Coronavirus - Landlord advice

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The coronavirus pandemic has made life as we knew it unrecognisable. As well as the personal implications for daily life, its impact is being felt more widely, including for landlords and how they manage their properties. It can be overwhelming with the regular announcements about changes to rules and regulations and it might be difficult to know where you stand. Don’t struggle on your own. Read answers to the most frequently asked questions from landlords below about managing a tenancy during the Coronavirus pandemic and please contact us if you need further advice or support.

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FAQ’s about renting during the Coronavirus pandemic

What can I do if I am struggling to pay my mortgage?

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 and mortgages continue to accrue interest during this period. Contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your options.
You should also check to see if you have any insurance that will cover your mortgage payments. For example, mortgage payment protection insurance or through your current account.

Should I stop charging rent during the outbreak?

Landlords are not required to do this. Some tenants will be able to pay rent as normal and should continue to do so, as they will remain liable for the rent during this period.
There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach, as each tenant’s circumstance is different, and some will be worse affected in terms of their ability to pay than others. It is important for landlords to be flexible and have a frank and open conversation with their tenants at the earliest opportunity, to allow both parties to agree a way forward.

Can I still serve notice or get possession of the property via the court?

The Government has brought in the Coronavirus Act 2020, which makes temporary changes to the rules about serving notice and seeking possession. This includes lengthening the notice periods for seeking possession and putting a temporary hold on possession hearings in the courts-see further information below.

Section 8 notice periods

Before 26 March, a section 8 notice has various lengths that the notice is required to be depending on the specific grounds used from Schedule 2 Housing Act 1988.

From 26 March 2020, the length for all grounds were to be read as if they say “three months” in all cases.

However, the Government announced on the 20th August that notice periods are due to be extended to 6 months in all but ‘serious’ cases from the 29th August until at least the 31st March 2021. The two most notable exceptions to the 6 months notice period rule are cases where the tenant owes more than 6 months rent, in which case only 4 weeks notice is required, and cases involving serious anti-social behaviour in which case there is no minimum time required before a landlord can commence possession proceedings.

Section 21 notices notice periods

Before the 26th March 2020, Section 21 notices were required to give a minimum of 2 month’s notice.

This was then changed so that any reference to “two months” in section 21 Housing Act 1988 was to be read as if it says “three months” from the 26 March 2020. to the 28th August 2020.

From the 29th August 2020 notice periods notice periods for section 21 notices are now 6 months.

Existing Notices Already Served

Where a section 8 or 21 notice has been served before 26 March 2020, those notices remain valid and can be acted upon after expiry in the usual way. However, see below.

Court Proceedings

All court proceedings for possession were on hold until the 21st September 2020, regardless of when the notice was served or whether you have already applied to court. The courts are due to reopen on the 21st September for both existing and new possession claims, however there have been some changes in procedure which landlords need to be aware of. Please see our news article about this for landlords HERE

 

What does the current situation mean for repairs to my property?

Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live – and it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.

However, in these unprecedented times the Government is encouraging tenants and landlords to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues.

For urgent issues, landlords and trades people can carry out repairs and maintenance, provided that the landlord/tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. They should follow Government guidance on Coronavirus, including maintaining a two-metre distance from any household occupants and washing their hands regularly.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or other emergency repairs.

Landlords should continue to keep a record of any notifications from tenants about repair issues and what has been agreed with tenants, including any efforts that have been made to address the issues.

What about my legal obligations to provide regular gas and electrical safety inspections? Will I be prosecuted if I can’t get access because I or my tenants are self-isolating?

Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations and electrical safety regulations which come into force on 1 July 2020. There are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot do this and they must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.

Further information can be found here: https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help-and-advice/covid-19-advice-and-guidance/

See our news article about changes to electrical safety law HERE

What about access to a property to conduct viewings or where a move is scheduled?

The Government has advised against home moves wherever possible. Landlords and tenants are encouraged to engage constructively about access to a property, and that it should only be for serious and urgent issues. This means that no one should visit the property to conduct viewings, or anything else which is not urgent and health and safety-related.
If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on maintaining strict separation to minimise the spread of the virus.

Additional information about buying and selling properties can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Letting Out is managing my property-has anything changed?

If Letting Out is managing your property, this will continue. All landlords have been sent an email confirming the arrangements. Rent payments will not change and will continue as scheduled. There should be no reason why any rent payments are affected. If you notice an issue, please contact us. Emergency repairs will also be undertaken, and we have ensured that our contractors have availability and are aware of the social distancing rules and other government advice to reduce the risks of spreading the virus.

Someone in my House in Multiple Occupation has the virus, am I obliged to remove them or find my tenants another place to stay?

The Government has issued specific guidance on what to do if someone in a household has contracted the virus, including self-isolating the whole household for 14 days. You can find that guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-households-with-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection

Nobody can be removed from their home because of the virus. Landlords are not obliged to provide alternative accommodation for tenants if others in the property contract the virus, however if you have any concerns about risks in a H.M.O you should seek further advice from The Bond Board or your local Council.

How can The Bond Board help me?

The Bond Board has been advising landlords and Letting Agents in Greater Manchester on all aspects of renting and managing private rented tenancies for over 25 years. If you are struggling with a rental problem, there is no need to go it alone
During the Covid 19 crisis, we have restructured our landlord and tenants support services to focus on telephone and email support. However, we are still available to help can offer you free;

  • Advice and support about managing your tenancies and resolving problems at an early stage.
  • Landlord/Tenant Mediation to find a resolution that keeps everyone on board and the tenancy on track.
  • Support services for your tenants to find solutions to common issues that put a tenancy at risk, including rent arrears, benefit problems, money problems and much more.
  • Bond Guarantees and incentives We may still be able to offer Bond Guarantees and other incentives to enable landlords to house those who are homeless or have an urgent need to move.
  • Contact our experienced and friendly team to discuss how we can help.

Need advice or support?

Do you have a problem with a property or a tenant and need help to resolve it? Contact us for free, specialist support and advice.

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