Coronavirus: Frequently asked questions
26 Mar 2020 12:49 PM
What do landlords need to know about what financial support they can give to tenants? And where do you stand when it comes to completing repairs at your rental property?
As restrictions tighten with the country on lockdown to limit the spread of Covid-19, the government has published new measures affecting landlords. and many landlords have been getting in touch with the RLA with questions relating to the pandemic and their lettings.
In this article, we take a look at the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from landlords. We have plenty of guidance for landlords on Coronavirus. The guides are updated regularly and can be accessed here.
- My tenant can not pay the rent-what financial support is available for them?
Last week following campaigning by the RLA and the NLA, the government agreed to a three month buy to let mortgage holiday for landlords affected by the coronavirus. Mortgage lenders have agreed that landlords may contact their lender to self-certify that their tenant has been impacted. This done on the understanding this mortgage holiday will be passed down to their tenants.
And last Friday, the Chancellor announced a number of welcome measures to support the income of workers. Specifically:
- Employers can access a grant from HMRC that covers 80% of salary (up to a maximum of £2,500 a month) for each employee to ensure their job is retained. This Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme offers the grants on the proviso the employer does not make them redundant.
If a tenant doesn’t benefit from the above scheme, then they could apply for Universal Credit, and the Chancellor is expected to announce more measures to help the self-employed later today (26th March). More about financial support for landlords and tenants can be read online in our guidance here.
- Can gas safety inspections still be carried out at my property?
Gas safety inspections can go on as they are essential works provided everyone follows social distancing practices and the inspector, tenants, or landlord are not symptomatic at the time. However, there is a recognition this may be difficult to arrange due to shortages of inspectors as well as tenant’s self-isolating or refusing access.
Currently gas safety certificates can be obtained up to two months prior to the expiration of the existing one. Landlords are encouraged by Gas Safe to start trying to arrange an inspection as early as possible in that two month period. If it’s not possible to arrange an inspection then it should be documented. documentation should show that the landlord has tried to contact a number (most likely 5 or 6) inspectors who have all been unable to arrange an appointment.
What if a tenant refuses access to the property?
If the tenant refuses access then this should be documented with evidence the landlord has tried to accommodate suitable dates for the tenant.
For example, if the tenant refuses because they are self-isolating due to symptoms then the landlord should try and arrange a new check to be done 14 days after the household first shows symptoms. Provided the landlord has made three genuine efforts to arrange access and documented it this should be enough to provide to HSE.
- My student tenants have not gone back to their family homes and want me to give them the rest of the rent back. What should I do?
As a landlord, this is your business decision to make-it is important to remember that contracts are still binding in these cases. Read more on this in our guidance here.
- Is it correct that no new eviction notices can be served now and for the next 3 months?
As part of a package to protect renters, the Government has announced a series of changes and restrictions on landlords regaining possession of their property during the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation bought forward does not ban possession entirely, the Government has chosen to extend notice periods instead. Notice periods are to be extended to three months until September 2020. This notice period may be extended to six months in the future.
The draft legislation is clear that this notice period extension only applies to notices served once the legislation comes into force (and not ongoing possession claims). However, there are likely to be significant delays to hearing existing possession claims as the courts have been instructed to stop listing numerous possession applications on the same day and practice social distancing. The RLA and the NLA are calling for clear guidance around the extension of the notice period for possessions to three months, and will update members when we know more.
Read more on this in our possession reform guidance here.