The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means the last few months have been a difficult time for many people. Alongside the health implications and need to stay at home, lots of people have been financially affected.
A huge number of people have been furloughed, others have taken a pay cut or in the worst-case scenario, some people have lost their jobs. In the case of the rental market, tenants in financially difficulty may struggle to meet their rental payments.
Rent arrears cause problems for letting agents and their landlords, so it's important you do all you can to help tenants pay back what they owe. As well as the financial impact, Covid-19 has altered the way people move home, so it's vital that agents are on hand to help people move safely and securely.
As lockdown measures continue to ease, things are more positive, but the road ahead remains uncertain. Now's a crucial time for agents to support tenants and the wider industry. Here are some top tips on what you can do to help.
Be sympathetic to financial difficulty
As we have all heard time and time again, 2020 has been an unprecedented year. Although we are a few months on from the height of lockdown in the UK, there are plenty of challenges ahead. The economy is now officially in recession with unemployment levels rising. Meanwhile, with the furlough scheme set to finish at the end of October, there is likely to be a further spike in redundancies over the next few months.
Tenants who are impacted financially by the aftermath of the pandemic may struggle to pay rent. As an agent, it's important to be sympathetic to people's situations during an uncertain period. Helping people to remain in their homes while recouping as much rent as possible will be an important but challenging balancing act for agents in the coming months.
Prioritise health and safety
Since the property market reopened on May 13, there have been new health and safety guidelines which must be followed. These include things like wearing face coverings, not sharing cars with tenants and making sure that there is as little contact as possible during viewings.
There has been a huge surge in demand from tenants in recent weeks, but as an agent it's crucial that you help them to move safely in line with government guidance. During a strange time, tenants will be more comfortable and confident to commit if they know that the agent they are looking to rent through is taking their safety seriously.
Be strong on communication
You can support renters by communicating effectively. This means being approachable, upfront and professional. If tenants know where they stand, there is less chance of disputes and confusion occurring later down the line.
During a time like this, communicating well with tenants can help you to find solutions to problems with payments or tenancies. Taking this approach will provide your landlords with peace of mind and increase the chances of them retaining your services for the long-term. Remember, though, it's important that all in-person conversations are followed up in writing.
Offer repayment plans where necessary
One of the best ways to help renters who are struggling to pay rent is to work with them to create an affordable repayment plan.
This provides you with more clarity about when you can expect to receive unpaid rent, while providing your landlord with peace of mind that rent arrears are being handled professionally.
Repayment plans help to build trust between all parties and they also help tenants to take control of their finances,allowing landlords and agents to collect at least some of the money they are owed instead of nothing at all.
Offer affordable deposit solutions
Now more than ever, renters will be looking for ways they can save money and so letting agents can help by offering affordable services and solutions. For example, Canopy's deposit alternative solution could save tenants in London up to £1,900 on a security deposit. Our Deposit Free alternative typically costs around £340, equivalent to around 10% of eight weeks' rent.
Meanwhile, tenants' rental arrears are also covered for up to eight weeks if they lose their job or become seriously ill. This could provide all parties with vital protection as the pandemic continues to affect our lives.
Educate renters about their options
For tenants in need of support from letting agents, one of the easiest and most effective things you can do is point them in the direction of the help that's available to them. This could include benefits such as Universal Credit, as well as the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and other initiatives available through the government and various charities.
If tenants receive extra help, it may make it easier for them to pay their rent and remain in your landlord's rental property for the long-term.
As we all come to terms with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, letting agents who support tenants can help to reduce rent arrears, encourage tenants to rent for longer and ultimately provide their landlords with an invaluable service.