With the rapid spread of coronavirus across the country, more and more landlords are asking what they need to be doing to protect and support their tenants.
What we are facing is an unprecedented situation – with circumstances changing sometimes hourly - and in terms of letting there is no ‘one size fits all’ response.
While these are uncertain times, one thing is for sure; it is inevitable that some tenants will struggle to meet their rent payments as a result of coronavirus.
This could be through the need to self-isolate, the closure of a workplace, reduced hours the need to provide childcare…. the list goes on.
In these circumstances we are advising landlords to be as flexible as possible when it comes to supporting tenants who are facing financial difficulties.
This could mean deferring payments until tenants are back in work or, if they are in a position to, offering rental holidays to help ease the financial burden.
We are also offering practical help and advice that landlords can share with tenants to help stop the spread of the virus, particularly in properties such as HMOs where groups of people are living together in close proximity.
While landlords must keep themselves informed of up to the minute official advice as regards coronavirus, we have produced a series of resources to help members during this difficult time.
This includes a fact sheet – endorsed by both the NLA and RLA - outlining landlords’ responsibilities and linking to government guidance which offers practical tips and expert advice on how to get it right.
In addition to this we are also calling for a package of measures from government and mortgage lenders to support landlords and their tenants affected by the coronavirus and are receiving daily briefings direct from MHCLG on the situation.
We are asking for a temporary scrapping of the five week wait before Universal Credit claimants get their first payment, pausing the final phase of restricting mortgage interest relief to the basic rate of income tax and ensuring lenders look sympathetically on requests by landlords for mortgage payment holidays where their income is being affected through reduced or non-payment of rent.
While – at the time of going to press – no lender had specifically offered mortgage payment holidays on buy-to-let products some said they would make decisions on a case by case basis.
Despite the severity of the challenges facing us, we are seeing positive stories come to light from both landlords and tenants.
Landlords have already been in touch to say they are proactively approaching tenants to reassure them, and tenants taking to social media to thank their landlords for their offers of support.
These are difficult times, but what is important right now is that we pull together as an industry to support each other through them.
For more go to our dedicated coronavirus webpage.
*Ben Beadle is the National Residential Landlords Association's (NRLA) new chief executive.