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Working with tenants in difficult times

COVID-19 has drastically changed how many businesses operate. It’s impacting the income and welfare of millions in the UK. With the UK set for a harsh economic downturn[1], the mood isn’t feeling especially hopeful for landlords with rentals. What’s important to remember is that no one is untouched by the impact of the virus, and it’s important more than ever to come together as a community.

Under current legislation, renters are protected from eviction for three months from the 26th March 2020[2]. Tenants are advised to continue paying their rent as normal, as the legislation doesn’t mean that tenants can suddenly stop paying their rent even if they are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

As a landlord with a portfolio of properties, this can place you in a difficult position. PIP Estate Agents stress the importance of working together with tenants and opening channels of communication. It’s important to show humanity during these unprecedented times, especially as more tenants may be moving on to Universal Credit or experiencing a reduction in income.

Many tenants may not wish to admit they are struggling to pay their rent, so as a landlord you could opt to approach them first. Coming to an agreement to reduce the rent for a few months, or having a fixed payment plan for rent arrears, ensures that landlords still have some income to help cover their costs.

Avoid going for overly formal letters, and instead aim to be approachable. Let them know you’re on their side and have their best interests at heart. Keeping a current tenant in place is much more preferable at the moment, even if you need to agree to a reduction in rent for the time being. It’s important to think about getting through the coming weeks, rather than months down the line.

Many tenants have been furloughed or lost their jobs entirely, so Universal Credit applications have naturally increased during the pandemic[3]. The application process for Universal Credit is long, so whilst tenants are awaiting information regarding a decision, landlords should encourage clear communication.

PIP Estate Agents understands treading the line of business and supportive philanthropist is difficult for any landlord, especially during difficult times such as the virus. It’s important to ensure that tenants continue to pay their rent as per their rental agreement, but also to understand that COVID-19 has changed the face of everyday life.