If you are a landlord or own a buy-to-let property, we at ESPC Lettings understand that this is an uncertain time for you, but we are here to help. We’ve collated some of the most commonly asked questions we’ve been asked by landlords in recent weeks and provided the answers below.
Is my property still covered by insurance if it’s unoccupied?
You should speak to your insurer if you think your property is going to unoccupied for a period of time. Due to the current circumstances, many insurers have extended the terms of their insurance, with some offering cover if your property has been vacant for up to 90 days.
Do landlord safety checks still need to be carried out?
If your landlord’s gas safety certificate is due to expire all efforts should be made to have this renewed. If your tenant is self-isolating or uncomfortable with access you should be able to demonstrate that you have made attempts to arrange for this check to be done. All other checks, which include Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR), Portable Appliance Test (PAT) and Legionella Risk Assessment can be postponed, but should be scheduled as soon after restrictions are lifted.
Can I still advertise my rental property?
Yes, you most definitely can market your rental property. Potential renters will still need to rent, and whilst they may not be able to view or move at the moment, they are still looking. In recent weeks we have seen the number of enquiries from potential tenants significantly increase. Any enquiries can be noted and viewings arranged once the current restrictions are removed.
Can my tenants still give me notice?
Yes, tenants can still give you notice during this time. The notice period will depend on the lease you have with your tenant. If the lease has been signed on or after 1st December 2017, it will be a Private Residential Tenancy (PRT), meaning your tenants can give their 28 days’ notice at any time.
What if my tenant does not pay rent?
Your tenants should still be paying rent during this time if they are able to. If your tenants are in financial difficulty, it may be worthwhile speaking to them and setting up a new payment plan for a period of time to ease the financial pressure on them but also allow for some rental payments.
On 5th May, the Scottish Government announced a £5 million fund that will offer interest-free loans to landlords whose tenants are having difficulty paying rent during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The Private Rent Sector Landlord COVID-19 Loan Scheme will offer eligible landlords up to 100% of lost rental income for a single property.
It will support private-sector landlords who are not classified as businesses, have five or less properties to rent and have lost rental income due to tenants unable to pay rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are not eligible for the above scheme and your tenant is not paying rent and is not responsive to any suggestions, this may be trickier to manage. Under new legislation issued during the COVID-19 crisis you can still serve notice on your tenant, but the notice periods have significantly changed. If you wish to serve notice based on non-payment of rent the following notice periods apply (depending on the lease you have with your tenant).
Private Residential Tenancy – eviction notice
Ground 12: tenant has owed some rent for three months – six months
Assured / Short Assured Tenancies – eviction notice
Ground 8 : three months’ rent arrears – six months
Ground 11: persistent delay in paying rent – six months
Ground 12: some rent unpaid – six months
However, the Scottish Government has called on landlords to be flexible during this time to help prevent tenants from facing eviction due to financial hardship as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, as far as possible you should negotiate with your tenant to arrange a rental payment plan.
Can I get a landlord mortgage payment holiday?
As part of their Coronavirus COVID-19 financial assistance measures, the UK Government recently announced that three month mortgage payment holidays would be made available to homeowners who need them.
This measure has also been extended to landlords and buy-to-let property owners whose tenants are struggling to pay their rent due to financial difficulties. Landlords who take a mortgage payment holiday are expected to pass this financial relief to their tenants.
If you would like to ask for a three month mortgage payment holiday, you should contact your lender directly.