Like with most other industries, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is having a dramatic impact on the rental market and will continue to do so for some time.
Many elements of property management have been affected including finding new tenants, tenants moving in and out, securing buy-to-let mortgages and carrying out maintenance work on your properties. As the situation is constantly evolving it can be hard to know how to tackle these issues, so it is important to stay informed.
Legislation has been introduced in an attempt to protect renters and landlords as both parties come under financial strain. The measures ensure landlords have to give 3 months’ notice if they intend to seek possession, suspend all ongoing housing possession action for at least 90 days, and give buy-to-let landlords a three month mortgage holiday.
While the legislation is a step in the right direction, it has been criticised by many as not providing enough protection for both tenants and landlords and there have been calls for further action by the government.
In regard to moving homes, new government guidance states: “Given the situation in the UK with regard to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), we urge parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes.
“There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.”
For those who have a move scheduled during the stay-at-home measures, the advice is: “Homebuyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Zoopla’s latest data and analysis reveal that due to the current climate buyer demand has fallen dramatically and an increasing number of potential buyers are pulling out of deals as they are putting major financial decisions on hold.
Last week saw nearly 300 buy-to-let mortgages withdrawn from the market with more likely to follow. This comes as some lenders withdraw products or suspend lending altogether due to the uncertainty caused by the outbreak. For now, the withdrawals seem to primarily be focused on the very highest loan-to-value products.
Along with worries over financial uncertainty, there is a practical element to these withdrawals, however, as most lenders are currently overwhelmed with requests for payment holidays and can’t arrange valuations.
Additionally, with the government’s stricter distancing guidelines, the viewing process is impeded. Agents are trying to plan around this as the introduction of video viewings online via Facetime and Skype. However, how successful this will be against the backdrop of buyer and mover caution is yet to be seen.
The UK rental market is inevitably going to face a slowdown, so it’s important for both tenants and landlords to work together to make sure the impact is minimal for both parties.
Can maintenance repairs be carried out?
In short, yes. The latest update from the government advises: “Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.”
This is on the condition that social distancing guidelines are followed and that neither the occupants or contractors display any symptoms, no matter how mild.
In the case that the occupant is self-isolating, the government advises: “No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.”
Can gas safety checks be carried out?
The Gas Safe Register announced that following government advice they anticipate that they will only be carrying out inspections into high-risk scenarios that will be assessed on a case by case basis.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have stated that landlords still have a duty of care to their tenants and a legal duty to ensure an annual safety check and keep a record of each inspection.
As gas safety checks can be carried out at any point between 10 to 12 months after the previous check it is advised that landlords arrange these check as early as possible within the given timeframe.
HSE have recognised that there may be difficulties in carrying out the inspections such as tenants self-isolating or a lack of available engineers. It has therefore been advised that landlords document their attempts to arrange inspections so they are covered.
Make sure that you are regularly checking for updates from the government and the NHS and adapting your approach to follow all guidelines.