Interactive Investor

Landlords reject rent holidays - what are your options as a tenant?

6th April 2020 12:13

Stephen Little from interactive investor

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Renters have been told not to expect leniency with payments

Tenants must keep paying rent during the coronavirus pandemic, landlords say, and have quashed the hope of any widespread payment holidays.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) says a growing number of tenants have stopped paying due to the introduction of three-month mortgage payment holidays for landlords.

But the association says tenants need to keep paying where possible and wants the Government to update its guidance to say this.

There have been calls from some groups, such as the National Union of Students, to introduce rent breaks for all tenants.

Ben Beadle, NRLA chief executive, says: “The mortgage repayment holiday is only available for landlords who are struggling to make their payments because their tenants are unable to pay part or all of their rent as a direct result of the coronavirus and through no fault of their own.

“It is not an automatic payment holiday and landlords who successfully apply still have to make these payments later on. It is not a grant.

“What it does allow is that where a tenant is having genuine difficulty in meeting their rent payment because of a loss of income, landlords have much greater flexibility to agree a mutually acceptable plan with the tenant to defer the rent due.”

Dan Wilson-Craw, director of renter campaign group Generation Rent, says: “While the Government has increased local housing allowance (LHA), this fails to cover the full rent for 70% of renters. That means many people who have lost income will struggle and get into rent arrears. Although evictions have been suspended, once that is lifted we are likely to see a flood of eviction notices against these tenants.

“To avoid creating a homelessness crisis in three months, the Government must increase LHA further to cover average rents, stop landlords raising the rent on their tenants, and ban evictions for arrears built up during this period.”

Issues regarding rent

The coronavirus has left millions of people facing a significant loss of income and struggling to pay their rent.

With the country in lockdown, work for many self-employed workers and people on zero-hours contracts has dried up.

Millions of workers have also been put on furlough and may only be getting 80% of their salary, unless their firm has decided to top their wages up.

People have also been unable to work due to illness as a result of the coronavirus, while others have lost their jobs.

What are the rights of tenants during the crisis?

On 18 March, the Government brought in legislation preventing tenants from being evicted during the outbreak.

On 26 March, further legislation was introduced suspending all evictions in the court system.

The ban will apply to almost all renters – except lodgers – and no one will face eviction for three months.

This means that landlords cannot start any court proceedings until after this period.

Mortgage holidays

Confusion over rent breaks appears to have arisen after the Government brought in measures giving landlords mortgage holidays.

Buy-to-let landlords who are struggling with mortgage payments have been granted a three-month mortgage holiday.

Landlords can apply for a mortgage holiday if their payments and their tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus.

What to do if you cannot pay your rent

If you are having problems paying your rent during the coronavirus outbreak you should contact your landlord as quickly as possible and explain the situation to them.

They may be able to give you more time to pay or reduce your payments.

It is a good idea to pay what you can afford and keep a record of what is offered.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your landlord, you should contact a housing charity such as Shelter or Citizens Advice.

This article was originally published in our sister magazine Moneywise, which ceased publication in August 2020.

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