Mortgage Holidays And Protection For Tenants and Landlords

Credit: Martin Parrin on 20th March 2020

Homes England confirmed that mortgage lenders had reached out to support their customers, who are experiencing personal financial hardship due to Covid-19, by agreeing to mortgage holidays – and those struggling to pay interest fees on their Help to Buy equity loans will also be offered payment holidays too.

With Help to Buy ‘Equity Loans’ being interest-free for the first five years, the recent announcement by the Government to assist Help to Buy equity loan customers will apply to those who took out the advance before 31 March 2015.

Help to Buy Director Will German at Homes England said:

“We will do all we can to support Help to Buy customers through this unprecedented period of economic uncertainty.

“Like other lenders, we will offer payment holidays for those who are struggling to pay interest fees on their equity loans.

“We will also offer a range of flexible payment options to defer interest payment for a period. In all cases, we will seek to support households in difficulty.

“We understand monthly mortgage payments tend to be the largest outgoing for the vast majority of households. Where households also have equity loan payments under the Help to Buy scheme, we are keen to reassure them that we will offer similar options to their main mortgage lender.

“We will assess all cases of hardship on a case-by-case basis. The first step is for customers experiencing difficulty related to Coronavirus to contact their main mortgage lender to discuss revised payment arrangements.

“They should then contact our equity loan administrator to discuss the options available to them.

“Please don’t struggle in silence. As soon as you think you might have difficulty making payments on your Help to Buy: Equity Loan account, get in touch – help is at hand.”

Subsequently, the Government also followed up with fundamental new measures to shield renters and landlords of the crippling effect of Covid-19.

In order to protect renters emergency legislation has ensued as an urgent priority, which will see a complete ban on evictions from social or private rented accommodation and added protection for renters, while the national pandemic is taking place. In addition, no new possession proceedings through applications to the court are to start during the crisis for at least a 3-month period, so renters in private or social accommodation will not need to be concerned about eviction. While, the 3-month payment holiday, that was also recently announced, will be extended to landlords with Buy-to-Let mortgages too – in order to take the pressure of them, who will be worried about making mortgage payments themselves.

Following the 3-month period it is expected that landlord and tenants would need to work together to come up with a suitable payment plan, taking into consideration individual’s tenants’ circumstances.

The much-needed urgent measures have been welcomed by The National Housing Federation and Local Government Association who hailed the new support for social renters and echoed the governments sentiments at what they were trying to achieve as they believe no-one should be potentially made homeless due to Covid-19.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:

“The government is clear – no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.

“These are extraordinary times and renters and landlords alike are of course worried about paying their rent and mortgage. Which is why we are urgently introducing emergency legislation to protect tenants in social and private accommodation from an eviction process being started.

“These changes will protect all renters and private landlords ensuring everyone gets the support they need at this very difficult time.”

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords association said:

“Landlord groups welcomes government support. We recognise the exceptional circumstances and we will work collaboratively with government to ensure these measures protect both landlords and tenants”

James Tucker, CEO of mortgage technology provider Twenty7Tec, comments on the announcement about the three-month mortgage holiday being extended to the buy-to-let sector. He said:

“As we suspected, the Government has worked with lenders to successfully extend the three-month mortgage holiday to buy-to-let mortgages. This means that there’s parity across the vast majority of mortgage holders now and it marries with the government ‘do not evict’ strategy which has also just been released.

“We’re still seeing high volumes of demand for searches and documents to be produced each day across product groups. Lenders have adapted quickly to the new market circumstances and we think we’ll see more innovation as the hours and days go by.

“I’m really proud of how our industry has risen to this challenge. The only other industry which we have seen pivot quite so quickly over recent days has been the restaurant industry – where takeaways are springing up across the land.

“My team remain open to fresh ideas as to how we can best serve the market and we’re speaking to lenders and brokers every day to help them navigate their way forward.”

David Cox, Chief Executive, ARLA Propertymark comments on the Government’s package of measures to protect renters and landlords affected by coronavirus:

“We are very conscious of the plight of tenants in these difficult times and appreciate any Government action to help those affected by the current situation. Letting agencies rely on rental payments and therefore Government must help to ensure agents can maintain their current service levels during any period where rent is not being paid. Specifically, we are calling on Government to extend the retail discount on business rates to estate and letting agents.”

Dave Miller, client account manager at Spicerhaart Corporate Sales, said:

“Clearly, if support is being offered to homeowners, there needs to be some help for people living in rented accommodation. Indeed, they will often be in greater need of financial assistance.

“There needs to be careful thought, however, as to where this leaves private landlords.

“Smaller-scale landlords often depend on the income from one or two rental properties. Even if lenders extend existing forbearance measures to buy-to-let mortgages, a total ban on evictions – even for a short period – could result in an extended period without receiving rental income.

“This could blow a huge hole in the finances of many private-sector landlords.”

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