Buy-to-let landlords and also the coronavirus: the questions you have answered


The government has outlined a number of new rules for landlords included in its reaction to coronavirus.

These range from the introduction of mortgage payment holidays and changes towards the repossession process.

Here, Which? answers the large questions facing landlords during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you’re looking for advice for tenants, take a look at our story on coronavirus renting rights.

  • What if my tenant can’t pay the rent?
  • Can I claim having a house?
  • What happens if I’ve already issued notice?
  • Will I still need carry out repairs?
  • Should I carry out gas and electrical safety inspections?
  • Can I conduct viewings?
  • What happens if your tenant gets coronavirus?
  • Will my council’s licensing scheme still proceed?

What if my tenant can’t pay the rent?

The government says that landlords aren’t necessary to stop charging rent, but must have a ‘frank and open conversation’ with their tenant about their options if they’ll find it difficult to pay.

If your tenant faces financial hardship, you are able to apply for a three-month payment holiday on your mortgage and pass this temporary relief onto them.

Alternatively, you may consider accepting a lower level of rent in the short term and hang up a repayment plan to pay for any arrears further down the line.

The right solution is determined by your own personal situation, so it's in both parties’ interests to talk things through and discover a contract.

Can I claim having a property?

Until 30 September 2021, landlords won’t be able to commence possession proceedings unless they give their tenants three months’ notice.

The courts have suspended housing possession cases for 90 days from 27 March, and the government strongly advises landlords not to commence new cases without ‘very good reason to do so’.

What happens if I’ve already issued notice?

If you’ve already issued your tenant with a possession notice, you won’t be able to take action through the courts to enforce it for 3 months from 27 March.

Ultimately, which means that even when you’ve issued notice to your tenants, you shouldn’t expect them to move out until this 90-day period is over.

Will I still need carry out repairs?

The government advises that landlords and tenants have a ‘pragmatic, common-sense-led approach’ to the issues that emerge having a property during the coronavirus outbreak.

It specifies that landlord responsibilities haven’t changed, and ‘where reasonable, safe and in line with government guidance’ tenants should allow landlords and contractors in to the property to fix any serious problems.

These could include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Problems using the building (like a leaky roof) and security-critical problems (for example broken windows)
  • A broken boiler leaving the tenant without heating or hot water
  • Plumbing issues affecting washing or toilet facilities
  • Problems with white goods
  • If the tenant is disabled and has equipment that needs installation or repair.

Should I execute gas and electrical safety inspections?

Landlords have to arrange an annual gas safety check up on appliances, and from 1 July will have to arrange electrical safety checks every 5 years.

If you’re unable to connect to the property because of the current restrictions or can’t arrange a contractor to undertake the inspection, you should document your tries to achieve this, as well as any correspondence together with your tenants.

The government says it's encouraging councils to consider a common-sense method of enforcement during the coronavirus outbreak.

Can I conduct viewings?

No. The guidance states that properties are only able to be accessed for ‘serious and urgent’ issues, such as those listed above, which buyers and renters should delay their moves wherever possible.

This means that you should placed on hold any viewings for brand new tenants until following the government’s stay-at-home measures have been relaxed.

What happens if your tenant gets coronavirus?

If you’re letting out a home in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and one of the tenants displays symptoms, it’s fundamental to be aware that landlords and other tenants cannot keep these things leave the property.

Landlords aren't necessary to provide alternative accommodation for tenants if your flatmate or family member contracts the virus.

The government has put down guidance you can tell your tenants about what to complete if your person in a family group displays symptoms.

Will my council’s licensing scheme still proceed?

Many councils round the UK operate their own selective or additional licensing schemes for landlords, and some were in the process of rolling out new schemes prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

The government says that councils should adopt a pragmatic approach on licensing enforcement and consider pausing the development of any non-mandatory licensing schemes if this will allow resources to be focused on more pressing matters.

Which? coronavirus advice

Experts from across Which? have been compiling the advice you need to stay safe, and to make sure you're not excluded from pocket.

  • Coronavirus: what it really method for mortgages, savings, credit cards and banking
  • Coronavirus: the best way to protect yourself
  • Coronavirus: how you can protect your pensions and investments
  • Coronavirus scams: how you can spot them and prevent them
  • Coronavirus: your travel and consumer rights Q&A

You will keep up-to-date with our latest suggestions about the coronavirus outbreak over on our coronavirus news and advice section.