Landlords agree to offer tenants rent reductions if they're struggling due to coronavirus

LANDLORDS have agreed to offer tenants rent reductions if they're struggling to afford payments due to the coronavirus crisis.

They will also consider deferring rent payments or even suspending them altogether to help tenants through financial difficulties brought on by the pandemic.

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Five leading industry trade bodies have united to come up with a new set of guidelines for landlords and tenants if affording housing costs becomes impossible because of the financial impact of the pandemic.

Research by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) found that around 10 per cent of renters have been unable to pay their bills in recent months.

But the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned that a third of renters on furlough fear they won't be able to afford housing costs as lockdown is eased.

While a three month ban on tenant evictions has been extended, there is no option for renters to pause payments, unlike mortgage holidays which are available to struggling homeowners.

What to do if you can't pay your rent

FOR private renters, speak to your landlord as soon as you can.

They may be able to defer your payment, or to allow you to pay a smaller amount – but they don't have to do this.

Social renters should speak to their housing association.

Currently, renters are safe from being evicted after Boris Johnson banned landlords from booting out their tenants.

This measure started on March 27, was initially mean to last for 90 days and due to finish around June.

This has been extended for another three months and won't end until sometime in August.

Once this ends, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan.

Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Many people in the private rented sector are worried about the prospect of losing their home.

“The government has pledged that no renter would be forced out of their home because of coronavirus.

“They need to make urgent changes to the rules governing eviction to ensure they keep this promise”

The new guidance advises landlords to work with tenants to help navigate them through their financial woes and to maintain a good relationship.

Both parties should open conversations early on, the guidelines recommend, rather than wait until the payments can't be made and the rent arrears become an issue.

It also includes organisations and budgeting tools that renters can turn to for extra help to manage their finances, like Citizens Advice, Universal Credit and MoneySavingExpert.

Unfortunately, the guidelines aren't legally binding so a landlord doesn't have to agree to a reduction in rent as a solution and there won't be any repercussions either.

The organisers say that the guidance has been published to support the government's aim to have measures in place when the ban on evictions ends at the second half of August.

But the government is currently working on its own legal guidance for when the ban is lifted.

Lord Greenhalgh, a minister at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said recently: "Work is underway with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, to ensure that judges have all the information necessary to make just decisions and that the most vulnerable tenants can get the help they need when possession cases resume.”

The document has been put together by industry insiders that represent all aspects of the market, including landlords, deposit schemes, letting agents and the ombudsman.

These are the NRLA, Chartered Institute of Housing, The Property Redress Scheme, My Deposits, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and ARLA Propertymark.

In a joint statement, the organisations said: "COVID-19 has posed significant challenges for both tenants and landlords.

"As a group we are committed to doing everything possible to sustain tenancies both through and beyond this period of crisis.

"The guidance being launched today has an important role to play in achieving this and we encourage all tenants and landlords to work through it together in a spirit of positive co-operation."

In non-coronavirus related news, a ban on letting agents and landlords ripping off tenants by charging extortionate fees has now been extended to all renters.

And tenants can also now sue their landlords if their homes are cold and mouldy and they refuse to do anything about it.


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