Coronavirus Advice For Tenants and Contractors

Covid19FIS Advice from Flats in Southsea

Thanks to Alwin Oliver and his team at Flats In Southsea for allowing us to share this advice which they produced for their own landlords, tenants and contractors 

Implications of the current Coronavirus status for landlords and tenants

This article sets out our advice to landlords and tenants in general and if you have been sent a link by your landlord please regard this as their response to the many challenges stemming from the COVID 19 Pandemic.

Viewings

This week one of our members asked the letting agents' professional body, the Association of Residential Letting Agents, for clarification on viewings. The Chief Executive responded personally late in the evening; "Whilst I have to stress that (landlords and) businesses must make their own commercial decisions, I would suggest that physical viewings should probably cease for the foreseeable future". A big thank you to David Cox, chief executive of ARLA and Ben Beadle of the NRLA who work tirelessly to support the industry and are our finest ambassador and advisors

We are advising landlords to avoid viewings, or property inspections unless unavoidable, with the possible exception of Gas Safety Certificates and CAT 1 Hazards, see below

Next A Thank You

First to the people who work behind the scenes at PDLPA and NRLA providing up to date advice and support to landlords at a very difficult time, ever dedicated and resourceful, for working hard in the background to keep landlord businesses running as smoothly as possible in unprecedented times, often offering to come in or going beyond the terms of your employment. You are all incredible and we cannot thank you enough.

Tenants

A huge thank you to all of you who have been polite, understanding and caring in your communications with us, it makes more difference than you can ever know. We all need to be kind to each other in these difficult times and many of you are showing that you have got the message. If anything good comes of this we will all wake up to a kinder more caring world.

Signing Up For New Tenancies

including students signing up for September 2020 Many landlords are working remotely but able to access most of the documentation, please contact your landlord directly by email not WhatsApp or social medial as this is easier to access if you have any questions about this process and keep a record of what is going on. Note that a tenancy is a contractual agreement and is the basis of a landlords livelihood – we have to assume that normality will start to return by September and the next student year will start then – if you want to make arrangements for your student home then, you have to commit and sign a contract – it cannot be optional. If you are uncomfortable with this, then please do not sign a contract now but wait until nearer the time when things are clearer – but also accept that all of the best properties will probably have been taken by then.

Rent

We want to make it clear that our advice to landlords is that where a tenant has suffered a reduction in income due to COVID 19 landlords should do everything they can to come to an arrangement for you to repay the arrears over a period of time (but please pay what you can as soon as you are able). As landlords are required to pass details of unpaid rent on to their mortgage companies, they will be asking for some proof. Bear with us, that is the way the world works even in these uncertain times. Landlords in turn have to provide evidence to their mortgage companies to ask for a deferral. Please remember that many landlords have a portfolio of one or two properties, are of retirement age and may themselves be vulnerable. Looked at this way you may be asking to take away somebody's pension income and we ask that you think carefully before putting your landlord in this position.

Students Asking To End The Tenancy Early

We have had a number of requests and understand a number of you may have gone home, either as a temporary measure or not expecting to return at this stage. While we understand the question, but please remember that you have signed a legally binding contract your landlords are depending on the income from their property. While they can seek to defer mortgage payments landlords will have to repay it eventually and they still expect an income.  We have also been told by local universities that grant payments will continue to be made, so most students will not be in a position of additional hardship.

If you are considering asking for early release, or are reading this because you have asked, there is no really good reason why a student in receipt of a loan or other arrangement in hand before you moved in should not continue to pay the rent. Looked at another way, because you are asking to breach a legally binding contract, every request has to be recorded and responded to.

Put simply, asking to defer puts your landlord under unnecessary stress and anxiety, since in many cases the rental from a property is their main income and we ask that you just accept that the contract stands and pay in the usual way. Please pay the April rent as it falls due and consider paying the balance of the tenancy amount when your last loan payment hits your bank, that way it is done and you don’t have to worry about it. Check your tenancy end date when making the payment.

Ultimately if you fail to pay rent your landlord will ask for payment from your guarantor and if that is declined they will seek to recover the sums via the county courts, a process that could add their legal costs to the judgement debt and impact on your credit rating We hope never to have to do that, but please understand that there will be no exceptions.

Safety And Maintenance

Many gas engineers and electricians are working on gas safety and emergency calls only but we ask that if they have to visit that you maintain social distancing, so please open the door, verify their identity (VERY IMPORTANT) and then allow them to go about their work. This means that they will usually be alone in the room where they are working.

For other maintenance issues, Landlords will be working to the housing health & Safety rating system (Housing Act 2004) attending all CAT 1 hazards as soon as possible and CAT 2 on a need by need basis, depending on contractor availability usually within 7-14 days. We advise landlords to suspend all minor maintenance jobs, for example fences, borders and gardens. If you have locked yourself out, broken something or blocked a drain your landlord will usually ask you to resolve these matters if they are your responsibility.

If you cannot manage these things yourself our landlord members will do their best to provide you with a contractor number, it will be your responsibility to pay for this service. For genuine emergencies call your landlord for advice.

Thank you all whoever you are, tenants, landlords or facebook friends. If you have found this update interesting or useful please give us a like and feel free to share.

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Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.

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