SAL members show how to #bekind
During these unprecedented and difficult times, our landlord and agent members show us how we can #bekind and make a difference in the lives of tenants, landlords and beyond…..
From rent reductions and rent payment holidays through to housing key workers for free in empty properties and delivering essential PPE, our letting professionals’ family tells their stories….
‘In one of my properties, my tenants are a young couple who both work in the hospitality industry. When the government announced that hospitality establishments had to close, my tenants were immediately furloughed down to 80% of their wages. I immediately reduced their rent to just below 80% of its existing amount. This brought their rent payment down to the amount that they would receive in housing benefit if they were to claim Universal Credit. I did this to reduce the likelihood of them getting into rent arrears or needing to move back in with family. This was not only hugely beneficial to my tenants but also reduced the likelihood of this property becoming empty during this crisis so helped to ensure the continuity of income for me.
I also contacted all my tenants and passed on to them the information I had received from SAL about financial help available to tenants who might find themselves in difficulty at any time.
Many thanks for all your help both with speaking up to the government on our behalf and also keeping us up to date with the latest guidance and support. This is very much appreciated.’
Member landlord Caroline Barlow
‘I have put a 20% rent discount in place for tenants who have been furloughed and for tenants who are newly self-employed and have zero income, I have frozen their rent. I have also given my tenants advice and contact details of where to go for further financial assistance as advised to me by SAL.
I have advised my tenants I won’t be requiring them to repay any discounted rent in these most difficult of times.’
Member landlords Robert and Anna McNicol (A McNicol Properties)
‘My tenant has now said that they are getting Universal Credit, so they hope to be able to start paying in June. Since they have made the effort we are going to write off £1000 of rent which is 6 weeks and hopefully they will be better off. I will send the letter to the other tenant who has not yet come back to me before I give him the same deal!’
Member landlord Margaret
‘We currently have four properties that we let out: one tenant is furloughed, a second household consists of a nurse married to a petrol station manager (who continue of course to be both fully employed), thirdly we have a retired couple and the fourth is a self-employed taxi driver. As I expected, the taxi driver is the one experiencing problems with paying his rent, particularly as we live in a small holiday town strongly affected by seasonal trade due also to its university population and golf courses so he would normally only start earning reasonable money from March onwards when of course everything began to close down due to the pandemic. He had paid his rent up to April. He is an excellent tenant and had the good sense to let me know of his difficulties in good time and to say that he had applied for a government support grant. We were happy to give him a rent holiday in May and asked him to let us know if he is experiencing further problems in June, for example, if his grant is delayed, and we will discuss it further at that time.’
‘When my tenants in Aberdeen were furloughed,
I gave them a two-month rent free period.’
Member landlord Mary Hope
‘In March I spontaneously instructed my letting agent to apply a 25% reduction in monthly rental, for three consecutive months, to all tenants of my 15 properties. The tenants were uniformly very grateful and expressed their appreciation by emails.’
‘Our tenant is a single mum with two children and is a self-employed hairdresser. She rents a two-bedroom house from us at £575 per month. She notified us in early March that she was self-isolating with a sore throat (her work colleague is asthmatic). We agreed that we would work with her and consequently did not expect rent for April, May etc.
Last week she received a one-off payment (we don’t know the amount) and said she could now pay three months’ rent. This seemed a lot, so we decided to give her a discount of 20% for the three months. I’m sure that this is what any good landlord would do.’
Member landlords Gordon and Kay Cameron
‘At the start of April, I took the decision to reduce the rent on all my properties by 20%. I am in the fortunate position of having only one fairly small mortgage between all my properties so I can afford to take a reduction in income for three months, and I will review the situation after that.
I am also very fortunate that all of my properties are occupied and paying rent, and I have not had to deal with any end of tenancies, although I know one tenant is likely to move out at the end of June.
Some of my tenants have maintained their normal full income (indeed working overtime) and others have been furloughed, and those on furlough were very appreciative of the rent reduction.’
Member landlord Fraser E Marshall
I thought this might be a different but funny side to giving in these times. One of my tenants work at the zoo. Since they are able to pay the rent as they are paid I donated one month’s rent to the zoo to keep the animals fed as part of the ”feed the animals appeal”. She works with the monkeys. My other tenants are getting one months rent free £650 as they are now back on their feet and his garage is open again.
I have four properties in Edinburgh of which three are usually let to students so we don’t discriminate about the style or standard of the accommodation from business clients to those at university.
One group of tenants advised me in early March that they had already left the property as the university had recommended that they return to their families. So I was confronted with an empty property at a time when it was most difficult to re-let. I dealt with this by advertising the tenancy with a three month rent holiday and a six month period at half the usual rent. After six weeks we found suitable tenants who had previously viewed the property last year but had been unsuccessful in securing the lease. We generally keep the properties above market standard and just below market rents so there’s considerable competition for them.
The student tenants in the other properties were generally struggling as they all had part time jobs in the hospitality industry and nannying which had obviously disappeared. Accordingly they were all given a three month rent holiday and flexibility for ongoing payments. We reduced the rent to meet their budget reductions. We gave them links to all the available financial and practical support (THANKS TO SAL) and stayed in close touch with all of them to ensure an ongoing successful relationship. So far, so good but I must note that I am fortunate in not having mortgage payments to be concerned to meet. However, this is my pension fund and my source of income and it seems that many media reports fail to recognise that the ongoing maintenance and repair costs of such investments, together with inflation busting insurances which still have to be paid regardless of any loss of income.
Our member agents have shone brightly too……
‘Since our cars have been relatively unused, we have been using our fleet of cars and our team labour to help a local group of volunteers with deliveries of PPE to front line workers!
An amazing group of volunteers, called Edinburgh Shield Force, needed help to deliver around 500 shields per day, designed and manufactured from scratch by them!
Team ‘burgh have been collecting them along with supplies from their donated base in Summerhall and we have been delivering directly to ICU and Covid-19 wards at the Royal, Western and St Johns, as well as to surgeries and care homes around the area.
An amazing initiative helping those on the front line, and we are delighted to be helping out!’
Member agent Andrew Markham, ‘burgh Property
‘When the lockdown was announced, we at 1Let were fortunate that we had the capability to enable our staff to work from home, making the day to day working logistics a fairly easy transition. There were many more challenges we faced, and we were quick to find innovative ways of working. By adapting to and embracing new technologies, we introduced new services that will likely remain once the pandemic is over.
What has really warmed our hearts during this time, however, is the response we have had from our landlords. An average of 10% of our tenants have requested rent assistance since the lockdown began and the vast majority of landlords have stepped up to the plate by offering rent reductions in a region of 30% over a period varying between 2-3 months. Given this was largely unprompted, we are really proud to have this type of affirmation. Indeed, in many cases it was the landlords who reached out to us first, expressing their willingness to support their tenants in this time of crisis. It has been very fulfilling to be a part of these small acts of kindness and extremely satisfying to see how everyone has come together to help each other get through these very difficult times.’
Member agent Beata Lozyniak 1Let
‘We have been sending out weekly emails to tenants and landlords. The updates from SAL have been a useful guide for structure and relevance. We have advised tenants where to apply for benefits and landlords of their legal obligations. This being a very unique situation we took the viewpoint of “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” George S. Patton
We have had landlords agree to tenants delaying rental payments, postponing the payment, voiding payments and being incredibly understanding about the situation. We have had tenants be brutally honest with us about how scared they are due to the loss of work and we have worked through things with them.
We have had tenants return abruptly to their home country meaning that properties had to be remarketed. At the time, it seemed a dauting task, and possibly a challenging goal.
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” Confucius
With the help of Pinstripe inventories, we have been able to arrange end of tenancy check outs and video walk throughs, which in turn have led to tenancies starting and private rented tenancies being signed electronically, and keys being collected from Pinstripe’s offices in Glasgow.
To be honest, we have been very busy with tenants, accounts, maintenance and webinars to stay in contact with people and further our professional development.’
Member agent Michelle O’Donnell, Glasgow Property Letting
‘Like many other landlords and letting agents across the country, we took a massive hit when the restrictions were first announced, and air travel looked as if it was about to become a rarity.
Student accommodation including HMOs were suddenly devoid of activity as the tenants vacated at short notice doing everything possible to get home, wherever that might be across the four corners of the globe.
Suddenly and almost without warning, an eerie silence descended upon the usual hives of activity and a glut of empty properties emerged around the city desperately crying out to be filled.
Fortunately, many of the students that had elected to stay were offered, following prior discussions with relevant landlords, cheaper rent at up to 50% the normal rate. This was obviously welcomed, especially as the local pubs, clubs and restaurants where many of the students were employed during evenings and weekends earning a little money to help out with their rent, were now closing due to the restrictions.
Following consultation, several landlords then decided to take things up a notch and suggested that they would be willing to offer their empty properties ‘rent-free’ to NHS workers needing to socially isolate themselves from family and other loved ones.
One applicant in particular, a nurse from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary working all the hours possible, took us up on our offer and moved into a flat in the heart of the city within a couple of days. To say she was delighted would be an understatement, especially as she was welcomed when she moved in by a bottle of fizz and a ‘Heroes’ Easter egg.
When I inspected the property after she had left, she had returned the favour by leaving an Easter egg and a ‘Thank You’ card addressed to me and the landlord which was very much appreciated. Even better, the whole property had been scrupulously cleaned and sanitised throughout – a testimony to the professionalism and appreciation felt by our hero…
Pebble Mountain Properties didn’t feel it would be in keeping with the spirit of the situation to charge the landlord for the extra-curricular work involved in setting up and welcoming the short term tenant to her temporary accommodation so it was considered a ‘win, win, win’ situation for all three parties involved in doing our little bit with our compliments to help beat this deadly scourge currently roaming our land.
The lessons learned are clear – social interaction will keep this virus active and ahead of the game. Working together and as a team, we can collectively beat it.’
Member agent Vince Spangenberg, Pebble Mountain Properties (pictured on right)
‘We served a notice to leave upon a tenant on 6 March 2020 as the landlords were wishing to sell. We subsequently discovered, on being contacted by the tenant, that he had some serious underlying health conditions brought about by cancer. He is an NHS worker and had been told to self-isolate for a period of 3 months by his employers.
With the permission of the landlord we cancelled his notice to leave as we did not want him to suffer any additional worry. The landlord has also now agreed not to sell this property and has advised that the tenant can stay in the property as long as he wishes. We contact this tenant on a weekly basis to ensure that he is well and coping.’
Member agent Dal Chima Professional Propertay