Why we say tenants need a payment holiday too

Pay it forward: landlords are taking mortgage holidays but what about tenants who are facing hardship?

A recent survey by Landlord Action found nearly three-quarters of landlords have been contacted by tenants worried about their rent payments. This highlights the severe impact the lockdown is having on household finances.
Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at Ringley, thinks renters should have their rents reduced if they can prove they have been unable to access cash through the government’s income support schemes, and their furlough or government money means a reduction in their normal household income. After all, she says, that income is what the affordability of the letting was granted on. In particular, Mary-Anne thinks this should be the case if the landlord is benefiting from a mortgage holiday.  “Otherwise,” she says, “this is a lose-lose situation for the government and the wider economy – which means all of us”.
The government has already banned eviction proceedings from happening and is urging landlords to work with their tenants in situations where they are struggling to pay rent. Tenants who are out of work and living on reduced incomes surely have a right to know if their landlord has secured a mortgage repayment or a repayment-and-interest holiday. How can it be right for the landlord to still expect tenants to pay their full rent if they are being propped up by their mortgage lender?  Of course, the government still needs to help renters either not covered by income support schemes or who have not yet received the additional cash.
Mary-Anne adds: “The word ‘unprecedented’ has been used a lot in response to the impact Coronavirus is having but statistic after statistic shows a level of damage not even seen during the worst of the Financial Crisis. The government has moved decisively to help protect tenants and landlords, but it is inevitable some households will fall through the gaps as the various income support schemes get up and running and payments are processed.
“Transparency is key, and renters have a right to know if their landlord has benefited from a mortgage holiday and, if they are struggling financially, they should be able to request a reduction in rent. Any rent reduction must be conditional on being able to prove financial hardship to prevent abuse of the system and it is important tenants and landlords work together during this uniquely difficult time.”