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Covid-19 Property Queries

 

Every part of the Irish economy is attempting to adjust to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and the Property sector is no different. Our Customer Service teams deal with hundreds of these every week and their expertise has been recognised on a national level. The following are some queries readers submitted to the Irish Times which our MD, Enda Mc Guane answered this week:

 

Q

If a tenant cannot pay rent due to being laid off and the landlord does not have a mortgage on the rental property what should the procedure be? Can the tenant apply to go on the social housing list and then qualify for a HAP payment? This is a very complex process for a short term (hopefully) situation and means that the landlord takes a hit for the entire rent shortfall period. This applies to anyone getting a mortgage break as well…the landlord will still be liable for the shortfall. Can the HAP process be speeded up in this crisis?

 

A

In addition to saving lives, Government Policy thus far has been to try and minimise the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the general population and on the economy. As a result, an array of new supports has been introduced for people who have been laid off which seek to minimise the financial impact over the coming three months. In some instances, businesses are also being encouraged to take people back on their books with Government paying up to 70% of the wage. The focus is on maintaining people’s incomes so maybe your tenant fits into this category. The Minister for Housing has indicated that the Government are currently looking at additional supports for tenants which may see changes to HAP and other supports in the short term. If you do not have a mortgage and are not reliant on the property for all your income you may be in a position to agree to a temporary reduction or pause in payments. However, any agreement should be confirmed in writing (email) by both parties to prevent disputes arising in the future.

 

Q

My ‘lender’ has refused to follow the 5 mains banks position. Is there any way of encouraging them to do this?  

 

A

In the short term, the answer is no, unless the Government introduces specific legislation. However, you need to engage fully with your lender on this matter and keep a record of all your communications. If you are suffering a loss of income as a result of the Covid-19 crisis you need to inform your lender of this and outline the circumstances in detail and provide as much supporting documentation as possible. You should subsequently keep them updated weekly on developments in your personal financial situation and any efforts you have taken to try and improve your situation. What you are endeavouring to do is demonstrate that you have taken all the reasonable steps open to you in what is an unprecedented situation and that you have engaged fully with your lender. At the moment many businesses are still struggling to come to terms with the current situation, however, given the Governments plea for forbearance and the stance they have taken to date it is to be hoped that your lender will react in a positive and constructive manner to this approach.  

 

Up to last year, my main residence was a 2-bed apartment and as I decided to rent a house by the sea I rented my apartment to a couple.  As my apartment is no longer my main residence, I have retained the services of a tax consultant and my taxes are paid and up to date.  If my tenants are unable to pay the rent due to losing their jobs can I contact my landlord to discuss postponing the rent here even though I have not lost my job?

 

A

Yes, you should contact your landlord. However, it’s important that you can demonstrate that you have taken or asked your tenants to take appropriate steps. Government policy has focused on maintaining incomes and as a result, an array of augmented supports have been put in place for the expected duration of the crisis and your tenants should be able to avail of some of these. It is also likely that further supports will be provided to directly help tenants in this situation. Early engagement with your landlord is key, like most people private landlords are being impacted by the crisis. However, they are also conscious that everyone must play a part and, in our experience, where there is a genuine situation, landlords are willing to reduce or postpone rent in the short term. Many landlords are also demonstrating flexibility regarding payments and how these can be structured to assist people in difficulties, whatever is agreed needs to be confirmed in writing to ensure that there is clarity on both sides.

 

Q

My son is/was an Erasmus student in Denmark.. he has had to return home with the Covid-19 crisis, leaving his rental accommodation prior to its official termination end of June 2020. We have paid his rent up until the end of March. Where do we stand with regards the rent that is due for April/May/June… we are now on the pandemic payment of €350 and have seen our income nose dive. Any advice please would be appreciated.

A

It is unclear from your query if the institution your son attended has closed and directed students to return home or whether your son chose to leave himself. This is important as if the accommodation was on campus and owned by the Institution then by closing the campus and instructing your son to leave it could be inferred that they have terminated the tenancy. Your son needs to engage with their Erasmus coordinator in Denmark to establish what position his accommodation provider is adopting. In Ireland Government policy has been very clear and legislation has been implemented to prevent any evictions taking place for the duration of the crisis, to ensure that all tenants have homes. The Educational Institutions here are continuing to provide lectures via their Virtual Learning Environment and students are continuing in many instances to live and study in their accommodation, adhering to social distancing. Many of these students don’t have the necessary broadband in their family homes, or are reluctant to place elderly relatives at risk, or cannot travel, so their student accommodation is their home and will be for the duration of the crisis.  

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