Guidance for landlords during coronavirus in the UK

Landlord Guide to COVID-19 Emergency Measures


The Government has announced a raft of measures to support landlords and tenants through the coronavirus emergency. Things are moving very quickly and this guide will be regularly updated as more details emerge.

Key Messages

  • Emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
  • No new possession proceedings through applications to the court to start during the crisis
  • Landlords will be expected to work with tenants to create payment plans for unpaid rent
  • Landlords will also be protected as 3 month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages
  • OpenRent launch ‘pause’ function for rent collection 

Complete Ban on Evictions in England and Wales

No new possession proceedings will be permitted to courts “during the crisis”, which we take to mean until the emergency is declared to be over. Details are still emerging as the measures will be enacted via emergency legislation, a draft of which has not yet been published. The bill will probably be rushed through Parliament without debate in the coming days. 

It is not known what will happen to possession proceedings already underway. The courts are currently still sitting as usual, but are coming under strong pressure to close or adapt their practices to reduce human contact and to prevent tenants at risk of eviction also being required to attend a busy court and risk infection, too. 

Scotland

Measures have also been announced in Scotland. Usually, renters must be in arrears for three consecutive months in order for courts to treat this as a mandatory basis for eviction under Ground 17. This is being extended to six months. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that “no one should face eviction because of rent arrears accrued as a result of the coronavirus.”

Three-Month Mortgage Holiday for Landlords

On 17 March, the Government announced that lenders would be offering owner-occupiers affected by the virus a mortgage payment holiday of up to three months. On 18 March, these measures were extended to buy-to-let mortgages where tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. 

That means that landlords whose tenants are in financial difficulty caused by the virus can contact their lender and arrange to suspend all mortgage payments, for both their own home, and any buy-to-let properties they own, for three months. It is thought that the payments will be added to the end of the existing mortgage term, so that a 25-year mortgage would become a 25-year-and-three-month mortgage. It is understood that interest will continue to accrue at normal rates over the three-month holiday period. 

How Will Mortgage Holidays Work?

Landlords will be expected to contact lenders to arrange the postponement of mortgage payments. Lenders have agreed with the Government to offer this to mortgagors. 

One important question is whether landlords will be required to stop collecting rent if they are in receipt of a buy-to-let mortgage holiday. It does not look like they will be required to. Rather, it looks like the Government is relying on landlords and tenants to negotiate their own arrangements against the backdrop of the new measures. 

The Government has promised to “issue guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible”. This sounds like voluntary arrangements to us, but backed up by the very real point that evictions will not be possible anyway, so landlords’ usual last resort will not be available.

The Government thinks the mortgage holiday “will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result”. In addition, “landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan” at the end of the mortgage holiday period, “taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances”.

This seems like an admission that many landlords will be expected to bear their share of the short-term financial squeeze at a time when people across all sectors are facing falls in their income. 

Finally, it is not expected that landlords will have to prove that they or their tenants are effected by the virus in order to receive the mortgage holiday from their lender. We have asked the Ministy for Housing Communities and Local Government for more clarification on this point, but more information will only be available once the emergency legislation is published.

Emergency Benefits

There have also been announcements that will affect landlords letting to tenants who claim benefits, or have recently lost their income. People affected by the virus will be able to apply for emergency Universal Credit and receive up to a month’s payment up front. The money can be accessed without physically attending a job centre. 

The upfront money would be a loan paid back over 12 months. A hardship fund is also available for tenants unable to pay rent, bills, and other essential costs like white goods.

OpenRent Response

We’re working hard to support users. 

Product Improvements

We know that many landlords will have tenants who are affected by coronavirus and who want to be sensitive to their situation. This means landlords may wish to stop chasing tenants for the rent for the next few months. 

We’ve made this easy to do by adding a ‘pause’ feature to our rent collection service. Once activated, the pause will stop tenants being chased for rental payments, while automatically keeping track of however much rent they do pay. That will make it easy to work out repayment plans later, or to know how much rent has been forgone as part of any agreement between tenant and landlord. 

Here is how to activate the rent pause.

You’re Not Alone

We’re continuing to offer tenants and landlords the same support as always. As an online service, we’re very well placed to continue to help. If you need assistance with your tenancy or property listing, email to the team as usual on info@openrent.co.uk and we’ll get back to you in one working day. 

Landlords from all over the country are taking to our OpenRent Community forum to share how coronavirus is affecting them and their tenants. The Community is a fantastic resource for landlords and tenants to connect and receive support. 

Find support on the OpenRent Community.



Notable Replies

  1. The government have offered ZERO support for landlords.

    The lenders would have little choice and no reason not to accept repayment holidays, which we still have to get permission for anyway. They will simply add on the unpaid interest and, if we’re lucky, they may extend the repayment period, assuming your repayment period ends before you are 80 years old. They lose nothing, as their debt is secured by our properties, or are the government going to ban repossessions, no I thought not.

    Businesses have had their rates suspended. Have landlords had their council tax liability suspended?
    In my area of Kirklees landlords have to pay full C. Tax for vacant properties, with not even the 25% allowance for single occupancy, which in itself is outrageous, and pure profiteering from persecuted landlords.

    What help has been given to landlords who are self employed with no other income, to pay their bills, put food on the table and support their families?

    I live overseas, and together with the potential loss of rental income, my pension, we are suffering the fall in the value of the pound through lousy exchange rates.

    Now, what exactly is the support for landlords?

    Of course we would not evict tenants in genuine difficulty in these unprecedented times, but for the government to ban evictions is an open invitation for some unscrupulous tenants to abuse this law. And I see from another blog, that is already happening even with benefits recipients whose rent is already paid for through their benefits, which landlords cannot get hold of directly anymore. Would it not have been more sensible to sanction the payment of rents through the benefits system to ensure their security of tenure and ensure the landlords can survive. Or are all landlords considered to be a bottomless pit of resources to be sucked dry at the governments convenience. This way the burden would be shared fairly and equally in our taxes, as it will be for all the other government assistance schemes.

    Not only are landlords going to suffer, but letting agents also, as their income is directly related to rental income.

    It has also been suggested that Openrent suspend their 3 month time limitation on listings, if they wish to make a serious contribution. So how about it?

    To all respectable landlords and tenants in UK, I wish you good luck and hope you stay safe and healthy.

  2. Further to my earlier blog, I would like to add that I fully appreciate this tragedy is going to hurt a lot of businesses and people, and I fully accept we landlords have to play a part in supporting the effort to combat and cope with the outfall.

    However, I cannot think of any other business that is being FORCED, by an enactment of law, to grant free goods or services. And, before anybody comments that unpaid rent will be repaid in the future - dream on…
    Why doesn’t the government guarantor those unpaid rents, if they want to treat us fairly, and why are the local councils not taking action against the benefits tenants who are already scamming their landlords out of rent payments they have already received, that’s fraud in my opinion.

    I had already thought to suspend rent payments for a month initially, but since the government has introduced the big stick solution, without any meaningful support to the self employed landlord, I am having second thoughts.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly, Chris. No support for landlords and mo support for the self employed and no particular understanding about self employed contractors.
    I am disappointed in the Landlord groups…they seem to have rolled over as far as action for the people they are representing goes.

  4. Sue13 says:

    What about landlords without any mortgage on the property and it is their main source of income. I understand giving the tenant 2-3 months rent free, if they can’t work, but I would need it repaid. Not much hope of that, as they would probably move apartments rather than make up arrears. They will not dip into their savings (if they have any) to pay the rent if the government gives them a 3 mth break, and could possible go on longer…I fear some tenants, even if still working, will use it as an excuse not to pay the rent, knowing they have no fear of eviction.

  5. Hi the comment about people on benefits is unfair every one needs a chance I’m on universal credit and I’m employed but no one gave me a chance except for the landlady I have now in December I got paid early and I was in the time period where I got no universal credit I ended up in rent arrears of £1000 pound I paid my landlady what I had which was £300 to show willing however I got the full universal credit the following month and I paid the full £1000 in full I’m no longer in rent arrears and yes the government are giving three months for tenants it doesn’t mean no one will get there rent my work place has closed but I have found a new job in a supermarket and I will return to my old job when it reopens so what I’m saying is people on benefits isn’t all bad stop tying everyone in the same brush it’s unfair hope you all stay safe

Continue the discussion at community.openrent.co.uk

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