Honourable and personal residential letting experts

It is clear the COVID19 coronavirus epidemic has had a wide impact across the whole economy, with all businesses and individuals experiencing some loss, cost or inconvenience. We have continued to do what we can to help you minimise any adverse impact on your rental investment.

Since the first lockdown started in March 2020 we have had many conversations with tenants and landlords understandably expressing concern about how tenancies may be affected. Positively everyone has pulled together, recognising this as an extraordinary situation.

We thought it may be helpful to update you to address some key questions you may have.

What if my tenants can't pay their rent?

This is the obvious big question, as a wide range of businesses may be affected, which may mean your tenants’ earnings could be affected. It is also the issue that prompted the various Government support schemes. Happily 95% of our tenants have paid their full rent as normal, but we know the situation is fluid.

We asked all tenants to let us know as early as possible if they had any difficulties paying, so we could agree any steps with you. In the first instance, we checked they had explored the various State support schemes and asked whether they could pay anything.  Whilst these schemes supported most people affected by the pandemic, for most of their rent, a handful inevitably struggled to meet all their rent. 

Where this happened we explored with landlords whether they can allow a rent reduction or rent delay/holiday to ensure they retained their tenants for when things get back to normal. Most of those tenants are now paying back any shortfall.

Positively we know the overwhelming majority of tenants properly paid their rent and let us know about any difficulties. We are confident they will continue to do their best to pay their rent if they can. 

Obviously we will update you quickly if there is any non-payment of rent, as we know people will be particularly sensitive to any rent problems during this situation.

What about rent protection insurance?

If you took out legal expenses and rent protection cover under our scheme at the start of a tenancy before the pandemic this should cover unpaid rent in accordance with the policy. The Legal Expenses and Rent Protection cover we provide through One Broker will pay your unpaid rent up to £2,500 per month for up to £25,000 p.a. once normal eviction proceedings can start. This should be more than adequate to protect your rental income for the period of the epidemic.

Provided there were no reference queries when the tenant started, the process would be on the day after the second monthly rent payment is missed we could make a claim which, if accepted, would pay the outstanding rent. Our policy does not have an excess.

However, the insurer would also want to minimise their liability and will seek to evict the tenant (at the insurer’s cost). The emergency legislation on evictions (See ‘Can I evict tenants who don’t pay?’ below) means the insurer will not be able to start eviction proceedings whilst the crisis continues. Given there is a cost to changing a tenant, you may decide to not make a claim. 

If you do not have Legal Expenses and Rent Protection cover for an existing tenancy, it normally costs £10 a month. However new policies started since the pandemic cost just £7 but provide just legal expenses cover, not rent cover.

What about mortgage holidays?

The Government announced that emergency mortgage holidays of up to three months were available for buy to let mortgages.

This clearly may help if your own cashflow is under pressure. However the evidence so far is this may have an impact on your credit score.

In any event, given interest rates are so low, it is unlikely this mortgage holiday would save you the equivalent of the loss of rent.

Therefore it may be prudent to calculate how much you would benefit from such a holiday, so you can decide whether this would be useful.

In the event you need to take a mortgage holiday, we will obviously provide any information we have that may help you.

Can I evict my tenants if they do not pay the rent?

In normal circumstances, if a tenant had not paid rent for two months, or had a bad payment record, you could start eviction proceedings. Also if the tenancy is no longer in a fixed-term tenancy, you could issue a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ notice to end the tenancy in 2 months’.

However, the COVID situation means the Government have prevented any court action for eviction starting before at least 11 January 2021, except for the most extreme cases. Given this ban has been in place for sometime, this will result in a substantial backlog in the Courts, meaning any eviction may be months away. However as any notice you choose to serve must currently be at least 6 months, some of this backlog may have cleared. Where a tenant leaves at the end of this period then no court action is needed. However if they don’t you may need to wait to take action to evict them. 

Please bear in mind it may be cost-effective to retain your current tenant until things get back to normal.

We recognise any unpaid rent may present you with a problem. Hopefully, this will not affect you directly!

What if my tenants want to end their tenancy?

Tenants’ legal right to serve notice to end their tenancy is not be affected.

Since property moves have been allowed in mid May 2020 tenants have served notice and we have filled properties in a COVID secure way.

What if my tenants need repairs carried out at my rental property?

Where works are needed our contractors will liaise with tenants to clarify whether they are in isolation or showing symptoms and agree how to ensure all people are comfortable with how the visit is completed. 

We continue to arrange the periodic safety checks required by Law e.g. gas safety certificates. However a few are delayed as tenants refuse to have the work done until they are comfortable having someone in their home. Provided we can demonstrate we have attempted to arrange this work, your obligations as a landlord have been properly discharged. Obviously there is a backlog of some works which we are working through.

We re-started routine property visits in August and most tenants allowed access, but after the mid-September call to “work at home if you can”, many tenants said they were not comfortable with these visits. Therefore we are only trying to visit properties where we perceive there may be a particular issue.

If you have any thoughts or concerns about the items on this page or other questions we have not covered, then please get in touch on [email protected]

or call us on

01480 494939