Date Published 20 March 2020
UPDATE FOR 27TH MARCH 2020
Government support available for landlords & renters reflecting the current coronavirus outbreak
The government has brought forward a package of measures to protect renters affected by Coronavirus from 27th March. With these in force, no Tenant in private rented accommodation will be forced out of their home.
To ensure all renters are clear on the full package of support that is currently available to them, we are bringing this together into one place.
From today (27th March 2020) Landlords will have to give all renters 3 months' notice if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means the landlord can't apply to start the court process until after this period. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the three month notice period can be extended if needed. This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After three months if the tenant has not moved a Landlord needs to apply to court in order to proceed.
Also from 27th March 2020 following a decision by the Master of the Rolls with the Lord Chancellors agreement the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in the or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted. This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed. This measure will protect all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. This will apply to both England and Wales.
Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual.
If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available from the Government. They should also advise the Landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment and in this unique context we would encourage tenants and landlords to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.
The Government have already made £500 million available to fund households experiencing financial hardship. As part of the workers' support package, the Chancellor announced the government will pay up to 80% of a worker's wages, up to a total of £2,500 per month, where workers are placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Both Universal Credit and Housing Benefit will increase and from April, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area.
The government is also committed to supporting Landlords, and maintaining the positive partnership between Tenants and their Landlords. That is why, in addition to the measures outlined above, we have also agreed with lenders that they will ensure support is available where it is needed for Landlords. Landlords will also be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday where they have a Buy to Let mortgages.
Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – urgent, essential health and safety repairs should be made. An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords. Local authorities are also encouraged to take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to enforcement.
UPDATE FOR 24TH MARCH 2020
Following the announcement from the PM yesterday evening the offices of Able Estates will be closed from Tuesday 24th March. We will however, spend the day getting the phones diverted & connecting up remotely. Please bear with us and we will do our best in the coming days to keep all customers up to date.
UPDATE FOR 23RD MARCH 2020
As the Coronavirus is escalating we have decided to make changes for the safety of our staff and Tenants & Contractors.
Periodic visits have been stopped for now, but we are making a phone call to each tenant where the visit is due, asking them to confirm if they have any issues and to send in photos. We are then updating Landlord in the usual way.
Only emergency maintenance will be carried out at this time.
We have been inundated with calls today. Everything we know is detailed in this thread and all tenants are being advised to check with the Government as to what support is available to them during this time. It is not possible for us to check with every tenant as to if they can pay the rent for the duration of the Coronavirus outbreak. Everyone's situation is very different, but if we do hear from the tenants with confirmation that they cannot pay the rent we will of course let you know as quickly as we can.
WHAT WE CAN CONFIRM SO FAR (20.3.2020)
We are open for business, however we have had to reduce face to face contact and the office is being sanitised on a daily basis to protect the staff. At this time we ask that you please email the office if you have any queries or keep checking here. As you can imagine we are receiving a high number of calls with queries. At present we don't have all the answers so we will update here as we get further news. We hope that all our customers stay well during this unprecedented situation.
We will where possible, do 2 bacs runs a day (AM & PM) so that rent is paid over & the statement is emailed over as quickly as possible to allay your queries as to if the rent has arrived. We will continue to chase any rent that is not received when expected and update you if the tenant confirms they have been affected by the situation, and are unable to pay. This will give you the opportunity to contact your mortgage company and request a payment holiday.
1) Ban on Evictions
New legal action & evictions against Tenants have been banned for the next 3 months.
2) Existing Legal Action
We believe that existing legal action can continue but that the speed of the process if likely to slow down even further.
3) Three Month Mortgage Payment Holiday
Landlords, including Buy to Let mortgages are protected as a three month mortgage payment holiday is available to those whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus
4) Rent Arrears
At this time we ask that Landlords show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. At the end of this period, Landlords & Tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants' individual circumstances.
The following issues have been raised with the Government & we await further clarification
We have asked the Government to solve rent issues so rent continues to flow. To ensure this happens we ask that Government suspend the five weeks Universal Credit (UC) payments and ask that all UC payments are made in full and are paid directly to the properties letting agent/ landlord as soon as a claim made.
2) Right to Rent and Anti-Money Laundering checks
Both Right to Rent and Anti-Money Laundering require face-to-face checks. In order to reduce the spread of the disease, we have asked the Government to suspend them until after the crisis.
3) Electrical and Gas Safety Checks
Again, to avoid the spread of Coronavirus, we are asking the Government to postpone these checks. By doing this, it will enable contractors to stay safe and also gives tenants reassurance that contractors will not have to enter their properties until after the crisis.
The Government needs to clarify the appropriate procedures that should be undertaken by agents and landlords with the best interests of all parties in mind. If, for example, a boiler breaks down in a tenant's home where someone is self- isolating or has the virus, what steps should tenants, agents, and landlords take to rectify the problem without putting people in risk of catching the virus. Legal obligations under these circumstances can't be carried out by agents and landlords due to the risk of catching and spreading the virus.
For those Landlords who have a Rent Guarantee Policy, we have been advised to submit a claim for non payment of rent within the usual time frame, however any claim will be deferred possibly until this situation is over and Homelet will not make any payments. Homelet are waiting for confirmation from the Government and also working with their Underwriters and will update us as quickly as possible,
Homelet have with immediate effect stopped people applying for new rent guarantee polices so any Landlords who are currently trying to let their property will not be able to be provided with a policy.