The government will bring forward emergency legislation to protect private renters from eviction, Boris Johnson has said.
Tenants were “worried sick” they might not be able to pay rents if they fell ill, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said at Prime Minister’s Questions.
As Wales and Scotland said they would close schools by Friday Mr Johnson said a decision on England was imminent.
It came after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £350bn of help for companies.
On Tuesday, the chancellor promised mortgage “holidays”, £330bn in loans and £20bn in other aid.
The government had been urged to do more for families, workers and tenants affected by coronavirus.
Mr Corbyn urged the PM to protect private renters in “the interests of public health”, adding Britain’s 20m private renters were “worried sick” about missing payments if they became ill, lost pay or had to self-isolate.
Mr Johnson said it will bring forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction, but will also avoid “pass[ing] on the problem” by “taking steps to protect other actors in the economy”.
Housing associations will not evict tenants who are affected by the virus and fall behind on rent payments, Kate Henderson, of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations in England, has confirmed.
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House prices hit a fresh peak in February, according to Halifax, but the bank issued a warning about the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the property market later in the year.
The UK’s biggest mortgage lender said prices rose by 0.3% in February to a record of £240,677. The quarterly rate of house price inflation also rose to 2.9%.
Buyers face prices that are on average £8,000 more than in September last year, when Brexit worries were fuelling a downturn in the market.
The Halifax managing director, Russell Galley, said: “The UK housing market has remained steady heading into early spring. The sustained level of buyer and seller activity is strong compared to recent years, with positive employment conditions and a competitive mortgage market continuing to support demand.”
However, the February figures reflect property market activity before the coronavirus-inspired falls in stock market values and financial confidence.
Galley said: “Looking ahead, there are a number of risks, including the potential impact of coronavirus, which continue to exert pressure on the economy and we wait to see how these will affect housing market sentiment later in the year.”
Estate agents reported that coronavirus fears are already hitting some sales. Lucy Pendleton of the agents James Pendleton in London said: “Coronavirus impacted our business for the first time on Wednesday, stealing away a sale that was just days from exchanging.
“The buyer worked in the events industry, which is being rocked by large numbers of cancellations. He was unfortunately one of the employees told his job was at risk, forcing him to pull out of the purchase completely. The hope is this will remain an isolated case but the impact of the virus will become clearer in March.”
Guy Harrington of the real estate lender Glenhawk said that until coronavirus gripped the country, the property market had moved into bull market territory, with a rapid market recovery after the election.
“The question on everyone’s lips now will be whether the damage that coronavirus is doing to other parts of the economy seeps into the housing market, and if so, just how catastrophic will it be?”
New research from Property Master has found that the cost of buy-to-let mortgages has fallen year on year.
Lenders are continuing their support for individual and limited company landlords in anticipation of a busy few months ahead.
According to Property Master, five-year fixed rate buy-to-let mortgages for 65% loan-to-value (LTV) saw costs fall the most. Borrowers now save £48 per month on a £150,000 mortgage compared to 12 months ago.
Two-year fixed rates fell more modestly. The cost of a typical mortgage for £150,000 for 75% of the value of the property was down £25 per month year-on-year. The cost of a 65% LTV product fell by £19 per month.
The falling costs of buy-to-let mortgages are likely to continue. Lenders are reviewing and refreshing their buy-to-let ranges to support landlords keen to remain in the market but conscious of their squeezed profit margins.
Landbay reduces minimum income
Landlords can now access Landbay’s buy-to-let ranges with a minimum income of £15,000. The minimum property value is £75,000 for standard properties and HMOs in qualifying areas.
The lender has also reduced the minimum loan amount by £20,000 to £30,000. Further to this, the maximum standard property loan has increased to £2 million for up to 75% LTV mortgages.
Plus, landlords looking for an 80% LTV can benefit from their standard five-year rate available from 3.89%.
“These changes are part of our strategy to extend our product offering to an even wider range of borrowers, helping our partners support more landlords across the country.”
Support for limited company landlords
The Nottingham for Intermediaries has unveiled a new buy-to-let offer to support landlords restructuring to limited companies. Two-year fixes are now available at 2.76% with a £999 fee and at 2.79% with a 0.50% fee at 75% LTV.
Nikki Warren-Dean, head of intermediary sales at The Nottingham, said: “Judging from the conversations we’ve been having with our broker network, many landlords are considering structuring their portfolios on a limited company basis, if they haven’t already.”
She added that it is important to offer competitively priced products to suit landlords’ needs.
TSB offers landlords mortgage security
Another lender that is offering a refreshed BTL range is TSB. It has introduced its first 10-year fixed rate buy-to-let mortgage products, giving landlords the option of long-term security. For up to 60% LTV, borrowers can get a rate starting from 2.44%. With a 60-75% LTV, landlords can borrow for 3.19% upwards with a range of fee options.
With interest rates currently very low, especially for buy-to-let landlords, some will want the added reassurance of a long-term rate.
TSB has also reduced its rates for three and five-year fixed rate BTL products by up to 0.25%.
Beverley Bradford, TSB’s head of intermediary mortgages, said: “These changes, as well as the introduction of our new 10-year fixed buy-to-let mortgages, should go some way to offering peace of mind to those looking to fix their monthly payments for any length of time that suit their lifestyle.”
Lenders anticipate a busy April
Angus Stewart, chief executive of Property Master, said the company expects a busy few months.
“We suspect many of those landlords will be coming to the end of fixed-rate mortgages around now. They should be pleasantly surprised at what the market is prepared to offer them in terms of a good deal.”