A range of new measures and regulations have recently been introduced to the private rented sector, designed to protect private landlords and renters alike and prevent people losing their home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is important that you feel supported during these difficult times and know where to turn to for help. We've put together the following frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help you understand the new measures.
My tenant has stopped paying rent. What can I do?
Reach out to your tenant, an early conversation can really help. If they are facing financial difficulties, work with them as much as possible and try and arrange a new payment arrangement. It may be that your tenant can afford to pay some of the rent, and pay the rest at a later date.
If your tenant is receiving Universal Credit to cover their housing costs, you may be able to request that this is paid direct to you:
A wide range of financial support is available to any tenants in financial hardship. Let your tenants know that they can contact the private housing team for further advice and support.
Do I still need to pay Council Tax for my vacant properties?
Yes, you will continue to be liable for the Council Tax charges for any periods that your property is unoccupied. When a property becomes empty you may be entitled to a 100% discount for the first month, followed by a 25% discount for up to 6 months.
If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax you can:
What if I’m struggling with mortgage payments?
Due to COVID-19 related hardship, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to 3 months, when required. This extends to Buy-to-Let mortgages.
Landlords impacted by the non-payment of rent can contact their lenders to discuss and find out how to apply for the payment holiday.
Can I let out my vacant properties during lockdown?
Yes, updated government guidance has made it clear that moves can now go ahead. Where possible, opt for virtual viewings before prospective tenants visit the property in person, in order to minimise public health risks. All physical viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household.
At the Council we work with individuals who still urgently require a move during this time. These may be victims of domestic abuse fleeing violence, people in severely overcrowded or unsuitable accommodation, discharges from hospital or those in temporary accommodation in need of moving on. We are working hard to quickly source quality, affordable properties for these groups.
If you think you can help us with this, we can help you let out your vacant property and facilitate a ‘virtual’ application and sign-up in line with social distancing guidelines.
Do I still need to attend to repairs?
Yes, where workforces are available and resources allow, you can now visit your properties to carry out both routine and essential inspections and repairs, as well as any planned internal works.
For households that are not shielding or self-isolating, services should be designed to allow a 2-meter distance to be maintained (wherever possible) and hygiene procedures should be followed.
No repair or maintenance work should be carried out in any household which is self-isolating or where an individual is shielding unless that work is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household. In these cases, additional steps should be taken to ensure safety such as avoiding any face-to-face contact.
Do I still need to carry out safety checks?
Safety in the home remains very important and therefore you should make every effort to comply with the existing gas safety regulations (requiring an annual gas safety check) and the new electrical safety regulations which come into force on 1st July 2020 (requiring an inspection every 5 years).
What if a tenant is unable to provide access to the property?
Tenants are still required to allow access for routine and essential repairs and inspections, including gas safety checks, providing it is safe and reasonable for them to do so. Gas inspections should not be carried out in homes that are self-isolating until after the isolation period has ended, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household.
Where households are shielding, you should balance the risks presented by considering the age and type of system or appliance, the previous maintenance history, and any factors relevant to the household. For example, if the shielded individual(s) can remain in a separate room for the duration of the visit you may decide to go ahead with the inspection.
You will not be unfairly penalised if COVID-19 restrictions, for example those posed when a household is isolating or shielding, prevent you from meeting your legal obligations, providing you are able to demonstrate that you have taken all reasonable steps to comply. This includes keeping copies of all communications you have had with tenants and contractors (and any replies received).