Tenant Safety Must Come First
As the country is once again living in lockdown, the government’s latest guidance to Letting Agents is to put the safety of their tenants first. Agents are encouraged to remain supportive where ever possible and help keep tenants in their homes. Remote checks should also be the preferred option where new or tenancies or renewals are required, the guidelines state.
The information is likely welcome, although many agents have continued to operate in this way since the first lockdown in 2020. However, the more specific details the government has provided this time is more timely than nine months ago, partly as all parties are more experienced with the situation. Provided the government remains supportive and agents, landlords and tenants follow guidance, it’s possible the industry won't suffer too badly in 2021, but as we've already learnt, nothing is certain when it comes to Covid-19.
Prioritise Tenant Safety
While the announcement of a new national English lockdown was made in January, guidance for letting agents and landlords was updated in late December 2020, in response to the creation of Tier 4. As such, that guidance remains in place for the lockdown and it’s clear the government wants all letting agents and landlords to put the safety of their residential tenants before anything and everything else.
Indeed, safety and more specifically, tenant safety, is referred to on a number of occasions throughout the updated document. This underscores the government’s previous attitude towards supporting residential rental tenants and ensuring they are treated fairly by the rental industry.
“Tenants’ safety should be the priority of letting agents and landlords,” the guidance states. It goes on to say that wherever possible, tenancies should be sustained where it can be agreed between the tenant and agent and landlord.
Letting and Housing Market Continue During Lockdown
With the government encouraging support for tenants during the third nationwide lockdown, letting and housing market activity are able to continue – provided it is conducted safely.
There are separate guidelines for when a home visit is required by a landlord or agent into a rented property. Meanwhile, it adds that where a new tenant is set to move into a rental property, steps should be taken to help prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus during the transition, including additional cleaning of the property.
From a business perspective, the government has also unveiled a new financial package to support businesses during this difficult period. Some £4.6 billion of new funding has been made available in the form of grants. Meanwhile, 10% business rates relief for retail and leisure and hospitality firms is in place, £1.1 billion in extra funding for local authorities and an extension of the furlough scheme until the end of March are also there to support the UK’s struggling economy as it copes with another period of slow business and uncertainty.
How successful the guidance, measures and funding will prove to be remains to be seen. However, it’s certain the government is going some way to supporting the different industries across the economy as well as tenants and the lettings industry as we do our utmost to emerge from the worst of the pandemic.