The Government has announced a radical package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus. As a result, no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time.
Emergency legislation will 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.
Recognising the additional pressures the virus may put on landlords, we have confirmed that the three month mortgage payment holiday announced yesterday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. This will alleviate the pressure on landlords, who will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves, and will mean no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.
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.
To support this announcement the government has worked with the Master of the Rolls to widen the ‘pre-action protocol’ on possession proceedings, to include private renters and to strengthen its remit. This will support the necessary engagement between landlords and tenants to resolve disputes and landlords will have to reach out to tenants to understand the financial position they are in.
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. The National Housing Federation and Local Government Association have welcomed the new support for social renters and made clear that no one should be evicted because of the coronavirus.
This important step on buy to let mortgages ensures parity of support, further to the announcement yesterday 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.
Housing Secretary Robert 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.”
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association said: “Landlord groups welcomes government support. We recognise the exceptional circumstances and we will work collaboratively with government to ensure these measures protect both landlords and tenants.”
Councils leading local efforts
Responding to the Government pledge to protect renters amid the coronavirus outbreak, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, commented: “Councils are leading local efforts to support communities as they try and cope with the coronavirus outbreak. They will be working with tenants who are experiencing financial challenges as a result to support them to stay in their homes. Many are already suspending debt recovery and will try and use discretionary funding to support struggling household as quickly and effectively as possible
“Councils need the flexibility to ensure hardship funding announced by the Government is best-used to support economically vulnerable people and households and are also seeking clarity on how it can be integrated with other financial hardship support that is being provided locally and through the benefits system.
“We are pleased the Government has committed to bringing forward measures to protect tenants from eviction and look forward to seeing the details. This needs to include urgently addressing the growing shortfall before housing benefit and private sector rents that has opened up.”
Extra support for residents
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “We welcome government’s extra support for renters. We understand some people living in social housing will be concerned about how they’re going to pay rent and we want to reassure them that no one in a housing association home will be evicted due to coronavirus. If you are concerned about your ability to pay, please contact your housing association who will want to support you.
“Rent is really important to not-for-profit housing associations — this money allows them to carry out essential repairs and maintenance work and provide support services to people in their homes. Where people’s circumstances change due to the coronavirus, the welfare system must step in to ensure they can pay their rent and have money to live off.
“Housing associations will continue to work closely with residents to help them manage their rent and ensure they can access all benefits they are entitled to. We want to work with government to ensure there is support in place for housing associations dealing with any loss of income from rent.”
Continue protecting residents
Tamara Hooper, UK Residential Policy Manager at RICS, said: “Giving tenants safety through rent and eviction protection measures during this national health crisis is welcome from Government.
“Ministers must now continue protecting tenants by ensuring any debt accumulated does not become a financial burden or used by a minority of unscrupulous landlords once the emergency protections end. The Government should now urgently update and republish their residential ‘How to Guides’ so tenants have all the information on these measures in one place.
“With many thousands of tenants now staying home as per official advice, Government must acknowledge those living in tenures with the lowest standards and work to ensure they have the right to safe and good quality housing by introducing the rules and requirements recommended by the Regulation of Property Agent working group report.”
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