Category: TLA Announcements: Covid-19

UPDATE: Rental market to remain open during November lockdown

UPDATE: Rental market to remain open during November lockdown

The housing market is to remain open in the four week lockdown in England.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed the news on Saturday evening via Twitter.

A tweet from Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Q: Can I still move house? A: Yes – the housing market will remain open throughout this period. Everyone should continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following the current guidance.”

That guidance, originally issued in August, says: “The process of searching for and moving into a new home is different because property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19. These changes could include doing more online, such as offering virtual viewings; vacating your current property during viewings; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.

“We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate. It may become necessary to pause all home moves locally or nationally for a short period of time to manage the spread of coronavirus. We will let you know if this needs to happen.

“If you are about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications of COVID-19 with your legal professional and consider making contractual provisions to manage these risks. You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have COVID-19 or are self-isolating.

“Those renting a property, letting agents and landlords should be aware of and follow the government guidance on coronavirus and renting which contains further advice that may also be applicable such as on possession proceedings, repairs, maintenance and health and safety.”

For members of the public – prospective buyers and tenants, as well as vendors and landlords – the same government guidance note says: “You are free to move home. However, you may find the process of searching for and moving into a new home is different, as property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19.

“Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible. Property agents should be able to help you with this.

“Members of the public who are visiting an agent’s office or viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering as described in government guidance unless they are exempt from this requirement. This should be confirmed with the agent before arrival. Anyone with concerns should contact the agent in advance of their visit to discuss appropriate measures. The agent may require you to arrange an appointment before visiting the premises.

“All physical viewings where prospective buyers or renters will be entering the property should involve no more than 2 households inside the property at any one time. This includes any agent accompanying either party. Anyone in a support bubble with either household, however, will count as part of that household. 

“Please read the latest guidance on indoor gatherings and support bubbles.

Where prospective buyers who are currently from separate households wish to view the property on the same occasion, we advise that one household leaves the property to allow the other to enter. This allows for both households to view the property and ensures social distancing.

“Viewings should be arranged by appointment only and ‘open house’ viewings should not take place. When viewing properties in person, you should avoid touching surfaces wherever possible, wash your hands regularly and/or use hand sanitiser. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.

If people are being shown around your home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.

“We recommend that you vacate your property while viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.

“Anyone involved in any aspect of the home-moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.

“When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance. There is further advice about this below.If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to your landlord, estate agent or removers as they may be able to put extra precautionary measures in place.”

SEPTEMBER: Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction)

SEPTEMBER: Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction)

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.

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

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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.”

Coronavirus Act 2020 – How It Effects Landlords & Tenants

Coronavirus Act 2020 – How It Effects Landlords & Tenants

This note sets out how the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act”) affects both business and residential tenancies taking into account the Governmental advisory guidance to help understand the implications of the Act.

As the situation is subject to change, the Government urges all landlords and tenants to abide by the latest Government guidance on COVID-19, which can be found here.

Business Tenancies

Landlords cannot evict business tenants on the grounds of non-payment of rent whilst the Coronavirus emergency continues. This currently applies from 26 March to 30 June 2020 (“the relevant period”) unless subsequently extended.

Forfeiture for non-payment of rent

During the relevant period the landlord cannot enforce a right of re-entry for non-payment of rent (the definition of rent includes service charge and insurance premium), whether by peaceable re-entry or in court proceedings. To protect the landlord’s position, the right of re-entry can only be waived during the relevant period by an express waiver in writing. These provisions do not apply to any other type of breach of covenant.

Where forfeiture proceedings for non-payment of rent are already on foot, the court cannot make an order for possession which expires before the end of the relevant period. In some cases the court will have made an order for possession which only takes effect if the tenant fails to do something (e.g. pay the arrears or instalments) by a certain date. In the High Court, if the tenant applies to vary the order the court must ensure that the tenant does not have to give possession before the end of the relevant period. In the County Court, the period during which the tenant has to pay cannot be before the last day of the relevant period (as in force at the date of the order). For existing orders, the period within which the tenant must pay the arrears is automatically extended to the end of the relevant period.

Opposing the grant of a new tenancy on the grounds of persistent delay in paying rent

Where a landlord opposes the grant of a new tenancy on the ground of persistent delay in paying rent, any failure to pay rent during the relevant period is to be disregarded.

Residential Tenancies

The Government has brought in several restrictions in relation to residential possession. Firstly, the Act lengthens the notice period required during the relevant period. For residential tenancies, the “relevant period” set out in the Act is from 26 March to 30 September 2020; unless subsequently extended.

Section 8 Notices

Possession proceedings under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 have always required the service of a notice of intention to bring proceedings for possession. The minimum period of the notice depended on the particular ground for possession relied on – from immediately, in the case of an occupier who has committed an indictable offence, to two months in the case of a former owner-occupier who wants his home back. During the relevant period, all notice periods are extended to three months. The court retains its power to dispense with service of a notice or to abridge the time.

Section 21 Notices

The Act extends the minimum notice period under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 (no fault eviction) from two months to three months.

Other Private Sector Tenancies

No amendments have been made to the law affecting private sector tenancies which do not fall within the Rent Acts or the Housing Act – essentially tenancies at a very low rent (less than £1,000 pa in Greater London, £250 elsewhere) or a very high rent (in excess of £100,000 pa).

Possession claims suspended

From 27 March 2020 for a period of 90 days (i.e. up to 25 June 2020) there is a suspension of housing possession cases in the Court. This affects new or existing claims, so effectively they cannot be progressed during this period. This is in line with current public health advice to stop all non-essential movement. The Government’s strong advice to landlords is not to commence new notices seeking possession during the current time without a “very good reason” for doing so.

Maintenance and safety

Landlords should still carry out essential and urgent work to ensure that rented properties are safe. Examples given in the Governmental guidance include testing the fire alarm, roof repairs where there is a leak, boiler and plumbing repairs, broken white goods and security problems e.g. a broken window or door. Landlords should take a “pragmatic, common sense approach” to resolving issues. Where COVID-19 restrictions prevent landlords from meeting routine obligations they should not be unfairly penalised. However, the guidance specifically refers to landlords making every effort to abide by existing gas safety and electrical safety regulations (the latter comes into effect for new tenancies from 1 July 2020). Landlords must demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. If landlords are not able to engage a contractor or gain access to the property due to COVID-19 restrictions they should document their attempts and any responses. The relevant legislation already contains provisions where the landlord will not have breached his duty if he has taken all reasonable steps.

General governmental guidance

The general message is that the landlord and tenant relationship should continue as normal as far as is possible i.e. the tenant should continue to pay rent and adhere to all other terms in the tenancy agreement. Landlords should continue to comply with their obligations as well. Where the tenant is unable to pay rent due to Coronavirus related difficulties, the tenant should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity. Landlords are requested to be flexible and offer support and understanding to their tenants as part of the national effort during this national emergency. Both parties are encouraged to agree a sensible way forward including for example, to agree a lower rent and a payment plan going forward.

Where there are financial difficulties for the landlord where the tenant is not able to pay rent due to Coronavirus related difficulties, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to three months including for buy-to-let mortgages.

The future

There may well be further changes depending on how the situation develops. The Government has the power to alter the notice period required by substituting a period of up to six months. They may well also extend the suspension period on possession claims.

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.