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Here’s what the new lockdown restrictions mean for landlords

3-minute read

Mollie Millman

13 November 2020

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The government has confirmed that the housing market will stay open during lockdown – and has announced a new ban on evictions.

In the last UK-wide lockdown, the housing market was shut for business and didn’t reopen until May.

Now, as England is told to stay at home until 2 December, the housing market has been allowed to stay open.

And while there have been varying levels of restrictions across the UK recently, in general, people have still been allowed to move house during lockdowns.

The government has also announced another ban on evictions – here’s what you need to know.

The housing market is open

The secretary of state for housing, Robert Jenrick, confirmed that tenants and homeowners will still be able to move during England’s second national lockdown.

He also said estate agents, construction sites, tradespeople and removal firms should all continue to operate, although they’ll need to follow coronavirus safety guidance.

Experts have welcomed the decision to keep the housing market open, with landlords being reassured that demand is still there.

Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: “We welcome the news that the housing market is to remain open throughout this second lockdown period, and it is essential that all agents continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus through following all relevant guidance.

“Agents must operate in accordance with government and Propertymark guidelines, to keep the market moving through these uncertain times.”

Regional differences in demand

Martin Totty, chief executive of HomeLet, said: “There’s something strange – though maybe not that surprising – happening in the rental sector.

“In the key Greater London area, it’s maybe more about demand falling faster than supply leading to depressed rents, while in the regions, perhaps the reverse is more typical, with a tightening of stock ‘pinching’ demand and moving average rates gradually upwards.

“And, against all of this we have the backdrop of a more buoyant sales sector, albeit one with a still uncertain outlook beyond next March.”

Landlords and tenants need each other

He added: “For landlords prepared to tough it out, it looks like in most parts of the country, demand is still there, whilst in the capital, equilibrium may seem a little further away.

“At least the Government recognises the value of the property sector and the multiplier effect it has on the economy. This time around, that argument now seems unequivocal, with letting agents able to continue ‘business as usual’ while adhering to all Covid safety guidelines.”

“Landlords and tenants need each other and for the private rented sector to fulfil the important role it has in the UK housing market, it really needs to be allowed to get on with creating its own market – and find its equilibrium.”

A new ban on evictions

Meanwhile, after the announcement of a second lockdown, the government has announced a new ban on evictions that will last until 2 December – and beyond.

This follows a previous six-month ban on evictions that lasted until September.

There are separate rules on evictions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The government said: “Evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs until 11 January at the earliest.”

It also repeated that six-month notice periods are still in place until at least the end of March next year, except for the most serious cases.

It means that renters now served notice can stay in their homes until May 2021.

The ‘right balance’ between helping tenants and landlords

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “We are now going further by protecting renters from evictions during the new national restrictions and throughout the Christmas period, with a pause on bailiff activity other than the most serious circumstances, such as anti-social behavior or fraud.”

He said the measures strike the “right balance” between helping tenants in need while ensuring landlords have access to justice in the most serious cases.

However, ARLA Propertymark, which represents landlords, disagreed, saying more protections were needed for property investors.

The need for a ‘coordinated approach’

Timothy Douglas, policy and campaigns manager at ARLA Propertymark, said: “The UK Government has yet again extended the ban on evictions in England and this will come as a further blow to our members.

“It will cause further distress on landlords who are currently dealing with ongoing rental arrears and add further pressure on the courts to manage the backlog of cases.

“Letting agents and the whole of the private rented sector have been impacted as a result of Covid-19 and the UK Government must recognise that this is hitting both landlords and tenants financially.

“There needs to be a coordinated approach that better supports the needs of the industry and measures are put in place to further support tenants who have built up Covid-related arrears through no fault of their own.”

What do you think about the current situation for landlords? Let us know in the comments below.

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