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With the Prime Minister’s announcement (31 October 2020) that England will be returning to a comprehensive lockdown from 5 November, private landlords in England are understandably concerned about their rental businesses. 

Landlord confidence 

A recent survey of just over 2,000 landlords found that 48% were expecting ‘slightly’ negative impact while 18% said the impact of the covid-19 pandemic would be ‘significant’. 
More importantly, landlord confidence has fallen and more than half now say they are less likely to achieve their goals during the next year, compared with just three months ago. 
As concerns increase some landlords are postponing investment decisions although 16% say they still plan to purchase one or more properties over the next year. However, almost a third say they will sell one or more properties. 
Figures suggest that arrears in the private rental sector in England as a result of the covid-19 pandemic could already be up to £437million. Landlords are asking the government to help sustain tenancies by providing the finances needed to pay off covid-19 related arrears. To date the government has announced £180million funding to local authorities for discretionary housing payments and an extra £1billion to increase Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates. 

Guidance for landlords and tenants 

The government’s current guidance of best practices for managing your private rental properties will remain in place until at least 4 November. 
The Housing Minister has informally said that the housing market will remain open. You will be able to market your property and arrange viewings, moving in, and cleaning the property after check-out. This might be reviewed as more details are provided and legislation is passed. 
However, viewings can’t take place where a current or prospective tenant has any covid-19 related symptoms and, where possible, initial viewings should take place virtually. Viewings and inspections won’t be possible where anyone at the property is self-isolating. 
For the time being the requirement to meet prospective tenants to complete a right to rent check has been temporarily changed. Tenants can submit scanned copies of original documents which can be verified during a video call. It will be important to record the date this adjusted check is made. Once the restrictions are lifted a meeting will be needed to complete a follow-up of the check in person. 
During the earlier lockdown the courts were closed and possession proceedings were suspended, but the government has confirmed that the courts will be remaining open. However, enforcement might be delayed until restrictions are eased. 
Essential work, safety and energy performance inspections can still go ahead provided government guidance for working safely in people’s homes is followed although non-essential work should be delayed where possible. With more people working from home problems with heating and hot water will be high priorities. 
In general, we should avoid entering properties for any other reasons and wherever possible, contact with tenants should take place remotely. 
We will provide further updates as soon as more information is available. 
You can also see updates on the UK Association of Letting Agents (UKALA) website
If you have any questions or concerns, please get in touch
Tagged as: coronavirus, landlords, UKALA
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