Landlords and students

The COVID19 Pandemic has had a huge impact on how we all work and live, and we understand that this poses particular problems for Private Landlords trying to manage their property businesses.

Students make up a huge part of our rental market here in Newcastle, and many have been faced with lost of income, uncertainty about their studies and decisions about whether to stay here in Newcastle or return to their family homes.   There is no one size fits all approach in the current climate and if you have tenants who are students you might need to look to manage your relationship with them differently than if they were permanent residents.

 

Does my tenant still need pay rent?

Tenants are being advised that they should pay their rent as normal.  If their income has changed and they are struggling to make their rent payments, we are advising that they contact their landlord as soon as possible to discuss payment options.

Landlords are not being expected to waive or reduce rent, but we would strongly encourage landlords to consider alternative payment plans and delayed payment dates to reduce the likelihood and impact of arrears.

Students in particular are affected by sudden changes in income as they are unlikely to be able to access the welfare benefits available to non-student tenants.  We are encouraging landlords who have tenants who are students to take the time to talk to their tenants and understand their unique circumstances.

It is important to understand that that student loans may not be sufficient to cover rent as many students reply on part time work to top up their income and pay rent, or rely on support from parents who might also have had their income affected by the crisis.   We understand that many landlord simply cant negotiate on rent, but we simply ask that as a landlord you take this into consideration when entering in any negotiations.

 

What if my tenants stop paying the rent?

Tenants are being advised that they should pay their rent as normal.  If their income has changed, we are advising that they contact their landlord as soon as possible to discuss payment options.

If your tenant stops paying their rent, or tells you they are worried about how they will make future payment we might be able to offer some advice, please contact us at privaterentedservice@newcastle.gov.uk

 

Students returning home

We are aware that many students have had to leave Newcastle to return home following advice from the Government and the University.  Students have not taken this choice lightly and are aware that leaving their accommodation mid tenancy is a breach of the tenancy.  International students in particular faced few options other than to return to their home countries and on top of that have incurred unprecedented costs arranging travel last minute.

We are not asking landlords to allow all tenants to simple surrender their tenancy, but we are asking that they take the time to understand the specific circumstances surrounding your tenants decision to leave their property early.  If you are able we would encourage you to try and agree a mutually agreeable surrender of tenancy.   All terms of surrender should be agreed in writing with a property surrender of tenancy signed by both parties, to get advice on how to do please contact us at privaterentedservice@newcastle.gov.uk

Due to the uncertainty of the current climate at the time of lock down many tenants may have left their rooms believing they would be able to return to Newcastle in a few weeks.  As lock down is being extended Students are aware that they might not get back to their rooms as quickly as expected and are concerned about how they will collect their belongings.

Where items have been left behind at a property we ask that you negotiate with your tenant a safe and agreeable time to come and collect them.  Where items have been left for a longer time you must make sure that you take care of them and try and contact the tenants to arrange collection.

 

I have tenants due to move in/ out over the summer, how can I manage things like inventories and tenancy agreements?

We know that the student housing market is very much driven by term times and the summer months are the busiest for landlords carrying out check ins and check out with their student tenants. 

The Government has recently relaxed rules around tenants viewing properties and moving home.  Landlords and agent are now allowed to start and arrange viewings with potential tenants and to arrange signs in for new tenancies, however this should be done while observing  social distancing guidelines.

If you have already tenants signed for a property and are due to move soon you should do so as safely as possible.  The Tenancy Deposit Scheme have published some excellent advice on how to manage incoming and outgoing inventories and new tenancy sign ins.

If you have new tenants moving into a property it is important to keep in communication with them over the summer, we understand that these months are usually very busy with landlord doing maintenance and repairs and getting their property ready for the new tenants.  Due to the current crisis landlords are struggling to engage trades persons and get the supplies that they would need. Any rental property should be safe to occupying from the first day of the tenancy.  If there are any changes to the property or outstanding cleaning or decorative work you should let your tenants know before they arrive to sign in.  You should let them know when they can expect that work to be carried out and how to contact you if there are any problems.

We are already seeing an increase in tenancy resigns, if your tenants are planning to stay on another year in Newcastle you should contact them to see if they still need to move.

 

What about property visits?

Unless you need to attend a property to carry out essential repairs you should not carry out any property visits.  If you have routine property visits scheduled telephone of email your tenant and ask them if there are any repairs or maintenance that require urgent attention.

 

My tenant has reported an emergency repair, what should i do?

Its is important that properties are kept in a safe and free from disrepair and there may be repairs that come up during this period of social distancing meaning you will need to attend a property to asses and carry out work.

  • Before you visit check if anyone at the property is self isolating or is displaying any symptoms.
  • Do not attend the property if you yourself are unwell, get someone else to do this for you.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before attending the property.
  • Ask the tenants to go into another room while you carry out the repairs.
  • Only take people who need to be there, if your workman carries out the work, do you need to attend as well?
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly after any visit.

 

May annual gas safety check is due, what should i do?

It is important that your properties are kept safe, the The Health and Safety Executive have released a statement with regards to Gas Safety checks: “Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants. This is a legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, to ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue, and to keep a record of each safety check.

In the event you are unable to gain access to the property, e.g., refusal of access due to tenants self-isolating, or if you are unable to engage a registered gas engineer to carry out the work due to a shortage of available engineers, you will be expected to be able to demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to comply with the law. This will need to include records of communication with the tenant and details of your engineers attempts to gain access. You should seek to arrange the safety check as soon as all parties are available.

If you anticipate difficulties in gaining access as the COVID-19 situation progresses, you have the flexibility to carry out annual gas safety checks two months before the deadline date. Landlords can have the annual gas safety checks at their properties carried out any time from 10 to 12 calendar months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check.

The Gas Safe Register have published some very helpful guidance on their website aimed at both landlords and Gas Safe Engineers carrying out inspections.