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Help for Landlords during Coronavirus

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

With possession proceedings delayed as the Government responds to the Coronavirus pandemic, we look at what landlords can do.

1. Contact your tenant and find out as much information as you can as to how they have been affected by the pandemic.

When the stay on proceedings is lifted on 20th September 2020, postponed claims will not be automatically relisted. To ensure your claim is relisted, a reactivation notice must be filed with the court. This notice must detail all the knowledge the claimant has as to how their tenants (and their tenants’ dependants) have been affected by the pandemic.

As guidance has been limited as to exactly what needs to go into this notice, we recommend that you find out as much information as possible from your tenants.

We recommend ascertaining;
– If their income and employment situation has been affected by the pandemic,
– If they have a partner, children or other dependants that have been affected,
– If they are claiming benefits and if these have been affected,
– Whether they have had coronavirus.

2. Consider whether a compromise can be reached with your tenants

The courts are unlikely to carry out an eviction if you haven’t tried to reach an agreement with your tenants that avoids eviction.

Can you afford to accept reduced rent for a period of time? Can you afford to give your tenants a payment holiday and postpone collection of rent for a short period of time?

Not only is it a requirement for the courts for you to have considered the above, but it may also work out to your advantage in the long run.

It may well be that your tenant is only failing to meet their full rent for a short period of time. They may be temporarily unemployed, recovering from earning a reduced income under the government’s furlough scheme or coping financially with other changes to their employment.

It could be a more cost effective solution to reach a compromise and keep them in the property, than it is to pursue eviction proceedings.

3. Discuss with your tenant if they should move to cheaper accommodation and whether you can agree a way for them to do that

It doesn’t make sense for your tenants to stay in a property that they can’t afford in the long run. It may be advantageous for you both to discuss a way for them to bring your current agreement to an end and to help them move on to somewhere more affordable.

4. Move the rent payment date to ensure rent is paid as soon as your tenant’s income is received

Something as simple as changing the rent payment date to the same day that your tenants receive their salary or benefits could make a big difference to their ability to budget efficiently each month.

5. Find out whether your tenant could switch energy suppliers to reduce their outgoings and allow them more money to pay rent

On the theme of helping your tenants with their budgeting – is it possible to help them reduce their outgoings in the property? Steering tenants towards sites such as ‘ofgem.gov’ and ‘moneysupermarket.com’ that provide an abundance of tips and advice to reduce household bills could be the difference between your tenant staying afloat or not.

6. Provide a list of local charities who help with money management or debt

With debt building up, sadly rental arrears may be just another figure on a long list of financial problems your tenant needs to address. If this is the case it could be very helpful to send them some information on local charities set up to help people in such a situation.

A few available options include:-
– The Citizen’s Advice Bureau – they have a useful self-help website and offices throughout Northamptonshire where your tenants can access face-to-face support.
– National Debtline – they provide free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems.
– Anglian Water assistance fund – is available to anyone suffering financial hardship and struggling to pay their water bill.
– Christians Against Poverty – they provide debt counselling support and advice to people of all faiths.

7. Stay in regular contact with your tenant

For all the reasons above we recommend you continue to stay in contact with your tenant and stay updated on their situation. Working together against their problems is often better than a hard-line you versus them approach.

8. Contact your lender to reduce your buy-to-let repayments

One of the biggest worries for landlords not receiving rent payments is that they may become unable to repay a buy-to-let.

If this is the case for you we recommend going to speak to your lender directly to discuss your situation and see if they are offering any compromises in these uncertain times.

It may be that you can arrange to reduce your repayments or secure you a repayment holiday.

9. Take Action

Finally, if all else fails, take action. Even whilst possession proceedings are on hold, Notice can be served on tenants and in some circumstances there will be no option other than to start the possession process.

For advice and help contact our Housing Team on 0800 088 6004

George Iles

Posted:

George Iles

Trainee Solicitor

George is a Trainee Solicitor currently working with the Corporate & Commercial team.