Anna Bibby, 19 March 2020
The COVID-19 virus - more commonly referred to as Coronavirus - is a pandemic that is unlike any other we have seen in our lifetime.
Countries around the world are on total lockdown, people are being forced to stay in their homes and global economies are starting to suffer. It is also a very challenging time for the private rented sector – businesses are having to temporarily shut down and people are being made redundant, which means that they will struggle to cover basic costs like rent and bills. This will also have a knock-on effect for landlords who will struggle to cover the cost of a mortgage without having regular rental income from their tenants. Lenders in countries who have been severely affected by the virus, such as Italy, have started to offer ‘mortgage freezes’ and ‘rent freezes’, so those who have been placed on lockdown can recover financially.
As Coronavirus continues to affect the UK at an alarming rate, there has been growing pressure on the UK government to follow in the footsteps of other countries and assist affected households financially, including mortgage freezes, assistance with utility bills and assisting tenants with their rent. After a concerted effort from various pressure groups, the government finally agreed to put funding towards renters and property owners.
In a statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced that the government will introduce emergency legislation to assist renters, landlords and homeowners. In a bid to help tenants, the government has suspended evictions for the duration of the crisis. The suspension will cover both private and social tenants and will be effective for all new evictions. The legislation has been taken forward as an ‘urgent priority’ and landlords will be unable to start eviction proceedings for at least three months.
Of course, landlords are just as vulnerable to financial strain in a crisis such as this one and many lobby groups for landlords have criticised the government for protecting tenants while leaving landlords out of pocket. As a response, the government have since extended their mortgage freeze to buy to let landlords who will be exempt from their mortgage payments for at least three months. The idea is to ensure that landlords will not fall into unmanageable debt, should their tenants develop rent arrears in the coming months.
The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “The government is clear - no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts. “These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started. “These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”
The world is currently going through something unprecedented and it’s likely that the COVID-19 virus will affect a large portion of the popularity in one way or another, so it’s important that both landlords and tenants work together.
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Anna Bibby, 19 March 2020