Category: General Landlord News

SEPTEMBER: Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020: letter to local authorities

SEPTEMBER: Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020: letter to local authorities

The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 was laid on 28 August 2020 and came into force on 29 August 2020

The regulations amend Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 to require residential landlords to give tenants 6 months’ notice of their intention to seek possession, except in the most serious cases. These regulations will only apply in England.

The department wrote to chief executives of local authorities, chief housing officers and chief officers of children’s services in England about the amending regulations on 7 September 2020.

Tenant Fees Act

Tenant Fees Act

Documents related to the Tenant Fees Act, which sets out the government’s approach to banning letting fees paid by tenants in the private rented sector.

The Tenant Fees Act bans most letting fees and caps tenancy deposits paid by tenants in the private rented sector in England.

The ban on tenant fees applies to new or renewed tenancy agreements signed on or after 1 June 2019.

The government guidance on the Act for tenants, landlords and letting agents helps explain how this legislation affects them. You might also find the ‘How to Rent’ and ‘How to Let’ guides useful.

The aim of the Act is to reduce the costs that tenants can face at the outset, and throughout, a tenancy. Tenants will be able to see, at a glance, what a given property will cost them in the advertised rent with no hidden costs.

The party that contracts the service – the landlord – will be responsible for paying for that service, helping ensure the fees charged reflect the real economic value of the services provided and sharpen letting agents’ incentive to compete for landlords’ business.

Local enforcement authorities have primary responsibility for enforcing this legislation. The Tenant Fees Act created an independent lead enforcement authority to provide advice and information to local authorities on the Act. Bristol city council has been appointed as the lead enforcement authority for lettings.

From 1 June 2019, the only payments that landlords or letting agents can charge to tenants in relation to new contracts are:

  • rent
  • a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than 5 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is less than £50,000, or 6 weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
  • a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than 1 week’s rent
  • payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
  • payments capped at £50 (or reasonably incurred costs, if higher) for the variation, assignment or novation of a tenancy
  • payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and Council Tax
  • a default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device giving access to the housing, where required under a tenancy agreement

Tenant Fees Act Guidance

London Landlords Look Set To Lose £65M A Month Because Of Covid-19

London Landlords Look Set To Lose £65M A Month Because Of Covid-19

student 55

The ongoing pandemic is causing travel restrictions and broader health implications for universities. In fact, it’s predicted that the number of students heading to London this term will drop by as much as -24%.

That’s a loss of over £65m a month for the London student rental sector.

London lettings and estate agent, Benham and Reeves, has revealed the best boroughs for student rental demand, despite predictions of a rental market decline due to a lower level of students heading to the capital.

London’s higher education providers accommodate 16% of the UK’s university students each year, and as many as 32% of the capital’s students come from overseas.

The average London student pays £702 a month in rent, meaning those on a three-year course will pay out £8,424 a year, totalling more than £25,000 throughout their course.

This means the capital’s student body brings in nearly £271m to London’s rental market in rent each month, with international students accounting for £85.6m of it.

However, despite this prediction, many areas of London are still experiencing extremely high levels of demand for student accommodation, something that will be welcome news to student landlords across the capital.

According to the research by Benham and Reeves, the number of student-specific rental properties that have already been snapped up by students sits at 22% of all student-specific properties listed on the rental market.

In Merton, for example, this ratio is far higher, with 80% of all student accommodation already let agreed.

Bromley (75%), Bexley (61%), Barking and Dagenham (60%), Hounslow (53%), Harrow (53%) and Redbridge (50%) are also seeing high levels of current student demand for rental properties.

Even in more expensive markets such as Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington and Camden, student rental demand is sitting at 19% to 25%.

Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented:

“There is currently an evident decline in the level of rental demand from students than we might otherwise expect at this time of year. This has, of course, been driven by a lower number of international students looking for properties due to the travel restrictions and other hurdles that the current pandemic has presented.

“However, while predictions of student rental market losses are rather eye-watering, to say the least, we don’t believe this will be an issue that plagues the market for long.

“Many current students are beginning their studies in a virtual capacity until such time they can make a move to London, and once they do, we should see a further influx of demand for suitable student lets.

“University is very much about the life experience you gain from actually moving to a new city or country. With London still offering some of the best standards of higher education you can find worldwide it’s unlikely students will refrain from this first-hand experience unless absolutely necessary.

“Like many areas of life this year, we may see a slow start to the university year. But as life develops to deal with COVID-19, greater degrees of normality will prevail, and this is no different in the rental market student or otherwise.

“The very promising signs are that currently, many boroughs are experiencing massive demand for student rental properties, and this bodes very well for the academic year ahead. Foreign student demand, in particular, can bring very favourable levels of rent for buy-to-let landlords. We regularly have students from China and other areas of Asia renting at well above the average in their chosen areas to ensure they secure the best property they can while studying.”

The average London student pays £702 a month in rent, meaning those on a three-year course will pay out £8,424 a year, totalling more than £25,000 throughout their course.

This means the capital’s student body brings in nearly £271m to London’s rental market in rent each month, with international students accounting for £85.6m of it.

However, despite this prediction, many areas of London are still experiencing extremely high levels of demand for student accommodation, something that will be welcome news to student landlords across the capital.

According to the research by Benham and Reeves, the number of student-specific rental properties that have already been snapped up by students sits at 22% of all student-specific properties listed on the rental market.

In Merton, for example, this ratio is far higher, with 80% of all student accommodation already let agreed.

Bromley (75%), Bexley (61%), Barking and Dagenham (60%), Hounslow (53%), Harrow (53%) and Redbridge (50%) are also seeing high levels of current student demand for rental properties.

Even in more expensive markets such as Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington and Camden, student rental demand is sitting at 19% to 25%.

Marc von Grundherr, Director of Benham and Reeves, commented:

“There is currently an evident decline in the level of rental demand from students than we might otherwise expect at this time of year. This has, of course, been driven by a lower number of international students looking for properties due to the travel restrictions and other hurdles that the current pandemic has presented.

“However, while predictions of student rental market losses are rather eye-watering, to say the least, we don’t believe this will be an issue that plagues the market for long.

“Many current students are beginning their studies in a virtual capacity until such time they can make a move to London, and once they do, we should see a further influx of demand for suitable student lets.

“University is very much about the life experience you gain from actually moving to a new city or country. With London still offering some of the best standards of higher education you can find worldwide it’s unlikely students will refrain from this first-hand experience unless absolutely necessary.

“Like many areas of life this year, we may see a slow start to the university year. But as life develops to deal with COVID-19, greater degrees of normality will prevail, and this is no different in the rental market student or otherwise.

“The very promising signs are that currently, many boroughs are experiencing massive demand for student rental properties, and this bodes very well for the academic year ahead. Foreign student demand, in particular, can bring very favourable levels of rent for buy-to-let landlords. We regularly have students from China and other areas of Asia renting at well above the average in their chosen areas to ensure they secure the best property they can while studying.”

JULY: Safety Checks On Electrical Appliances Become Mandatory

JULY: Safety Checks On Electrical Appliances Become Mandatory

Landlords are already required to make sure that the wiring and appliances in their properties are safe, but from July it will be a legal requirement for private landlords to have their electrical installations inspected every five years and provide safety certificates to tenants and their local authority.

The regulations will apply to all new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.  If serious problems are identified, these will have to be remedied quickly. Local authorities will have a duty to take action if landlords do not comply with the requirements and will be able to issue fines if necessary.

Rent and coronavirus: What comes next for UK landlords and tenants affected by Covid-19?

The coronavirus crisis is now fast-approaching its fourth month and we’re only just starting to see the economic impact. The spectre of a severe recession, the likes of which, in the words of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, “we have not seen” looms large. His words are unambiguous: we are awaiting the biggest economic shock in recent history.

There is rightful concern from one demographic in particular: private renters. This is a group thought to contain about 20 million people who rely on private landlords to keep a roof over their heads. It has grown rapidly over the last decade or so because getting on the housing ladder has become increasingly unaffordable while social housing has been in increasingly short supply.

This pandemic has exposed the precariousness of Britain’s private rented sector for what it is: a national emergency. Before Covid-19 disrupted life as we knew it, renters were already worse off than homeowners, spending a higher proportion of their earnings on housing. Sixty three per cent of them had no savings and almost half of working renters were just one paycheck away from losing their home. Think of them as the “squeezed middle” Ed Miliband once tried to champion – they were already stretching themselves to cover the most essential cost of all: housing.

The Government clocked this would be a huge problem early on. In late March, they announced a three-month suspension of evictions and the restoration of Local Housing Allowance to the lowest third of market rents which renters could access by applying for Universal Credit. These measures went hand in hand with the Job Retention Scheme which, they hoped, would tide anyone whose job was at risk over.

Now, as furloughs are extended, business closures are prolonged and redundancies registered, the housing charity Shelter estimates that around 1.7 million renters expect to lose their job. Early tremors revealed by the latest Office for National Statistics employment data – a 69 per cent increase in people applying to Universal Credit – point to a storm ahead. Citizens Advice estimates that 2.6m renters are behind on rent or expect to be as a result of this pandemic.

As we approach the end of that three-month period, questions are being asked about what the plan is for renters now. Will the evictions suspension be extended or will we, as the London Councils Group has warned, see an “avalanche” of them when it is lifted? Will the increase to Local Housing Allowance continue?

Left-leaning social media accounts are awash with calls for a “rent strike”. Labour’s shadow housing secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, has published a five-point plan for renters which includes protecting them from bankruptcy as a result of any rent arrears. Meanwhile, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said the Government is still “thinking carefully” about what to do next and “developing a much more credible plan to protect renters and to help to shield them through this crisis.”

So where does that leave private renters who are, completely understandably, very worried?

What could happen with evictions and rent arrears?

As things stand, all evictions proceedings are suspended. This was initially done for a 90-day period and takes us up until the end of June. Last week Jenrick told Parliament a decision would be made on the future of the ban shortly before then. One of the suggestions in Labour’s five-point plan is extending it for six months.

Giles Peaker, an expert housing solicitor and partner at Anthony Gold explains: “The Government has increased the periods for notices seeking possession, and the courts have currently put all possession claims on hold until 25 June. But unless this is extended, or other measures are brought in by the Government, there is a real risk that people will face possession claims for rent arrears in a month or two, or possession claims after a section 21 notice. Tenants (and their guarantors) may also face money claims for arrears.”

One of the issues on the horizon, he adds, is that legally, as things stand, having been impacted by the crisis is not a defence for not paying rent for anyone challenging an eviction order in court.

It’s worth noting that, before Covid-19 took over every aspect of public life, we were expecting legislation to ban Section 21 evictions (also known as unfair or revenge evictions). It’s likely this will return to Parliament at some point. However, as Peaker notes, this wouldn’t protect those who haven’t been able to pay their rent.

What help can I get with rent because of coronavirus?

Back in March the Government announced that landlords could take a “mortgage holiday” if their tenants were unable to pay rent and encouraged them to be “compassionate” in such situations. Some didn’t feel this went far enough.

The Government also increased Local Housing Allowance (LHA) so that it covers the lowest third of market rents. This can be accessed by renters who find themselves unemployed because of this crisis via Universal Credit. However, not everyone will be eligible for this.

There is good news, though. When asked by i whether this change to LHA was permanent a spokesperson for the Treasury said: “This will apply for the 2020-21 financial year. There are no plans to reverse the increase.”

However, rents fluctuate. So, while the increase to LHA may be here to stay for now, if we saw rents rise, this wouldn’t stay in line with them and would continue to only cover the lowest third of market rents.

What ideas are being proposed to help renters pay their rent?

Labour’s plan to help renters was criticised by some because it proposed giving those who fall behind on rent a two-year period to pay back rent arrears which would leave them indebted to their landlord.

In Spain, a low-interest loan system has been introduced to help renters honour their payments. When Labour MP Clive Betts asked Jenrick if we would consider something similar, he didn’t dismiss the idea.

However, this would likely attract similar criticism to that thrown at Labour’s plan. Renters are already worse off than homeowners and saddling them with debt during an economic crisis will undoubtedly harm their prospects moving forward.

Caitlin Wilkinson, Policy Manager at Generation Rent, tells i that the rent strike being encouraged on social media by some is not the answer. “Suspending rents temporarily could put renters at risk of debt once the freeze is lifted,” she explains. “If we had a functional welfare system this wouldn’t be an issue, so fixing that should be our priority. Generation Rent is calling on the Government to remove the benefit caps, increase local housing allowance, and expand eligibility.”

So, what’s the alternative? Increasing the generosity of the housing benefits would be one place to start – this is something the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has already called for. JRF told i in April that the current increase to covering the lowest third of market rents just doesn’t go far enough and won’t break the fall of those who were already over-stretched. Shelter is calling for it to be increased further so that it covers “average rents” in any given area.

It’s really important that the Government comes up with an adequate plan to support renters who suffer financially in the coming months. As Peaker warns, a tenant not paying rent, regardless of the reason, could have serious implications. A tenancy agreement is a legal contract which means that “tenants are still obliged under their tenancy agreement to pay the rent, no matter what has changed in their circumstances.”

The Government, Peaker notes, have so far stopped short of telling landlords what to do. “While some landlords have agreed to waive rent, or reduce it, or for repayment plans in the future, there is currently no obligation on them to do this.”

Because so many people now rely on the private rented sector, an increase in the benefits available to renters is, in effect, going to result in a mammoth public bailout of private landlords on a scale never seen before. Building the social housing we’ve lost through Right to Buy is an obvious way out of this long-term but, in the short-term, renters can be reassured that the Local Housing Allowance increase isn’t going anywhere and wait for the Government’s next announcement.

What Boris’s new lockdown guidance means for UK housing market

On Sunday, Boris Johnson revealed the UK government’s “lockdown easing plan”. Some things will be changing from tomorrow, but how will this affect the property sector?

Boris Johnson’s speech at the weekend was unsurprisingly met with a range of reactions from members of parliament, business leaders and members of the public. Much of the criticism pointed to a lack of clarity in the plans, with a number of gaps and uncertainties in the new information. However, the government has stated that more details will soon follow.

On Monday, the government released a paper, titled ‘OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy‘. The document covers what lockdown restrictions will be lifted and when, although it does not go into specifics for many industries. The housing sector, like many others, is awaiting more clarity on how it can continue to operate. Here’s what we know so far.

Will the market reopen on 1st June?

In the government’s new plan, it states that ‘Step Two’ will see a number of changes taking place “no earlier than Monday 1 June”. The changes at this point include reopening “non-essential retail”.

According to Chris Pincher, many aspects of the property sector – such as those related to buying and selling – are included under the definition of retail. We can expect the government to reveal more details on this at a later date, according to its latest statement. However, it seems this could be a key date to note, which is just three weeks away.

Last week, NAEA Propertymark’s chief executive, Mark Hayward, also revealed his predictions on the property market reopening in June.

Property viewings

The latest announcement made no specific mention of changes to property viewings during lockdown. This means that, for the time being, the vast majority will take place remotely, using video technology. Those who are keen to get on with planned purchases can still use this option to “view” properties in advance. The same applies for prospective tenants, where possible.

In Mark Hayward’s seminar on reopening the housing market, he set out a number of likely measures for viewings. This includes viewings lasting no longer than 15 minutes, and PPE being worn at all times. Sellers will also need to wear PPE and disinfect the property before the viewing. Only two adults will be able to view, and open days will not be possible.

However, according to The Negotiator, it is possible that new-build viewings could take place sooner. This is presumably because no one is living in them so it could be done with very minimal human interaction. Again, this could be good news for the construction industry as properties being built can get sales underway.

Moving house

If a house move can happen while maintaining social distancing rules, then it can technically go ahead. The same rules apply as before, although the government is due to follow up on this.

That means buyers should only proceed with purchases if moving into an empty property. However, people should only go ahead if the move can’t be delayed. Also, “critical” home moves can proceed if absolutely necessary, but everyone must stick to social distancing rules. Home removal firms can honour existing agreements if it is safe and necessary, too.

However, some in the industry argue it is definitely possible to move house while sticking to lockdown rules.

Ed Mead from Viewber says: “Common sense is obviously going to be necessary. Empty properties don’t present a problem and occupied properties can be turned in to empty ones for the duration of a viewing. If sensible social distancing and PPE guidelines are followed there shouldn’t be an issue.

Property market open after lockdown measures lifted

As of today (Wednesday 13th May 2020) the property market has been given the green light to open for business again by the government. This means buyers and sellers are able to move home now which is important for those who are already in the process of either selling or buying.

Viewings are allowed to take place again as long as they are conducted in a safe manner and keeping to the social distancing 2m rule.

For those who wish to sell their property you are now oermitted to visit your property for valuation and marketing, whilst doing so keeping to the social distancing 2m rule. There are further safety measures such as gloves, masks and hand sanitiser that should be worn by all visiting parties.

Covid-19: TLA House Price Forecast

Property prices are being forecast to drop by a whopping 10 per cent during 2020 owing to the coronavirus lockdown – with a majority of that forecasted decline already happening over the past 8 weeks.

Property Prices are preedicted to have fallen by around 6 per cent since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis as the market came to a sudden stop.

Since the Government announcement that Britain will fully exit lockdown only by the end of July at the earliest, TLA now expects a much bigger drop than those waving ‘the recovery flags’ in order to bring about some calm in the wake of a economic sledge-hammer blow across the market.

The TLA is now forecasting a 9% overall decrease, compared with a previous 4 per cent fall, and a 5 per cent fall in prime London locations.

Since Sunday night it’s become clearer that some lockdown measures will remain in place into July and that social distancing rules governing day-to-day life, including property transactions, may remain in place beyond that.

If we allow for the fact that some asking prices have come down since March, then we might conclude that prices are off by at least 5 per cent already since the beginning of the crisis.

Five per cent seems like a reasonable starting point, and it is increasingly clear that prime London’s five-year decline doesn’t means it is immune from price falls.

‘We do not expect prices to keep falling at the same speed as they have in the past couple of months’ said TLA Chairman, Mr D T Evans.

‘The key question is will vendors accept discounts of more than 5 per cent? Some will, but there is growing evidence from the widening spread between average offers and the offers that are being accepted that many simply won’t.

If the lockdown is indeed lifted in July and the housing market can begin to function again, with people being allowed to view properties, then downward pressure on prices ‘should be limited’.

And in prime London locations, it’s possible to see prices pick up again in the second half of the year.

Our forecast is slightly higher than most of other major bodies with Savills alighning figures with the TLA with predicted falls between 5 per cent to 10 per cent this year amid thin sales.

Similarly, Lloyds revealed in its quarterly results that has a base case scenario prediction that house prices will fall 5 per cent this year.

It said that property prices would then rise 2 per cent next year and be down 0.7 per cent between 2020 and 2022.

The Bank of England, however, has forecast a bigger slump as it said it expects house prices to fall 16 per cent due to the coronavirus crisis and lockdown, before gradually recovering as economic activity picks up.

The BoE said prices would be pushed lower by rising unemployment, but propped up in part by ‘persistently’ low mortgage rates.

The latest monthly data by Halifax for April shows house prices were still 2.7 per cent higher compared to the same time last year despite the coronavirus outbreak.

However, property values were down by 0.6 per cent in April compared to in March, the biggest monthly fall in two years, according to the lending giant.

Thousands of renters could be evicted in June. Will the government protect them?

When the lockdown ends what will happen to tenants? Almost nine million households, more than a third of all families in Britain, rent from a private landlord, a council or a housing association.

Because of coronavirus, many are now in financial need. Nearly two million claims for universal credit have been made since lockdown measures were announced in the UK. Welfare claimants are entitled to payments equivalent to housing benefit. But, as a result of changes made to benefits over the last decade (like the bedroom tax and restrictions to local housing allowance), it is increasingly rare for housing benefit to pay all of a tenant’s rent.

Others, although ineligible for universal credit, are also in difficulty: because they have received a redundancy cheque that will soon be spent, or their self-employed grant hasn’t arrived yet. Then there are furloughed workers, paid now, but waiting for news of redundancies from their employer.

Right now, all possession hearings – the main step in evicting a tenant – are “stayed”. This is the legal equivalent of putting food in a freezer. The cases are still there, ready to be thawed out at any moment.

Where a tenant is behind with their rent, landlords can issue them with a notice instructing them to leave, but (for the moment) the tenant can ignore it. On 25 June the housing courts will reopen for business. Judges will have to determine thousands of stayed pre-coronavirus cases, and the even greater number of new claims for possession arising from the lockdown.

Ministers have grasped that hundreds of thousands of homes are at risk. Earlier this week the housing minister, Robert Jenrick, announced that the government was working closely with judges to draft a “pre-action protocol” for when the stay is lifted.

He told MPs that the protocol will “enable tenants to have an added degree of protection, because instead of embarking upon the eviction proceedings immediately, there will be a duty upon their landlords to reach out to them, discuss their situation, and try to find an affordable repayment plan”.

The problem with the protocol is that it is toothless – essentially depending on the benevolence of landlords.

The two most common ways landlords seek possession are under “section 21” and “ground 8”. Section 21 provides that where a landlord has complied with certain procedural requirements (like issuing a notice using the correct form and waiting for a prescribed time before applying to court) the court must order possession.

The statute does not require a landlord to have complied with the government’s proposed pre-action protocol. For that reason, even where landlords have rushed to issue proceedings, and have ignored requests from tenants to defer payments for a short time, judges will be required to approve evictions.

Ground 8 provides that where a tenant is in rent arrears (eight weeks if the rent is due weekly), both when the landlord serves a notice on them and when the hearing takes place, the court must order possession.

Again, the court takes no account of the landlord’s conduct; it focuses simply on the amount of the tenant’s arrears. In these circumstances, if the new protocol is as the minister describes it, it will not protect tenants at all.

There are alternatives. In last year’s general election, the Conservatives committed to abolish section 21 as part of their “better deal for renters”. The government reaffirmed that commitment in the Queen’s speech, announcing a renters’ reform bill to include the abolition of section 21. They should be held to that promise. As for ground 8, it too needs to be abolished. Or, if that is impossible, rescinded for such time until tenants have had a chance to reduce their debts once they’re able to go back to work.

Abolishing or rescinding ground 8 would not prevent landlords relying on other grounds of possession. But, without it in place, judges will be free to order possession only if reasonable – thereby giving effect to the tenant defences the government says that it wants in place. One further advantage of abolishing ground 8 is that courts can turn to other possession proceedings in which possession orders are made but suspended, while tenants are given the chance to repay arrears to a realistic plan.

Muddling on without the abolition of section 21 and ground 8 will lead to millions of people forced out of their homes. It will send those evicted scattering – some to stay with elderly relatives, some into local authority housing (although it is at breaking point) and many into homelessness.

The government accepts that street homelessness speeds the transmission of coronavirus: this is the grim calculation that underpins the government’s granting of resources to councils to house rough sleepers. Drifting into a future where huge numbers of people lose their homes needlessly would be just as dangerous – for those who are evicted, and for everyone else.

 David Renton is a housing barrister at Garden Court Chambers

Boris To Bring In Legislation To Prevent Tenants From Getting Evicted During Coronavirus Fallout

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.

 

UK House Prices Dependent On Coronavirus Outcome

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?”