19 Mar 2020

The government has announced a complete ban on evictions in the private and social sectors for any tenant affected by the Coronavirus outbreak – and it’s been done with the blessing of trade groups.

A statement from the government last night said that emergency legislation would be taken forward “as an urgent priority” so that landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least a three-month period. 

“As a result of these measures, no renters in private or social accommodation needs to be concerned about the threat of eviction” says the statement, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The government says that the three-month mortgage payment holiday announced earlier this week for owner occupiers would be extended “to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus.” 

However, then the onus is left very much with landlords – and presumably agents – to work out what happens next.

“This presents a potential massive problem for hundreds of thousands of Landlords,” said Phil Turtle, health and safety compliance director with Landlord Licensing and Defence www.lldl.co.uk. “Many tenants will assume that this is Carte Blanche to skip paying rent without understanding or caring that landlords will still have to pay gas, electricity, water, sewerage, broadband, fire alarm testing, maintenance, and the increased Council Tax bills that are currently dropping through letterboxes.”

“We are calling on Housing Minister Robert Jenrick to provide a properly thought through solution including making it clear to tenants that this is not FREE rent but has to be paid back and so they should not claim rent holidays unless absolutely essential. Also, a package needs to be out in place for landlords to not only claim mortgage payment holidays but also to have access to deferred payment or bridging facilities on utility bills. Mr Jenrick must also take into account that for a lot of landlords their BTL income is all or a significant proportion of their income and ensure that while we are being made to support tenants there is support for us to also afford to live.

“Failure to do this,” Turtle continued, “will lead to unpaid bills, ruined credit ratings and bankruptcies which will in turn make these same tenants homeless.”

The MHCLG says: “At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.”

The government will also issue guidance which asks landlords to show compassion and to allow tenants who are affected by this to remain in their homes wherever possible. 

“This important step on buy to let mortgages ensures parity of support, further to the announcement … that the government made for private mortgage holders. We are also announcing that those who have benefited from a government backed Help to Buy equity loan will be offered interest payment holidays if they are struggling to pay due to coronavirus” the MHCLG statement continues.  

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick adds: “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 [sic] 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.”

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