The past year has been one of hardship and challenge for landlords and the nation as a whole. Despite this, a recent survey of over 500 landlords by Simply Business found that 15% have recently bought a property or plan to buy one in the coming months.
The report itself sheds light on the challenges faced by landlords over the past year and how they have adapted to the ever-changing market environment. Over half of landlords have lost money due to the pandemic, with a quarter needing to rely on their personal savings to make up the loss. Despite this, the majority of landlords continue to see property as a worthwhile investment.
How Covid-19 Affected Landlords
The pandemic has impacted people throughout the world, with British landlords being no exception. Nearly half (51%) of the UK’s 2.6 million landlords reported incurring losses due to Covid-19. In some cases, the losses themselves have been quite substantial. Nearly a third of all landlords lost £2,000 or more, with one in six reporting losses in excess of £5,000.
The reasons for these losses will be of no surprise to readers. Nearly a quarter of landlords reported lost income due to tenants being unable to pay their rent, whilst 8% of landlords incurred extended void periods due to a lack of suitable tenants during the pandemic. What will be more difficult to quantify, will be the cost of maintenance and remedial works caused by problem tenants. In many cases, landlords have been unwilling to challenge tenants mistreating their property, in fear that they stop paying rent and are unable to be evicted.
How Much Rental Income Have Landlords Lost?
Could The Government Have Done More to Support Landlords?
The governments response to the pandemic has been anything but frugal. In the first year of the pandemic, from April 2020 to 2021, it borrowed £299bn, the highest figure since records began in 1946. Yet, despite record sums being borrowed, many landlords felt that the government should have done more to support them during this period.
The government introduced a range of schemes to support and protect tenants throughout the pandemic. However, in many cases the legislation opted to pass greater risk onto landlords without any commensurate support for the private rental sector. Legislation such as the ban on evictions disproportionately affected landlords, with 21% arguing that the eviction ban should not have been implemented at all, whilst a further 19% believe that the ban should have ended sooner. Worryingly, 18% of landlords reported that they have been unable to evict problem tenants due to the ban.
Landlords felt that the government could have offered more support to the private rental sector and tenants alike. A fifth of landlords felt that new rental market legislation should have been paused during the pandemic, whilst 41% highlighted the need for additional support when dealing with difficult tenants. A further 25% of landlords felt that the government’s support for tenants was insufficient.
How Did Landlords Adapt to Covid-19 Hardship?
Certain segments of society like to picture landlords as top hat wearing millionaires, with endless vaults of cash hidden away. As much as this may be the aspiration of some, the reality is that the vast majority of British landlords own fewer than five properties and nearly half of landlords only have one property. Many rely on other earnings to make up the bulk of their annual income, with rental profits being merely a small cherry on top. Unfortunately, this has meant that one in four landlords had to dig into their personal savings to make up for the loss of rental income, with a further 8% having to reduce their own living costs to pay for their losses.
Despite booming house prices, nearly half of landlords believe that it will take more than 6 months to recoup their recent losses. Given the scale of the losses, one in ten landlords forecast that it will be three or more years before they break even. This has encouraged many to leave the market entirely, with 21% of landlords planning on selling their property due to the pandemic.
How Long Will it Take Landlords to Recoup Losses?
How has the Landlord-Tenant Relationship Been Effected by Covid-19?
Unfortunately, it is not just the finances of landlords which have suffered over the past year. Nearly a quarter (23%) of landlords believe that Covid-19 has made their relationship with tenants more difficult than before. Comparatively, only 3% of landlords believe that the pandemic has strengthened their relationship with tenants.
Despite this, a significant proportion of landlords extended support to their tenants. Of the landlords surveyed, 14% had agreed to rent reductions with their tenants and 8% had allowed rent breaks. Some of the support extended was non-financial in nature, with 7% of landlords redecorating properties to support tenants forced to spend a greater amount of time at home. Many landlords have been accommodating in cases where tenants were unable to pay their rents, with 28% opting to set up repayment plans. Simply Business highlight that, so far, 56% of tenants have stuck to their repayment plans.
What Does the Future Hold for Landlords?
Despite the financial hardships suffered over the past year, landlords remain a resilient group. Although some landlords have been forced into selling their properties as a result of the pandemic, the majority of landlords (59%) continue to believe that letting property is a worthwhile investment. Over half of those surveyed expect that property prices will continue rising in the long-term and nearly a third suggest that they are feeling positive about the future.
Increased regulatory pressure is one of the key concerns of landlords. The number of laws affecting the private rental sector have increased by 40% over the past decade, with 168 different acts and regulations governing the way landlords must run their lettings. Despite the current myriad of laws in place, 35% of landlords are worried about further legislation impacting the private rental market. With more and more institutional investors entering the market, landlords also worry about the ability to find good tenants in the future, with 17% highlighting this as an area of concern.
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