Coronavirus advice for landlords – top five tips
Coronavirus advice for landlords
Everyone continues to live in uncertain times, awaiting some clarity as the effects of the recent pandemic have made matters challenging for all.
Whilst we wait for the worst to pass, landlords and tenants are anxious about how to ensure ends continue to meet and a roof remains over their heads.
Rental income accounts for an average of 30% of any landlord’s annual income and so with this in mind, it is vital that landlords are doing all they can to remain in control and to strike a balance between minimum disruption to their rent payments and practical solutions allied with compassion for tenants who through no fault of their own are also facing difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
Our top five tips for landlords navigating the Coronavirus crisis are as follows:
1. Make contact with your tenant
It’s never been more important to have a direct line into your tenant in order to maintain a good relationship into the long-term. If you are or were using an agent, you should have been provided with your tenants’ contact details which will appear on your tenancy contract. Alternatively, you should request them immediately from your agent. When you have made contact, firstly ensure they are staying safe. Then have an open and honest conversation about their ability to continue to pay rent. You should also take steps to have similar conversations with their guarantor if they have one.
2. Take practical steps if your tenant is experiencing problems paying rent
Your tenant may have lost or be on reduced income as a direct result of the current crisis. In the first instance, you should consider if you are able to come to a short-term agreement with the tenant over deferred or partial payment of rent to be made-up later via an affordable payment plan once the situation stabilises.
You should then guide them to the Department of Work & Pensions here or if they are self-employed to HMRC here to get guidance on the available benefits and financial support. The emergency Corona Virus Act 2020 will not have changed the fact that you and your tenant are still bound by the terms of your tenancy agreement. Until 30th September 2020, most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants three months’ notice. However, the extension to serve notice has only been extended to three months so you are still able to do so if required. The implications of COVID-19 are no ones’ fault, so we hope at times like these understanding and goodwill prevails for all parties.
3. Speak to your mortgage lender and find out what options are available
The Government has announced that residential buy-to-let (BTL) landlords are entitled to the same three-month mortgage repayment holidays as residential homeowners if they have tenants struggling to pay rent due to COVID-19. However, there have been recent calls for clarity and some lenders may not offer payment holidays depending on individual circumstances and applications. If a ‘payment holiday’ is granted, it should be remembered that it is a deferral only and that interest will continue to accrue thus increasing the long term cost of monthly payments once the holiday period ends.
4. Ensure all communication with your tenant is logged securely
Hopefully you will be able to come to a mutually agreeable arrangement with your tenant if normal rent payment terms cannot be met. Whatever is agreed, get this in writing and keep this alongside all other vital documentation relating to your tenancy including your tenancy agreement contract and valid house Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), gas safety inspection paperwork and from 1 July (already mandated for Houses in Multiple Occupation – HMOs) electrical safety inspection paperwork (EICR and in the case of HMOs – PAT as well). Remember to ensure you have logged the date, time and person you spoke with on every occasion you have discussed any arrangements.
5. Take back control
Whether your property is currently vacant or occupied, now is the time to ensure you are in full control of the marketing and management of your most valuable asset. In 2020’s uncertain economic landscape, you will not want a vacant property to remain empty for any longer than necessary once lockdown restrictions are lifted. Tenants will always require a place to stay and you also want to ensure your property is kept secure and in good order whilst it is vacant.
During lockdown, the Government have recommended that no periodic property inspections, non-essential repairs or prospective tenant viewings are to take place. However, your repair obligations have not changed. Essential repairs that relate to the safety and structural fabric of the property i.e. water supply or severe leaks, heating, sanitation, security i.e. front entrance or windows and essential white goods i.e. fridge, cooker, washing machine still need to be rectified with registered tradespeople counted as ‘essential services’. This even applies in the event of your tenants self-isolating or being in an ‘at risk’ group. You should ensure your registered tradespeople are adhering to all currently recommended safety protocols including social distancing. Tenants who are living with serious hazards that you have failed to remedy can still be assured of local authority support.
Coronavirus advice for landlords in summary
To sum-up our Coronavirus advice for landlords, the law is still the law and whilst COVID-19 may have relaxed some timelines and expectations of compliance in the short-term, all landlords still have a duty of care to their tenants and a duty to abide by all relevant legislation governing lettings in the private residential sector. For further details of the latest and forthcoming requirements, please read our Guide To Being A Good Landlord in 2020 – Volume 2 here.
How can RentiD help?
To help you through this difficult period, we’re offering FREE ACCESS to our platform until the end of June.
RentiD can help you save time, money, hassle and risk. Right now, our Digital Assistant app can assist you in the following ways:
• Connect and stay in direct contact with your tenants with all communication securely stored
• Access powerful repairs and maintenance management tools with further emergency assistance also available
• Get ready to market on Rightmove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation and keep your property secure and safe during this period
For more information visit our site here.