A Landlord’s Guide to Coronavirus
Lockdown restrictions for landlords have already begun lifting in England, while Scotland and the rest of the UK are due to experience similar this week.
But what will landlords find when they can once again meet with tenants – and get to check out their properties (albeit from a distance)? And what new government measures can they use to ensure their buy-to-let continues to work for them?
Paying the buy-to-let mortgage
Under the Coronavirus Act, buy-to-let landlords, like other home owners, have had their mortgage payment holiday extended for another three months, making that six months in total. This means that if your tenants are finding it difficult right now to pay rent - due to furloughing or losing their job – you have some financial breathing space while they access benefits.
Scottish landlords, meanwhile, are entitled to an interest-free small business grant of up to £10,000 to tide them over (provided they have commercial premises for their business). In England it’s more complicated. Landlords may be able to claim the self-employed grant if buying/selling and managing property is their full-time occupation.
Another way round the financial difficulties the coronavirus lockdown may have caused is to defer tax. Rather than paying in July this year, landlords with problems paying can defer until January next year.
Meanwhile, a recent survey by the Think Tank Centre for Cities shows that the biggest jump in Universal Claims last month was in the North of England. This is where there are more buy-to-let mortgages than anywhere else in the UK, implying landlords there may be struggling when lockdown finishes and ‘normality’ kicks in.
In the North East, for instance, 67 per cent of landlords who have bought in the past three years, are mortgaged. The figure for Yorkshire and Humber is 60 per cent. This is compared to 48 per cent of landlords in the West Midlands and 50 per cent in the South East.
Landlord insurance and coronavirus
Some landlord insurance policies will cover the fact tenants can’t pay rent due to complications surrounding coronavirus. However, they might insist notice on the tenant/s has to be served first, or there are stipulations around how long those rent arrears are before insurance kicks in.
Meanwhile, some landlords will have empty properties with tenants (particularly students and other individuals living on their own) having gone back to their family home. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can claim back their rent for the period when they weren’t in the property. With respect to commercial tenants, only those whose lease contains a 'force majeure' clause might be in with a shout. Or, if the property was damaged in some way, then a reduction in rent could be asked for.
Just like landlords can’t move tenants from their property right now (they must give three months’ notice of the intention to do so), tenants can’t expect landlords to ‘magic up’ repair men. In other words, legal obligations towards repairs aren’t practical right now. Provided you do as much as you can in the present circumstances to get the repair done – and record it – there can’t be much else expected of you.
Landlord body the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) are urging the government to give their members a similar deal to motorists and MOT certificates for utilities. RLA say they want a six-month extension from April 1 for gas and electricity certificate expiry dates. That’s for the simple reason that due to social distancing rules many landlords and contractors can’t enter rental properties at the moment.
Get in touch!
Are you planning to invest in a buy-to-let property in the future? Perhaps you’re thinking of renting out your existing property due to a job or personal relocation? If so, get in the touch with the team here at Griffin Lettings for up-to-the-minute advice and help. Tel 0345 561 0050 or email via the Contact Us page on our website.