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Tenants with Coronavirus should get three months free rent - call

An anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert says any private rented sector tenant with Coronavirus should be able to live rent-free for three months - landlords should pick up the tab.

The call has come from Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and political economist who works as an academic and has founded a range of networks campaigning for tax and economic reforms.

On his influential blog he says that Coronavirus is likely to have a profound effect - at least for the short term - on the economy, and that financial fallout will be considerable.

He says that it is unacceptable that individuals bear the financial brunt of the crisis.

“There is simply too little economic resilience within the population as a whole for that to be the case. Far too many people have too few savings to survive major periods of economic inactivity without massive prejudice to their short-term and long-term well-being” he writes.

But then he goes on to say who could and should bear the costs - and his first target group is landlords. 

“Should the epidemic spread then as a matter of statutory right any tenant should be provided with a minimum three-month rent-free period to ease the stress upon them whilst this crisis last” he says. 

“I would suggest that the grant of that extension should be automatic to anyone who does not make a due payment of rent on the required date during the period of the epidemic. They should

be automatically granted this extension by the landlord without having to make any further application or to complete any additional paperwork” he adds.

Murphy is clearly aware that landlords will therefore be subject to financial loss but he makes no apology for that. 

“I am quite deliberately suggesting that they [landlords] should bear the heaviest burden of dealing with the epidemic. The reason is simple and is that whatever happens they will still have an asset at the end of this period, and no other sector can guarantee that at present” he says in his blog. 

“As a consequence they have the greatest capacity to bear this cost. And, if it so happens that some landlords do fail as a consequence, the assets that they have owned will still exist after this failure and so the economy can manage the consequences of this.”

The second sector he identifies as being able to pick up the bill for the economic cost of the virus is private banks.

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