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Gardens a priority for renters, landlords push for council tax relief on empty homes and, other property news

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Here are some of the latest property news stories for this week …

Sharp rise in demand for rental homes with garden space

It might come as no surprise that there has been a steep rise in demand for rented homes with a garden, reports Landlord Today on the 24th of April.

Naturally, it is easier to comply with orders to stay at home and maintain social distancing if you also have the chance to get out in the fresh air in your own back garden. The yearning to spend more time out of the house – yet still in relative seclusion – can only grow stronger as the weather continues to improve.

With life on hold for many people, the overall demand for new tenancies is understandably down on that registered in more normal times – Landlord Today suggests the reduction has been around 20%.

Even against that background, searches among prospective tenants show that those looking for a garden attached to their rented accommodation is now double what it was at the beginning of the current lockdown. More widely, gardens are more highly sought-after by an extra 16% of prospective tenants than was seen in January and February of this year and 26% up on the same period last year.

Homebuyer priorities may change due to lockdown

As people begin to look forward to life after coronavirus, a “new normal” is expected to emerge.

Part of that new normal is widely expected to be a far greater incidence of working from home and, therefore, homes which are suitable for just that kind of work-life balance, according to a story published by Property Wire on the 23rd of April.

If the preference for working from home really takes root post-emergency, house-hunters can be expected to demand homes with adequate office space and provision for fast broadband as barest minima.

Other priorities – such as homes with gardens, leafier environments, more floor-space, and easier access to recreational amenities such as restaurants, bars and gyms – may also loom large.

Almost three quarters of landlords have been contacted by tenants struggling to pay rent

In recent guidance for landlords and tenants the government urged the latter to have early conversations with their landlords if they found they were having difficulties in paying their rent.

To illustrate just how prophetic that advice might have been, Property Reporter on the 21st of April revealed that no fewer than 74% of tenants have informed their landlords that they are already experiencing or will soon face such difficulties.

It is not only tenants who may face financial difficulties during these straitened times. The article also reveals that 36% of landlords have said that they would struggle to make their monthly buy to let mortgage repayments if their tenants were unable to pay the rent.

Recognising the difficulties faced by both landlords and tenants, renters’ union Landlord Action has produced a model agreement for the two sides to agree terms for delayed payment of rent in rent for the landlord refraining from giving notice of eviction. It is said that up to 70% of landlords would be prepared to agree to such terms for the next three months.

Landlords push for council tax relief on empty homes

During the current lockdown, an increasing number of privately rented properties remain empty and unoccupied because tenants have been unable to take up their tenancy or have decided to live elsewhere, closer to relatives, for example.

In a press release on the 24th of April, the National Residential Landlords’ Association (NRLA) called on the government to instruct local councils to exempt landlords from the council tax for which they are otherwise liable on such empty properties.

The NRLA maintains that it is “manifestly unfair” to expect landlords to continue to pay council tax on their empty properties. Like many another small business, landlords struggle to cope on significantly reduced incomes from rents while still committed to paying ongoing fixed costs. Unlike many other small businesses and the self-employed, however, landlords have so far received no direct financial support from government.