A prominent industry figure says lettings agents will have a key role educating landlords over the controversial Breathing Space scheme introduced this week.
The initiative means debtors will be given legal protections from their creditors - including letting agents and landlords - for 60 days, with most interest and penalty charges frozen, and enforcement action halted.
They will also receive professional debt advice to design a plan which helps to get their finances back on track, while there will be additional protections available for people in mental health crisis treatment.
Letting agencies will play a key role in educating landlords about the scheme, helping them to manage arrears while staying compliant, according to Neil Cobbold, chief sales officer at PayProp.
Cobbold says that if landlords are made aware of the legislation, it will be easier for agents to explain to them why tenants aren’t being chased for unpaid rent during a Breathing Space.
"Agents can help landlords to understand what they can and can’t contact tenants about during a Breathing Space, what is expected of the tenant during the period, how long it lasts and what happens after it ends. As well as making sure their own record-keeping is up to scratch, agents will also need to encourage landlords to keep accurate records" he adds.
For as long as a tenant in arrears is provided with a Breathing Space, agents will not be able to chase unpaid rent and must comply with the regulations – and neither landlords nor agents have a say in whether or not a Breathing Space is awarded.
But Cobbold suggests that by working with landlords and tenants to recover missed rent payments at the earliest opportunity, agencies can aim to correct arrears before a Breathing Space is granted.
"When letting agents and landlords are unable to chase unpaid rent for a prolonged period, it has serious consequences for their cashflow. With another barrier to recovering missed payments now in place, it’s more crucial than ever for agents to have the necessary tools and processes to manage and reduce rent arrears from the outset of a tenancy.
“This includes automating rent reminders, keeping digital records of all activity and if necessary, communicating effectively with all stakeholders to agree repayment plans" concludes Cobbold.