Like many landlords at the moment, you might be concerned about how to manage your finances while we’re in lockdown due to Coronavirus. Many businesses have closed, many people have been laid off and many of your tenants may not be able to pay their rent.
The government has put a 3-month delay on evictions which means that, for the moment, your hands are tied.
Tenants have been made aware that they needn’t pay rent for the next three months and also that landlords have a ‘mortgage holiday.’ (I’ll talk more about that fantasyland in another post.)
So as a landlord, you have a mortgage to pay, perhaps income from your business or job has stopped, and now this.
You want to support people genuinely in need while weeding out anyone who is trying to pull a fast one with a 3-month rent ‘holiday’.
What should you do?!
Our 3 step process means you can be supportive, dodge those trying to play the system and keep your sanity!
Step 1 – Communication
Some landlords have been keeping their head in the sand and not getting in touch with tenants in case tenants use that communication as an excuse not to pay.
We are of the view that it’s important for landlords to act first. The news is telling tenants every day that they don’t need to pay their rent so rather than adopting a ‘wait and see’ mentality we wanted to set out our process to tenants.
We chose to email rather than phone. Here’s why…
- There’s an audit trail so no one can say that you said something you didn’t say
- Tenants have time to think too. On the phone they may say the first thing that comes to mind. An email gives them time to plan.
- We’ve set out a process which will encourage genuine people and deter people from trying to play the system because it requires evidence
What our email to tenants about coronavirus says…
- We hope you’re well in this uncertain time
- We won’t make you homeless or charge any late rent fees during this period
- Pay your rent as normal if you can
- Let us know if you anticipate difficulty in paying your rent
- Claim the money you’re entitled to – explaining furlough and Universal Credit with links to further information
- Rent is a priority payment
- Explain that rent is still due and rent not paid now will need to be paid later and a plan can be agreed
- Explain that the as-seen-on-TV mortgage ‘holidays’ are actually a ‘pay more later’ scheme which is not available to all landlords
- We’re here to help
Step 2 – Information
This is the secret sauce.
The bit where the people wanting to game the system are stopped in their tracks. Genuine people will move forward and opportunists won’t.
When tenants contact us to say they’ll have difficulty paying their rent we thank them for getting in touch and ask them to complete a short online form we’ve created called a Rent Payment Plan Request Form.
The Form tells us the tenant’s
- Financial situation and circumstances
- Proposal for Rent Payment Plan
- Universal Credit application reference (if applicable)
The Payment Plan is whatever you agree with the tenant and may include the tenant making part-payments of rent for a period followed by extra payments later to make up the shortfall, instead of not paying any rent at all.
This takes all the uncertainty out of the process and gives both the tenant, and us, more clarity.
Step 3 – Plan
As I mentioned, in the Rent Payment Plan Request Form tenants will make a suggested payment plan.
We’ll review the forms and agree to the plan or discuss further.
At the end of the process we have a solution which both parties are happy with.
You don’t just have to kiss goodbye to your rent for the next three months! With a simple 3 step plan you can help in genuine cases where needed and also collect your rent as normal from most of your tenants.
- Step 1 – Communicate your process to tenants in writing
- Step 2 – Information request information about the tenant’s situation
- Step 3 – Plan agree a payment plan
This plan has worked well for us with over 90% paying as normal and this process in progress for others tenants where we’ve agreed a plan.
Let me know what has worked well for you?