Back again for another end of the week newsround. What do we have for you?
How sympathetic are landlords about rent?
The inability of tenants to pay their rent due to coronavirus related problems is a story which is not going to go away any time soon.
But on the whole – how helpful are landlords to tenants in this plight?
The National Residential Landlords Association has recently done a survey which showed that
90% of landlords who had received a request for support from a tenant had responded positively.
This included offering tenants a rent reduction or deferral, a rent-free period, early release from a tenancy or a refund on service charges included in rents for homes of multiple occupation.
Which is of course very nice. Not all landlords are monsters – indeed most of the landlords I have come into contact with are decent people who pride themselves on offering a good service.
The trouble is that there are a large number of landlords who I will never come into contact with and who are not members of the NRLA. And they are the ones who are less likely to react to tenants’ pleas in a positive way.
Landlords who are harassing tenants are hardly likely to admit to this so in a survey.
We will only ever be able to see the full picture when landlords are regulated and registered.
No relief for students
Students have been particularly hit by the pandemic. Many have gone ‘home’ to their parents as their Colleges have moved all their training online, or have lost the jobs they formerly used to support themselves which would largely have been in the hospitality industry. Which as we know is now largely redundant.
There has been a very loud and vigorous campaign for help for students. including rent subsidies, reductions or waivers for six months for those impacted by Coronavirus, and no rent increases for the next 12 months.
However, Education Minister Michelle Donelan, in an answer to a Parliamentary question, has made it clear that this is not going to happen, saying
Tenants without an agreed release date are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. They should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment.
She also referred students to Citizens Advice and suggested they raise a complaint under the accommodation codes of practice.
What about the eviction stay?
There is a news item on LandlordZONE which indicated that possession hearings are to restart from 29 June albeit by telephone rather than in the courtroom. Saying
This would suggest that the government is now unlikely to extend its legislative evictions ban past the end of June after a three-month hiatus, if the courts system is now getting ready to hear both existing and new possession cases once more.
A later post revealed that this court was Barnet County Court. Tim Frome, Legal Director at Landlord Action, saying:
As our local court and one we use regularly for a number of clients Barnet County Court engaged directly with us on their plans for reopening for possession claims on 29th June 2020
The article concludes:
Barnet County Court says its preparations include plans to conduct hearings either via telephone or virtual platform such as Teams or Zoom until at least the Autumn as the backlog is cleared.
It also warns that everyone involved will have to stick to the tight schedules for each hearing, that there will be no ‘duty solicitor’ scheme in operation to help tenants and that all paperwork will have to be submitted in advance, and not on the day.
This will please landlords.
Although the stay was set up to protect innocent tenants who have lost their jobs through Coronavirus, it has also prevented landlords from dealing with less innocent tenants who refuse to pay deliberately and protected anti-social tenants who make everyone’s life a nightmare.
Unlike the popular view of landlords as rolling in money, most are ‘normal people’ who just own one or two properties – and the loss of rent can hit them hard.
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association has said
As Ministers consider their next steps regarding the ban on evictions, they should not make it more difficult to take action against tenants who may be committing anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse, or where they are wilfully withholding rent which they can afford to pay.
We need landlords who are going through a difficult time to have the confidence to stay in the market.
Otherwise, we are only going to end up with a worsening housing crisis as more tenants chase fewer properties.
I suspect the ban will end after the new ‘pre-action’ protocol comes into force. No doubt we will have news of this soon.
We have written in previous newsounds about the unhelpful attitude of many insurance companies on paying up under their policies – for example, business interruption and rent guarantee insurance policies.
The Financial Conduct Authority has now stepped in and plans to seek a legal judgment from the British courts to clarify whether insurers should pay claims made by firms forced to close by the lockdown.
It is understood that the FCA is aiming to take its first test cases before the High Court as early as July.
If you have a dispute with your insurer regarding business interruption insurance you can submit details to the FCA here. The page also has information on what is being done and you can sign up to get notifications.
However, this is not the only insurance issue:
Home moving problems
The Government guidance on home moving during the pandemic says a household should “try and do as much of the packing yourself as possible.” adding that where this is not possible, you should speak to your removal firms in advance.
Comparison website GoCompare warned that those who follow this guidance and do their own packing may find that the items won’t be insured if they are damaged by removal companies during transit.
However, in a later post on Property Industry Eye, it has emerged that home movers are supposed to be told that removal companies packing activities during the pandemic should be limited to “china, glass and breakable items.”
Industry analyst Kate Faulkner of Propertychecklists.co.uk has highlighted to EYE that consumer guides released after the Ministry of Housing buying and selling guidance were updated give further detail.
The guide, compiled by industry bodies across the sector such as RICS, the Conveyancing Association, NAEA Propertymark and the British Association of Removers, said: “Packing by the remover is currently limited to china, glass and breakable items.”
This guide isn’t signposted in the Ministry of Housing buying and selling document so it may be hard for consumers to find if they are not aware of it. You can find it here.
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