The government has issued a non-statutory COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities which addresses the landlords’ concerns where the tenants are unable to pay their rent on due date due to coronavirus impact. Some of the key questions include:
What can I do about mortgage repayments if I do not receive rent from my tenants?
Mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to three months where this is needed due to Coronavirus-related hardship, including for buy-to-let mortgages. The sum owed remains due and mortgages continue to accrue interest during this period.
Where a tenant is unable to pay their rent in full the landlord should discuss this with their lender.
What can I do about rent arrears?
Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
An early conversation between landlord and tenant can help both parties to agree a plan if tenants are struggling to pay their rent. This can include reaching a temporary agreement not to seek possession action for a period and instead accept a lower level of rent or agree a plan to pay off arrears later. Where a landlord does choose to serve notice seeking possession for rent arrears or has done so already, the notice period and any further action will be affected by legislation lengthening the notice period and/or the suspension of possession claims.
If a landlord and tenant agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date, it is important they both stick to this plan, and that tenants talk to their landlord immediately if they are unable to do so.
What are my responsibilities for repairs, electricity and gas safe during the period while we are facing restrictions to tackle COVID-19?
Even during the restrictions period, landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants should inform the landlord for any necessary repairs are required well in time. Landlords and tenants should take a pragmatic, risk-based and common-sense approach to non-urgent issues.
Urgent repairs could include (but is not limited to):
− If there is a problem with the fabric of the building, for example the roof is leaking
− If your boiler is broken, leaving your tenant without heating or hot water
− If there is a plumbing issue, meaning your tenant does not have washing or toilet facilities
− If the white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken, meaning the tenant is unable to wash clothes or store food safely
− If there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door
− If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair
• If there are any gas or electrical inspections required, and you are not able to engage a contractor to carry out the necessary work, you must document your attempts to do so and all correspondence with your tenants.
Can I as a landlord ask my tenant to quit if I am planning to sell?
• The government has frozen the housing market for any purchase and sales during the coronavirus lockdown. Estate agents have also been asked to close branches to safeguards their staff. This ban ensures that any notice for selling your property may not be a good reason to ask your tenant to leave.
• Coronavirus Act 2020 has provided new measures for landlords in the private and social rented sectors for notices seeking possession during the challenging time without a good reason to do so. The period of notice under section 21 and section 8 have been extended.