Coping with the Pandemic

Along with the rest of the UK, and indeed most of the world, the Covid-19 lockdown has meant many HMO landlords have seen their personal and household income impacted, and their jobs or businesses in peril. In addition to those concerns, which many people are facing, the HMO sector also faces the following challenges: non-payment of rent, the inability to fill empty rooms and problems paying mortgages.

When the lockdown was first announced there was concern that many tenants would lose their jobs and would be unable to pay their rent. As it turned out, though, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a whole raft of financial assistance from the government, including the Job Retention Scheme and changes to Statutory Sick Pay and Universal Credit. In the latter case, this increased the amount of payments, the number of people eligible and the speed of payments.

Additionally, the government has offered assistance to businesses and the self-employed. These changes have meant that the overwhelming majority of tenants will be able to claim government support if needed and most tenants will be able to pay their rent.

Non-payment of rent is not a pressing issue as government support is available for the majority of people. However, voids (empty rooms) have been, and will continue to be, an issue for as long as lockdown continues. For HMO landlords with partially tenanted properties, housing key workers may not be an option if it will put existing tenants at higher risk. Or if one of your existing tenants is already in self-isolation. For landlords with empty properties, though, providing much-needed accommodation for key workers can be a way through this.

There are a number of organisations HMO landlords could speak with which are seeking accommodation during lockdown, including the NHS, recruitment agencies for key workers, local authorities for emergency housing, and charities that support vulnerable or at risk groups who may need housing. Additionally, workers at supermarkets and fulfilment centres like Amazon are currently classed as key workers and may need accommodation, too.

What should you do, though, if you’re suffering from larger numbers of empty rooms which you cannot refill because key workers are not an option for you? There are three things you can do – look after your tenants, claim the support you can, and apply for a mortgage ‘holiday’. The government has made funding available for people whose jobs or businesses have been hit by the pandemic. Ensure that you claim only what you’re eligible for.