Despite 2017 being a challenging year, landlords’ support of their tenants – including those in financial difficulty – remains strong, research from Simple Landlords Insurance has found.
Against the backdrop of regulatory pressures such as reduced tax relief, stricter lending requirements, revised regulations for houses of multiple occupancy, and the rollout of Universal Credit, over four in ten UK landlords (43%) either have or say they would support vulnerable tenants, including those receiving housing allowance, if they failed to report damage to their property. Just 27% said they would serve notice.
Only 16% said that Universal Credit was going to change their investment strategy, indicating that many will continue to work with tenants on benefits.
Most landlords are also prepared to work with Universal Credit tenants who fall into arrears – with figures from the RLA indicating that nearly two thirds of landlords have successfully put in place Alternative Payment Plans when things have gone awry.
All in all it’s good news for tenants – and good news for landlords’ reputations – especially with recent headlines focussing on UC arrears and landlords refusing to take on tenants on benefits.
“The problem with saying you’re only going to let to professional working tenants,” says Carl Agar, of Letting Agent Big Red House, “is that you’re both narrowing your market and over simplifying the situation.
“The fact is that professional working tenants aren’t always doctors or solicitors – they’re also health care assistants and factory workers and benefits may well make up some of their income. And far too many people are only a pay cheque or two away from trouble anyway. An unexpected illness or expense could cost you your rent from even the most reliable tenant.”
Credit where credit’s due
That’s certainly something that the landlords from Simple’s survey seem to recognise. Alex Huntley, Head of Operations at Simple Landlords Insurance adds: “There is no doubt that Universal Credit is putting both tenants and landlords under pressure. It’s refreshing to how many landlords actively want to support tenants when they get into difficulties, and how many want to help plug the social housing gap so many local authorities face.
“We hear a lot about rouge landlords, but this research – coming just before Christmas – presents a rather more humanitarian view. Landlords are people. The problem is, that they are not charities. They are people who are running businesses – and they can’t run at a loss.
“Legislation like Universal Credit is making it harder and harder to view tenants on benefits as a valid strategy – and despite these landlords’ good intentions, I worry where that’s going to leave some of the UKs most vulnerable tenants in 2018.”
Landlords who care
Simple’s survey also revealed that despite feeling under attack by the government, more than 70% of landlords supported licensing by their local authority – effectively protecting tenants’ rights.
What’s more, following the Grenfell tragedy, landlords were also found to have stepped up their fire safety checks – with 40% checking fire alarms, and a quarter installing carbon monoxide alarms, checking construction materials or carrying out fire assessments.
One in four landlords will also buy their tenants a Christmas present – and see it as part of building a positive relationship.
“It’s time to ditch the image of the heartless landlord,” says Alex. “Most landlords DO care about their tenants. In most situations, it actually makes good business sense.”