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The government has announced a raft of measures to protect renters and landlords during the Covid-19 crisis, including extending the three-month mortgage payment holiday to buy to let investors and stopping evictions.

Last night (March 18), the government confirmed that landlords will also be able to apply for a three-month payment holiday on buy to let mortgages under emergency coronavirus legislation.

This move has been welcomed by landlord organisations, the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association, which said the payment holiday “will take a lot of pressure off landlords enabling them to be as flexible as possible with tenants facing difficulties with their rent payments”.

As part of the legislation housing secretary Robert Jenrick also announced that private tenants could not be evicted from their homes for at least three months if they are struggling to pay their rent.

At the end of this three-month period, the government expects landlords and tenants to work together to “establish an affordable repayment plan” which takes into account tenants’ individual circumstances.

Mr Jenrick MP 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.

“These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”

There will also be no new possession proceedings through applications to the court starting during the crisis.

During prime minister’s questions yesterday, Boris Johnson said the government was prepared to bring forward emergency legislation to protect private renters from eviction.

At the time he said: “We will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction, that is one thing we will do but it is also important as we legislate that we do not pass on the problem so we will also be taking steps to protect other actors in the economy.”

Marc von Grundherr, director of letting agent Benham and Reeves, said: “We’re all for state support at a time of crisis however there’s a significant unintended consequence of this announcement and that is the fact tenants now have nothing to lose if they simply stop paying their rent.

“It will simply be used as a literal get out of jail free card for all of the UK’s 16m or so private and social housing tenants and this could leave a path of destruction within the rental market if not correctly implemented and monitored.

“Let’s see what the details reveal but at first glance, this perhaps goes too far unless there are specific criteria that must be met and proven before tenants stop paying and landlords claim their mortgage holiday.

“Ultimately, landlords will still have to pay as this approach is a deferral, not a let off. How will they recoup the rent if tenants are unable or simply refuse to pay it?”

The developments come after chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Tuesday a £330bn war chest of loans to protect businesses against the financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus.

He also announced mortgage lenders would be forced to provide up to three months’ relief from mortgage payments to consumers who needed it.

This dwarfed the £30bn of government funds announced at the Budget last week.

Meanwhile the spreading coronavirus crisis has caused global markets to tumble as governments across the world shut their borders, locked down domestic travel and closed sports and leisure facilities.

The prime minister has urged everyone to avoid unnecessary social contact, to work from home where possible, and to stay away from pubs and restaurants.

Schools will be shut from Friday afternoon onwards and will remain closed until further notice except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work to support the country’s fight to tackle coronavirus.

By Amy Austin

Source: FT Adviser

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