Fortunately, the housing market remains operational during lockdown, which means that people can still move home and continue to view properties, while continuing to follow appropriate Covid-19 safety guidelines, which we have implemented as a Covid-secure business. If you have any questions about the impact of lockdown on your rental properties – or anything else – don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Our rental market performance over the past month
The latest lockdown measures appear to have slowed the lettings market somewhat during January, with void periods increasing across the board according to the latest Rental Index. However, rents are holding steady despite the slower pace of lettings and tenants’ incomes have improved compared to December. Here is a snapshot of how our agency performed in December:-
- We achieved an average rent of £1,372
- Our void periods were 7 days on average
- Our deal turnaround times were 24 days on average
- On average the tenants we rent to have an income of £46,621
- The average age of our tenants is 40
- What the new “breathing space” law will mean for landlords
On 4 May, the Debt Respite Scheme, or “Breathing Space” law, will come into effect, to “give someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from their creditors” – including tenants. The law will cover two types of breathing space, according to the Government guidance: a “standard” breathing space and a “mental health crisis” breathing space.
The “standard” version will give tenants in problem debt “legal protection from creditor action for up to 60 days”, with most enforcement action and contact from creditors paused and most interest and charges frozen.
The “mental health crisis” breathing space will include the same protection but over a longer period of time. For tenants in mental health crisis treatment, the breathing space will cover the whole treatment length and an additional 30 days from when the treatment ends.
The guidance also notes that the breathing space is “not a payment holiday”. Although the breathing space debt can’t be enforced during this period and interest can’t be charged on it, “a debtor is still legally required to pay their debts and liabilities”. This means that any tenants in debt should continue to pay any debts owed to their landlords.
Coronavirus Eviction Ban Extended
The ban on evictions has been extended in England, Scotland and Wales. All three nations have announced extensions to their bans on bailiffs taking possession of properties, meaning evictions won’t be permitted until 21 February (England) or the end of March (Scotland and Wales). Here, we explain the eviction rules in place around the UK and offer advice on landlord and tenant rights during COVID-19.
In November, the Government placed a pause on eviction enforcement in England and Wales. This meant that bailiffs were banned from repossessing properties over the Christmas period, apart from in the most extreme circumstances. These included instances of rent arrears of nine months’ or longer, illegal occupation, anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse. The ban was set to end on Monday (11 January), but has now been extended until 21 February in England and 31 March in Wales and most recently the Scottish government extended its own ban (which was due to end on 22 January) until 31 March.
Advice for Landlords
Your responsibilities as a landlord are unaffected by COVID-19, so any essential repairs must still be conducted, and planned gas and electrical safety inspections should be arranged wherever possible. If for some reason you cannot have essential work carried out (for example if the tenant is self-isolating), then attempts to do so should be documented in case your council requests evidence. We can now carry out viewings and let out homes, whilst adhering to the government guidelines. If a current tenant is isolating or has COVID-19 symptoms, we won’t be able to conduct viewings or carry out any routine maintenance.
Advice for Tenants
Tenants are still required to pay rent as per the terms of your tenancy agreement. If you are not currently earning, there are Government schemes in place to help with housing costs during this period of lockdown. In addition, the Government has also made £180m available to Councils to provide discretionary housing payments to tenants struggling to pay their rent. Please check with your Council to see if you’re eligible. Your right to live in a safe property is unaffected by the coronavirus outbreak. Your landlord is still responsible for conducting essential maintenance and dealing with urgent issues (for example if the boiler breaks down). If your tenancy agreement is coming to an end and you’re concerned about moving during the pandemic, please speak to us about your options.