A landlords’ group has announced that tenants must not assume that the outbreak of coronavirus across the UK is simply a green light to not make their rent payments.
The NRLA (National Residential Landlords Association) has stated that the government must be more open on the support offered by mortgage lenders and landlords. Some campaign groups have also called for tenants who are struggling, particularly students, to be provided with a rent-free period. However, landlords have explained that these measures would put the future of letting property at risk for the long term.
NRLA’s chief executive, Ben Beadle, has stated that landlords must be flexible if tenants do struggle financially and offer temporary breaks in rental payments for renters who are in real need. This would provide tenants with a maximum of three months to not pay rent. However, any missed payments must be made up in larger rent sums in the subsequent months. This rent holiday must also only begin once an agreement has been reached between the landlord and tenant. Mr Beadle emphasised that this must not be used as a green light for tenants across the country to cease making rent payments.
Landlords themselves can in fact apply directly to their mortgage provider to secure a repayment holiday for their property if they are encountering problems due to the outbreak of coronavirus. When the banks and government put this support in place, it was emphasised that any landlord who took up this option should pass these advantages on to their tenants by deferring rent. In addition to this, the government announced a ban on evictions for three months in Wales and England, with a similar plan being discussed in Scotland.
However, some tenant groups want this support to be more comprehensive. For example, the London Renters’ Union are calling for a suspension to all rental payments in order to prevent an increase in unsustainable debt, and the National Union of Students have campaigned for landlords to cease charging rent to any student that has left their accommodation to return home, as classes have been cancelled during the lockdown.
Natalia Kurteczko, an events organiser who is self-employed, has lodged in a house for seven years in Oxford. However, she said that due to a lack of work as events have been suddenly cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, she planned to move to a hostel, as she could work there in exchange for staying in a room rent-free. She explained that she had decided to preserve her savings and relocate to a hostel to stay for free in exchange for volunteering for 20 hours each week.
However, some landlords have stated that granting a complete suspension of rental payments for tenants would put a large number of landlords in a financially impossible position.
The NRLA also stated that many landlords make the majority of their revenue from lettings and are far removed from the fortunate position of large-scale corporate landlords. Buy-to-let landlords face extra costs, like upkeep and council tax on vacant properties, rather than just mortgage payments. Landlords who are unable to let property, through an Airbnb management app, for example, are also suffering as they cannot let their homes on a short-term basis.
They further explained that cancelling rent in the particular case of students, who are still in receipt of maintenance grants, could mean that these homes would not be available to rent once normality has returned at some level, as landlords would have left the sector. The NRLA also argued that tenants are receiving financial assistance from the government, as 80 per cent of salaries are paid if the tenant is furloughed, which would allow them to pay bills, including rent.
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