COVID-19 has brought a new normal, transforming our reality completely, especially when it comes to making business. Undoubtedly, real estate and hospitality were some of the most affected sectors. Properties had to be adapted and redefined, and uncertainty is present in the crucial elements such as prices, houses available to rent and tenants flow. Handling with tenants and eviction during COVID-19 might be difficult and very specific. That is why we have prepared this article. Here, we’ll focus on the current government guidelines, and how you can handle with tenant eviction of tenants failing to pay, which is a problem many landlords have been struggling with since the beginning of lockdown.
Current government guidelines
Currently, the government requires any business to focus primarily on safety and prevention to help slow down the spread of the virus. When it comes to our industry, landlords should not only prioritise tenants’ safety, but also consider the imminent possibility of reintroduction of stricter lockdown measures by the government. And you need to preapre in case that happens.
One way you should promote safety as a landlord, letting agent or managing agent, is by carrying out a health and safety risk assessment specifically targetting at COVID-19. You should also do what is best to implement a safe way of working – cleaning the property thoroughly after each tenant leaves and choosing remote meetings with your tenant or prospective tenant over face-to-face gatherings.
What can you not do?
You must be very careful as some rules have changed and others have not. Always check the newest government regulations to make sure that everything that you do is legal.
What you can and cannot do is typically expressed in the contract. It also depends on the legislation for your type of property. With COVID-19, some guidelines have also changed. We’ll explain some of the actions you are and are not entitled to take in terms of tenant eviction.
For instance, if not clarified in the contract, you do not have the right to enter an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) without the tenant’s consent. However, there is probably a term in the contract signed by your tenant that allows you to access the property for viewings or repairs. In this case, you can visit your property after notifying the tenant or not.
For HMOs, where the tenant only rents an individual room or bedsit, you can to access the common parts. However, in any of these situations (HMOs, ASTs, and others), you and the tenants must follow public health guidance by the NHS.
Related to eviction, you must be very careful as some rules have changed and others have not. Always check the newest government regulations to make sure that everything that you do is legal. For instance, you cannot evict a tenant straight away as a result of coronavirus. This counts as illegal eviction, which is a criminal offence with or without COVID-19.
Unfortunately, landlords are also not able to evict tenants during the national emergency due to the new Coronavirus Act 2020. It inhibited landlords from evicting tenants and repossessing their properties even when they stop paying rents from 26 March 2020 until 30 September 2020.
We are now in the middle of October, and unless this regulation is not extended, this is your chance to give an eviction notice for tenants not paying rent. You still must give the tenant at least a three months’ notice if you need the property. As the court actions are unpredictable, the best thing to do is start as early as you can.
How Can I Deal With Tenants Not Paying?
Let’s say the Coronavirus Act 2020 that prohibits tenants’ eviction will be extended again. In this case, you must deal with those tenants that are not paying.
The first thing to do is to prepare for negotiation and put all agreements in writing. No, you don’t need to feel pressured to suspend or reduce rents if you don’t want it (or cannot do it), but it may be a possibility. You can negotiate other variations of lease terms of even suggest early surrender.
Speaking with the tenants is the best way to solve this problem. If you suspect that they are really struggling to make payments on time, you can even create a customised agreement, in which they pay at their own pace, for example.
Another useful tip is to notify the tenant that you want to check on the property and visit from time to time. This way, you are able to monitor physical damage or any changes. Also, you can even review the services that need to be provided (if you have a Serviced Accommodation, for example).
In general, we recommend that you solve the issue amicably. The cost of a litigation or dispute can be high. Apart from that, the process can be also emotionally draining. We write more about dealing with tenants here.
COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on our lives. Many things have been changed, yet there are also a few things that didn’t change at all. An example is evicting the tenant for no reason and without notice.
Also, no. Tenants cannot be just kicked out because they are not paying rent. We know that you can also be struggling with your mortgage and other payments, but the regulation is precise.
If you are suspecting that the tenant has the money but prefers not to pay and take advantage of the legislation, you can always call their human side by saying that you are also struggling. After all, many landlords live out of rents, and even when they do not, this money is part of their income.
If you are still looking for advice and support, check with the government. Due to the Coronavirus, they are offering support for some people in need. But do not forget that they don’t give you the rights to evict your tenants. You can also encourage tenants who are unable to pay to look for government financial help when possible.