The government has published guidance for landlords who may be affected by current events. It explains:
Measures relating to notices seeking possession as amended by the Coronavirus Act 2020
- Court action on possession cases during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
- Property access and health and safety obligations in the context of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions
How to interact with tenants during this time
You should consider whether it is necessary to interact with your tenant. If your tenant has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been tested positive, try to make alternative contact instead of a face to face visit.
If it is absolutely essential, and neither of you have any symptoms, or are being advised to self-isolate or shield due to your risk factors, then you should practice social distancing during any visits. This includes keeping at least 2m distance and asking tenants to keep windows open. You and any contractors should also ensure you are following the government's guidance on hand washing while visiting the property.
Signposting your tenants to advice
While tenants are responsible for their own health, you may wish to signpost tenants to official advice by email and advise tenants to keep up to date with the latest advice, including self-isolation, where necessary.
The NHS advice includes guidance on simple hygiene measures which everyone can practice to minimise transmission of the virus.
For tenants who are considered very high risk due to underlying conditions, you should avoid visiting the property as much as possible or visit while wearing full personal protective equipment (gloves, apron and surgical mask).
Landlords may also wish to consider providing additional support for vulnerable tenants, such as the elderly, disabled and those with a long-term illness.
Steps to minimise health risks in your properties
Landlords of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) should consider displaying copies of government advice notices in common areas, and supply soap and/or sanitiser. Tenants should inform housemates if they are self-isolating or have become ill as the whole household will need to self-isolate.
Public Health England (PHE) has released some posters which HMO landlords may find helpful to display in common areas of their properties.
The NHS has also released a poster with advice on self-isolation which could be displayed within common areas if needed.
The government has issued guidance on decontamination in non-clinical settings which HMO landlords may want to familiarise themselves with.
Should a deep clean be necessary, the landlord should bear the cost. Cleaning of properties between tenancies should be thorough.
Contact your tenants and find out if any of them would fall into the higher-risk categories that leads to ‘shielding’. These groups are strongly advised against having visitors in the property so you are advised not to arrange any inspections or non-essential works during this period unless it cannot be avoided.
Higher-risk individuals may also need assistance with receiving food and medicine during this period. Many people are volunteering to assist with deliveries of these items. If you do wish to do this then you should liaise with your tenant as to the best method of delivering items without physical contact.
Plan for managing your properties if you need to self-isolate
If you need to self-isolate, it’s important to avoid exposing your tenants to risk. You should put in place alternative temporary arrangements for property management and ensure tenants are aware of these. This may involve contact by telephone, email or text only and an agent or friend temporarily taking on the management responsibility.
It's important to make these plans now as you may need to implement them at short notice.
Carrying out work for tenants
Landlords should ensure that essential works are completed to your properties including fixing problems with water supply, safe electricity and gas supplies, fire safety, drainage, heating and hot water, pest control, leaks and works to windows and doors that may affect security. Non-essential repairs and maintenance should not be taking place during this period.
Landlords, their representatives and tradespeople are expected to follow advice on social distancing when entering their premises to carry out work.
Landlords should ask to see the risk assessment when you choose a contractor. It is important the risk assessment is up to date with information about how the contractor will protect their employees and residents and help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Cleaners for rented accommodation
Landlords with a cleaning responsibility in their properties should still be organising cleaning. Cleaners should have an up to date health and safety risk assessment including COVID-19. NHS advice on how to stop germs spreading can be found here.
Barnet Council is providing assistance for landlords
The council is continuing to provide a complaint response service during this period as part of our commitment to ensure all tenants have a safe place to live firstname.lastname@example.org
Licence applications for my house in multiple occupation
Landlords struggling to pay their HMO licence fee may be eligible for financial business support. Further information can also be found on the gov.uk website.
Completing work to comply with my HMO Licence conditions
If you are experiencing difficulties meeting your HMO licence conditions deadlines as a result of COVID-19, then please email email@example.com asap. We will look at each licence on a case-by-case basis.
Tenants struggling to pay the rent due to COVID-19
If tenants are experiencing difficulty paying their rent because of the COVID-19 try and work with your tenants to reach an agreement.
New eviction measures
The law recently passed means that from 26 March 2020 landlords will have to give all renters three months’ notice if they intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means the landlord can’t apply to start the court process until after this period. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the endpoint, and the three-month notice period could be extended if needed.
This protection covers most tenants in the private and social rented sectors in England and Wales, and all grounds of evictions. This includes possession of tenancies in the Rent Act 1977, the Housing Act 1985, the Housing Act 1996 and the Housing Act 1988. After three months, if the tenant has not moved, a landlord needs to apply to the court in order to proceed.
From 27 March 2020, the court service will suspend all ongoing housing possession action – this means that neither cases currently in or any about to go in the system can progress to the stage where someone could be evicted.
This suspension of housing possessions action applies to those in both England and Wales and will initially last for 90 days but can be extended if needed. This measure will cover all private and social renters, as well as those with mortgages and those with licenses covered by the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.
Financial assistance for landlords
The government has extended the three-month mortgage payment holiday to ‘buy to let’ mortgages. Further information can also be found on the gov.uk website.
Maintaining standards in rental properties
The government has also published guidance for local authorities in England how to effectively enforce standards in rented properties (including housing associations), meet their legal duties and support landlords and tenants during the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Building Safety guidance
Building Safety remains a priority for government, here is the latest Building Safety guidance, including revised guidance on waking watches.