Well here we are in our third lockdown and it does not seem to be going too well.
Should the housing market shut down?
This is what people seem to be asking. Property Industry Eye did a poll to which around 3,400 responded:
Some 62% of the readers who took part in the poll, which closed at 7pm yesterday, believe that, given the threat posed by the new variant of coronavirus, it is unsafe for the government to allow agents to continue operating.
When asked whether the property market should remain partially open, as now, with branches able to open, socially distanced physical viewings, valuations and meetings, 62% were against the notion and voted no.
There is also a petition calling on the government to close all agents during the lockdown which at the time of writing as 3,230 signatures, which says
Agents are feeling forced and pressured into conducting viewings whilst this should be the last of their worries especially as there is now a new variant of the virus. Agents should work from home and do virtual viewings and only do physical viewings where absolutely safe to do so.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has proposed that viewings should stop saying
It would surprise people that it’s still possible at the moment to go and view houses if you want to buy a house – and that wasn’t allowed last March. So we’re in this extraordinary situation, where having got to at least as serious if not at a more serious situation than in March last year, we’ve got lesser restrictions in place, and we need those in place as quickly as possible.
However, the government may be considering a ban so watch this space.
Mind you, Winkworths is warning of ‘huge potential loss’ if the housing market is closed. So it is the usual choice between saving lives and saving the economy.
Industry coalition urges the government to adopt UPRNs
Over 50 different organisations and agencies have written to the housing minister urging him to adopt Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) across the housing market.
If you want to know more about these, they were the subject of our first Landlord and Lawyer Podcast last year with our guest Kate Faulkner.
The open letter can be read, and you can sign up to support the letter here.
Evictions bans have been extended further with the bailiff ban in England extended to 8 March. However it is only a deferral of eviction and in addition to anti-social behaviour issues, landlords can now seek possession where arrears total more than six months rent.
Government has revised its guidance on understanding the possession action process, so all landlords considering eviction should read this. However, my advice to all landlords is not to do it yourself at this time but to use specialist solicitors who are better placed to keep up to date with all the changes.
A new mediation pilot to support landlords and renters is due to be introduced next week and will be offered as part of the possession process. The aim is to keep tenants in their homes at all possible.
Should covid rent be ‘forgiven’?
There are calls to extend the ban further and also for covid rent to be ‘forgiven’. However although larger landlords may be able to afford this, it would be catastrophic for smaller landlords.
For example, I was contacted by a pensioner recently whose property rent is just enough to help him pay his expenses. However, his tenants have not only stopped paying all rent but have invited their friends to move in too, to take advantage of the ‘free accommodation’. There seems to be nothing he can do about this. Other similar cases can be found here.
Unite may be able to afford a 50% reduction for student rents, but many private landlords cannot.
No wonder accidental and single property landlords are set to offload up to 150,000 properties onto the market within the next 2 years. If the government wants to avoid this, they need to do more to support landlords.
Government advice for people struggling to pay bills because of coronavirus can be found here.
Renters Reform bill to be introduced ‘soon’
Or so Junior Housing Minister Kelly Tolhurst announced in a recent debate in Parliament. Saying
The government are committed to enhancing renters’ security by abolishing no-fault evictions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, our collective efforts have been focused on protecting people during the outbreak. This has included introducing longer notice periods and preventing evictions at the height of the pandemic on public health grounds. We will introduce a renters’ reform Bill very soon.
In the meantime, you may want to listen to our Landlord and Lawyer podcast discussion on this in November.
- Leasehold reforms will take years to become reality, warns legal expert
- Nearly Legal on fire safety issues
- Agents waiting on business interruption claims will hear court’s decision shortly
- Lockdown makes electrical compliance harder, warns trade body
Newsround will be back next week.