the situation gets better as many people are panicking right now because they don't know what to expect of the future.

It is worth having a generic talk to see how they are getting on whilst gently reminding them of their responsibilities to make rental payments and actively working on a plan to resolve the situation as promptly as possible. Be sure to get milestones and deadlines to ensure time is effectively used and keep record of conversations. Discussing, agreeing and sticking to a payment plan is vital to recovering from this.

Most tenants we deal have a great history and wish to come out of this as quick as everyone else does. We hope the above has been of use and that your situation with your rental property improves alongside the current global situation.

Remember to keep safe and isolate as and when necessary.

Updated on March 2020

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