Covid-19 has been a challenge for landlords and tenants, on a scale that no one could ever anticipate.
Whilst our research shows that the vast majority of tenants have been able to pay their rent as usual, sadly, through no fault of the tenant, some have struggled. It is therefore heartening that, our research also shows that most landlords and tenants have been able to reach agreements about how to manage arrears and sustain tenancies.
But we should not be under any illusions about the impact that the ban on repossessions has had and is having on the sector.
We have made representations to the Prime Minister. He will be in no doubt how strongly we feel we have been let down and we are lobbying MPs and Peers to hit home the message.
To back this up and put the government under pressure to act, we need the help of landlords across the country. It’s vital individual landlords make their voices and stories heard.
That is why I am asking you to urgently email or write to your MP, or arrange to have a chat with them at their virtual surgery, or a physical one if they are holding them. We need MPs to see for themselves the difficulties being caused by the government’s failures to support the market properly. The NRLA has prepared comprehensive resources to support you in doing so on our website.
Access to justice
Landlords have been left powerless to tackle anti-social behaviour by tenants, blighting the lives of fellow tenants and neighbours alike.
Tenancies cannot be drawn to a close where doing so would help those suffering domestic abuse to find safety away from the perpetrator.
No action can be taken against those tenants whose rent arears have nothing whatsoever to do with COVID. This includes those who are abusing the current stay on possessions and deliberately not paying their rent, even if they have the means to do so.
And those who have rented their homes out whilst working elsewhere, such as those in the military, continue to be locked out of their own homes.
To make matters worse, the government announced that, apart from some circumstances, landlords must give six months’ notice to tenants where they need to reclaim possession of their property. Added to that the declaration that cases related to rent arrears would only be treated as a priority by the courts when tenants had built over a year’s worth of rent debt and we can begin to see clearly the devastating impact that the government’s confusing, last minute announcements on 21st August have had.
Whilst we have since had welcome clarity about notice periods in certain circumstances, our message to government never the less remains clear – justice needs to be delivered and the courts need to begin hearing repossession cases from 20th September. There can be no more excuses for not doing so.
Funding to sustain tenancies
Just as important is the need for a financial package to pay off arrears built due to Covid and help sustain tenancies wherever possible. The vast majority of landlords are individuals, renting out just one or two properties, many for a pension. They cannot afford the prospect of going without rent or having reduced rents indefinitely. Neither should they be in a position of doing the Government’s job of subsiding tenants.
That is why we need interest-free, government-guaranteed hardship loans for tenants in England to pay off Covid-related arrears as the NRLA has successfully campaigned for in Wales. These need to be paid directly to the landlord.
Where tenants refuse to seek a loan, or where they might not be best suited to them, income support is needed for landlords to cover income lost as a result of coronavirus.
On 22nd July the Housing Minister, Christopher Pincher told the House of Commons: “The end of the pause on possession proceedings on 23 August is another important step towards more normal life resuming and to ensuring all people—landlords and tenants—have access to justice.” He was right. It is therefore time that the Government delivered funding for renters and justice for landlords.
Ben Beadle is chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association.
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