The last three or four weeks have been unquestionably one of the most life-changing times we have seen since WW2. The threat of Coronavirus has taken over the world, the UK and, yes, Ashford and will challenge you, your relationships and family, and test us all.
The drive of the worldwide action on social distancing is not just to stop individuals from getting ill with the virus; the bigger drive is to slow down the development of this virus so the NHS will not become overwhelmed with those most likely to need hospital care. Yet the issue of social distancing has certainly raised many questions surrounding the landlord/agent/tenant relationship, so in this article I wanted to share with all 1,840 Ashford landlords their rights, obligations and responsibilities to their Ashford tenants. I also wanted to highlight the rights, obligations and responsibilities of the 4,545 Ashford tenants in return.
These will be trying times for Ashford landlords and tenants alike, so let’s start…
A landlord has the responsibility to ensure the property is fit for habitation, so what if the Ashford landlord/agent is incapable of undertaking an emergency repair (or say the annual gas safety check) because the tenant is self-isolating or actually has the virus? The answer is the landlord should use their best efforts to fix the problem if it’s an urgent repair, yet if the landlord/agent are unable to do so they should record this fact and that it is related to the Coronavirus epidemic. One should then re-try as soon as is possible and appropriate, having full respect for information on self-isolation, personal-safety and social-distancing and ensure that you make a written note for future issue. My advice is that you or your agent (as we are with our tenants) need to uphold good lines of communication with the tenants touched by these current circumstances, so they are clear on what action you are taking and the timescales for this.
Yet at the same time, there will be situations in the coming weeks when the contractors who the landlord/agent use will also be in self-isolation, meaning a handful of the 4,545 Ashford tenants might have to wait for repairs to be sorted. We have some excellent Ashford contractors with their own backup plans and so together we will use our best endeavours to find an alternative contractor to fix any issues. If your agent has issues, then maybe we can help – do call me. Yet whatever you do, if this occurs, document everything and that it is related to the Coronavirus epidemic.
The total rent paid by Ashford tenants each month is £5,690,300
The UK government has demanded that building societies and banks give a three-month mortgage holiday to those landlords that are unable to make mortgage payments. This is not free cash, the mortgage payments are simply postponed with interest to be collected at the end of this crisis, meaning your obligation as an Ashford tenant to pay the rent still exists. HM Government is offering employers an 80% wage support with furloughing to avoid having to make people redundant and the rent for your Ashford rental home will be treated in the same way as the landlord’s mortgage.
The average Ashford rental payment currently stands at £1,252 per month
Therefore, if you are incapable of being able to pay your rent, it will still accumulate during this virus predicament and you will need to start a payment plan to pay it back on top of your normal monthly rent. So if your rent is the average £1,252pm and you have already been living there for 2 months into a 12 month tenancy, there is still £12,520 to be paid over the next 10 months, so should you not pay anything for 3 months your rent would increase by 43% a month for the last seven months or you face eviction due to arrears (remember arrears have been put on hold – not removed during the virus outbreak). One option, subject to status and agreement by all parties, could be to renegotiate a new longer lease to pay off the arrears over a longer period. Again, the point here is communication from all sides – making sure there are no nasty surprises.
So, if you are in this predicament, there is a lot of help accessible from the HM Government including Universal Credit or Employment Support to assist you in avoiding interruptions to your payments. Remember, your Ashford landlord will need proof of your Universal Credit or Employment Support claims to give to their mortgage company to be able to start their mortgage holiday, so my advice to all the 4,545 Ashford tenants is keep in contact with your agent to ensure your Ashford landlord doesn’t suffer any avoidable hardship (which ultimately could end up with your home being repossessed if mortgage payments were missed because you were unable to furnish the landlord with your own claim documents).
Communication is the number 1 priority here. Whilst most agent’s premises are closed including our own, all are open for telephone and email enquiries, with staff working from home. This is a fast-changing time for everybody, for the 1,840 Ashford landlords and 4,545 Ashford tenants correspondingly and we will be ever vigilant to oversee the financial and monetary backdrop in the coming months.
These are going to be tough times for the people of Ashford (and the world), financially and mentally; yet together we will come out of this stronger. By working together, working in partnership, and keeping lines of communication open with regards to your finances and your housing, by keeping safe and protecting our families and most of all by being kind to each other … we will get through this, perhaps a little battered and bruised, yet -just maybe – better human beings for it…