Latest HouseMark COVID-19 analysis shows impact of ‘local lockdowns’ with arrears 40% higher in areas with tougher restrictions

Latest HouseMark COVID-19 impact data shows the significant impact of ‘local lockdowns’ just as 99% of England’s population move into the toughest two tiers of the country’s lockdown system, with those landlords previously operating in higher tiers reporting average arrears levels 40% higher than their counterparts. Significant sector-wide operational pressures remain, with void levels still 36% higher than this time last year and non-emergency repairs demand surpassing performance.

Now in month eight, HouseMark’s report remains the only UK-wide analysis to quantify the impact of the pandemic, forecast out turns and help providers prioritise evidence-based action.

Access the executive summary

Headline findings include:

Arrears

The period of relative stability since June extended into October with arrears falling marginally to 3.48%, however this varied significantly depending on local conditions. Landlords operating in areas with tighter restrictions reported arrears levels which were 40% higher on average than their counterparts across the rest of the UK (3.07% vs 4.28%).

Repairs

Since August reported repairs have increased by over 30% - even accounting for seasonality we estimate the sector tackled up to 240,000 non-emergency repairs over and above typical demand levels at this time of year. Completion rates for emergency and non-emergency jobs declined slightly in October from 84% to 83%, increasing the pressure on repairs backlogs.

Lettings

The number of lettings carried out by the sector increased by 22% - representing an additional 6,200 properties let across the sector, but vacancy rates are still 36% higher than they were during 2019/20 representing 11,500 empty homes across the UK. We estimate that over the first half of the financial year, the sector has lost £31.5 million in income due to the drop in lettings activity during the pandemic.

Staff health and wellbeing

Landlords channelling additional support towards the health and wellbeing of their employees reported sickness levels 22% lower than other landlords.  Sickness absence is up by 20% from what we would expect at this time of year and we estimate that less than half of this relates to COVID-19, either directly or through self-isolation. This impact provides powerful context for health and wellbeing support and is an important driver of capacity and productivity as landlords continue to face increased operational pressure and tackle backlogs in key service areas.

Talking about the latest analysis, HouseMark Chief Executive Laurice Ponting said: “Significant challenges remain for income lines impacted by arrears, empty homes and delays to development programmes. Coupled with the increase in reported repairs alongside the potential for further service disruption and increased operating costs, landlords will need to move quickly to understand the impact on their business and take mitigating action. With some landlords set to be hit significantly harder than others, understanding performance in relation to peers will be crucial.

“The ongoing crisis response is adding to an already complex agenda being managed by Boards and executives – we will continue to help our members and the UK sector understand the wider impact, as well as contextualise their own performance, in anything but ‘normal’ times.”

The full report, including detailed analysis and best practice from landlords across the UK, is exclusively available to participating organisations. The executive summary is available to view at HouseMark’s website. Organisations interested in finding out more about HouseMark’s COVID-19 solutions should contact jonathan.cox@housemark.co.uk to find out more.

By Emily Dixon

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