Landlords have raised concerns that some tenants are under the false impression they do not have to pay rent during the COVID-19 crisis as landlords are being offered a mortgage payment holiday.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill was introduced as an emergency legislation to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. One of its main points was adjusting law on evictions and notice to leave periods to protect tenants in the private and social rented sectors during the Coronavirus outbreak. The new measures, initially effective until 30th September 2020, extended the minimum notice to leave period that landlords must give to tenants to six months (three months for grounds involving antisocial or criminal behaviour, or when a landlord/family member intends to move into the property) and made all grounds for repossession discretionary.
To protect the landlords, on the other hand, the Scottish Government has established a fund, to which landlords who have difficulties securing rent as a result of COVID-19, can apply for interest-free loans. This is on top of the three month mortgage holiday that buy to let landlords are entitled to if their tenants struggle with rent payments during the pandemic.
Rent payments must continue
However, “this is not a green light to tenants everywhere to stop paying their rent”, explains Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), a new body consisting of recently merged National Landlords Association and Residential Landlords Association.
He continues: “The mortgage repayment holiday is only available for landlords who are struggling to make their payments because their tenants are unable to pay part or all of their rent as a direct result of the Coronavirus and through no fault of their own.”
“It is not an automatic payment holiday and landlords who successfully apply still have to make these payments later on. It is not a grant,” stresses the NRLA’s Chief Executive.
“What it does allow is that where a tenant is having genuine difficulty in meeting their rent payment because of a loss of income, landlords have much greater flexibility to agree a mutually acceptable plan with the tenant to defer the rent due.”
The NRLA is calling on the UK Government to make it clear in its guidance that tenants must still meet their legal and contractual obligations where possible, including paying their rent.