Blog: NRLA's post Covid roadmap
With coronavirus restrictions beginning to be lifted across the country NRLA chief executive Ben Beadle outlines the association’s key asks of government.
The pandemic has seen unprecedented changes to the way we live our lives and run our business, and while lockdown measures are now being eased, the economic impact will be felt for years to come.
Since lockdown began the government’s focus has been on protecting tenants – and at the NRLA we have been inundated with messages from landlords offering a helping hand.
Now as we start to see some light at the end of the tunnel and start to prepare for what the politicians have described as ‘the new normal’ we have developed a document for government outlining what PRS landlords need to ensure the sector continues to function as it should.
The NRLA is asking for:
- A clear statement from Government reiterating that those who can pay their rent should do.
- Support for tenants most in need through increased benefits and interest free hardship loans
- Support for landlords who face financial hardship as a result of coronavirus by providing Government compensation
- Repossession cases to be prioritised when they begin again, with tenants committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence first in line, along with cases started before lockdown.
- Clear plans to ensure courts process legitimate possession claims more swiftly.
In a briefing document sent to Ministers we have included detailed plans on how these plans could work in practice.
In terms of support for those tenants struggling to pay their rent as a result of Covid-19 we want the government to:
- Develop guaranteed interest free, ring-fenced loans for tenants just to be used to cover all or part of their rent. The funds would be paid directly to the landlord to cover the rent due and the tenant would pay back the money over several years
- Increase the Local Housing Allowance to the 50th percentile
- Convert Universal Credit advances into grants
- Suspend the Shared Accommodation Rate for under 35s as called for by the Social Security Advisory Committee
For landlords, we want the government to offer compensation to those who have been deprived of their right to repossession via an order granted by the courts at the time of lockdown, but who have not been able to execute it because of the evictions ban - and have lost rent or incurred damage to property as a result.
If rent arrears can be clawed back, landlords should then make suitable repayments to the Government.
Once the courts are back up at running on the 23 August there will be significant backlog of cases to be dealt with.
Under our plans, priority should be given to cases where tenants are committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence, possession cases which were started prior to the lockdown but were then paused and cases where rent arrears were built prior to the lockdown.
Reform to the court process is also needed. Prior to lockdown in the first quarter of 2020 the average (mean) time between claims and repossessions taking place for private landlords was 23.6 weeks.
This is far too long. Particularly as there will be a backlog of cases and more should be dealt with electronically or through mediation to tackle this issue.
The NRLA has already seen significant success in campaigning for support for private landlords since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
Following pressure from the NRLA the government has:
- Increased the Local Housing Allowance rate to the 30th percentile
- Offered mortgage deferrals for landlords where tenants are struggling to pay their rents due to COVID-19
- Given assurances, along with the Labour Party, making it clear that tenants remain legally obliged to pay their rent and abide by the terms of their tenancy agreements
- Reassured landlords that section 21 will not be scrapped immediately, despite pressure from renters groups. The Minister cited the NRLA’s briefings to him in his response.
- Confirmed the Universities Minister was wrong to speak of students being ‘entitled’ to support such as repayable rent reductions or postponements
In addition to this our Policy and Campaigns Director, Chris Norris will be giving oral evidence to the HCLG Select Committee on Monday.
Contact your MP
As part of our campaign to bring about positive change for landlords we are also encouraging members to get in contact with their MPs to share their experiences and the problems caused by the ban.
As an industry we have already shown we can pull together to support each other through difficult times, now we need a commitment from government to support us, the private landlords who are continuing to provide the homes for rent that our tenants so desperately need.