20th MARCH 2020
Listed below are the steps Wils & Smerdon are taking to ensure our continued service to our landlords, as we prepare to close our office doors for the first time since 1933, and work from home:
If you have a property that is currently being advertised for Let it will still remain on the market and we will still be carrying out viewings as long as we are able to, but they will be carried out using appropriate caution. We may ask that if you live in the property, that you leave during the time we are conducting the viewing and the same principle will be deployed if a tenant lives there and the property is being re-let.
Tenants are increasingly concerned about people coming into their homes and the level of viewing requests is diminishing and I suspect we will soon not be able to carry out any viewings depending on the situation. What I do expect is that, once this lockdown is finished, there will be a huge pent up demand for a number of reasons and people will be looking online during the time they are forced to spend at home, and we will be dealing with any enquiries as usual and nurturing applicants so we can help them during this time and to find a new home when the time comes.
Tenants will be expected to pay their rent as normal and we will continue to pay over to landlords once payments are received. We may find ourselves in a situation where tenants are unable to meet their obligations and we will keep in touch with you during this time. We are able to help you with a Rent Guarantee insurance policy however there is a qualifying three month period if the policy is taken out mid tenancy. If you would like more information on this please let me know.
The Government last night announced a radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by Coronavirus. As a result, the mortgage payment holiday provided to owner-occupiers will be extended to buy-to-let landlords and no new possession proceedings through applications to the court can start during the crisis. The package announced includes:
• Emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
• No new possession proceedings through applications to the court to start during the crisis
• Landlords will also be protected as three-month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages
Yesterday ARLA Propertymark informed members that emergency legislation would be taken forward as an urgent priority so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period.
Recognising the additional pressures, the virus may put on landlords, the Government has confirmed that the three-month mortgage payment holiday announced earlier in the week will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to Coronavirus. This important step on buy-to-let mortgages ensures parity of support, further to the announcement that the government made for private mortgage holders.
Government Guidance will be issued which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible.
The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has 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."
At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances. To support this the government has worked with the Master of the Rolls to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit. This will support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.
We will be advising Tenants in managed properties that we will use our best endeavours to deal with maintenance issues, as we have to be understanding of contractors who may not be able to attend or may refuse to attend due to the possible risks to health. We have a plan in place to deal with urgent maintenance issues and other issues that cannot be left, and we will deal with accordingly via the contractors we have available to us.
If you are managing the property yourself we appreciate that this could become quite a tricky time for you and should you wish us to provide professional assistance and support during this time please do let us know and we will be happy to help. As yet, there is no guidance from the government in regard to legally required safety checks that cannot be completed in the instance that tenants do not allow access into their homes from third party contractors or if contractors refuse to go into the property due to health & safety concerns. We are hoping that the Government adopt a sensible approach to this and will make allowances for when safety certificates run over the expiry dates.
We are putting a strategy in place to enable us to work from home. Our lettings software is cloud-based and we are able to access our office computers remotely. We will be working normal business hours for the foreseeable future and we can be contacted by email as usual. We can pick up calls to the office using our mobile phones so please ring the office number if you would like to speak to us. We are aiming to provide a senior member of staff acting as a hub from our closed office for as long as this is allowable. We are adapting our way of working to ensure that we fulfill our obligations to you and would ask for your understanding in these difficult times. We are constantly updated by a number of industry sources and will keep in touch with you so you remain informed.
Thank you in advance for your continued support and please look after yourselves. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Sara Grey M.A.R.L.A