With a quarter of the UK’s population either unemployed or on furlough, many tenants are struggling to pay their rent. We look at what rights landlords have during this time.
Should I negotiate a rent cut for my tenants?
Your tenants are legally bound to pay their rent in full even during a pandemic, you can however agree a rent cut with them. Before you agree to a rent cut, you should ask for evidence of hardship such as a redundancy or furlough letter as these things will help you apply for a three-month mortgage holiday from your lender. Once you have agreed to a lower rent or a rent holiday, you need to be clear with the tenant as to whether you expect them to pay the rent later or if you are giving them this as a gift. Whatever you decided, you will need to formalise a rent reduction in writing. You do not need a new contract, but you should keep copies of any text messages or emails between you and the tenant. If you are nearing the end of the tenancy, you need to be careful that you do not accidentally agree a permanent reduction in rent, therefore make sure any agreement shows that the rent reduction applies to specific months.
Can I evict my tenant?
The government suspended all court action to evict private and social tenants until the 25th of June and until the 30th of September you must also give tenants three months’ notice to quit rather than the usual two.
Can I apply for a mortgage holiday on a buy-to-let mortgage?
If your tenant can’t pay because of Coronavirus, you can apply to your lender for a three-month break in mortgage payments without this affecting your credit score. Be careful however as interest continues to accrue and monthly payments will rise afterwards so only use this if you have no other option.
Is there any other help for landlords?
Unfortunately, you will not qualify for the government’s self-employment rescue package if you have lost rental income, you can however defer your self-assessment tax due in July to January 2021.
If you have a rent guarantee insurance policy, you should check the policy wording carefully as some insurers are covering missed rent during the pandemic, while others do not.
What repairs can I make to my tenanted property?
You have a legal duty to fix serious and urgent issues during the lockdown such as a broken boiler and a leaking roof. The government has also advised that it will allow home improvements during this time, such as fitting a new kitchen or bathroom.
To enable this work tenants and tradespeople must all be free from Coronavirus symptoms and where possible try to stay in different rooms or the garden.
Can I organise safety cheques during the coronavirus crisis?
Government advice says you should make every effort to comply with rules requiring engineers to check gas appliances, etc. If you cannot gain access to your tenanted property, you will need to prove you made three genuine attempts to arrange access. You should keep copies of all contact with the tenants and contractors to prove you took all reasonable steps to ensure the property inspection took place.
How do I check right-to-rent during lockdown?
The Right to Rent scheme requires landlords to check prospective tenants have legal status to live in the UK. You must therefore undertake passport and immigration checks prior to letting out your property.
During the coronavirus crisis, you no longer to have to meet new tenants in person to check their ID. Instead your tenant can scan their documents over to you. Once you have the scans, you will need to make a video call to your tenant so they can hold up the original documents for you to check against the scanned version.
Can I arrange a viewing for my rental property?
You can arrange for prospective tenants to view your rental property as long as your current tenant is not vulnerable or isolating due to having symptoms of coronavirus. If the tenant agrees to a viewing you should ask them to open all internal doors and to wait outside during the viewing. If the tenant refuses for fear of strangers spreading the virus in their home, you should wait until the property is vacant before arranging viewings.
If you need legal advice on a landlord and tenant matter, contact us on 01704 532890 or complete the free online enquiry box below.