Complaints from tenants
We'll continue to provide a response service to tenant complaints, regarding privately renting properties, to ensure all tenants have a safe place to live. There are limitations to how we can access properties and the availability of contractors, so request for works may be limited to those essential to life and limb. Where necessary, enforcement action will still be taken if a landlord fails to carry out essential works.
Should landlords continue to perform property inspections and visits during this period?
Landlords are still under a legal obligation to maintain their rented properties and carry out repairs. However, this must be a balanced with the risk of infection or spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). If a tenant is self-isolating landlords should cancel any unessential visits or inspections for at least 14 days.
What if repairs are requested or identified?
If a landlord or their contractor needs access to a property for a repair, landlords need to make a judgement on the urgency of the repair and whether it could be delayed. You may wish to discuss this with a member of the Safer Neighbourhood Team if unsure.
Where an urgent repair is identified, or other legal obligation (e.g. a gas safety inspection), then the landlord and/or their contractor can access the property. They should contact the tenant to arrange access and confirm the tenant, landlord and contractors are not self-isolating or symptomatic. All parties should follow guidelines on social distancing and hand washing while the work or inspection is performed.
Duty to carry out repairs
Landlords or their agents should still be accessible to tenants by telephone or email. Essential works such as water supply, safe electricity and gas supplies, fire safety, drainage problems, pest control and heating failure will still need to be addressed. Landlords, their representatives and tradespeople should follow advice on social distancing (see link below).
Any tenants self-isolating are advised to avoid any visitors to their home and this in turn may affect your ability to inspect properties or organise maintenance or repairs. In these circumstances, we advise the landlord to keep a dialogue going with tenant. You should document the reason you cannot carry out the check, including asking the tenant to explain in an email or writing why they are self-isolating. You should book an inspection as soon as possible after the tenant has completed the self-isolation period.
What if the annual Gas Safety Inspection is due and a tenant is self-isolating?
Legal advice in relation to gas safety inspections has been produced be the HSE and can be viewed on the Gas Safe website.
How should landlords and tenants interact?
Please consider whether it is necessary to meet with your tenant face-to-face. Where possible you should contact via phone, text or email so neither party needs to leave their home.
If it is essential to meet the tenant and/or visit the property, please follow government and NHS guidance on social distancing, handwashing and self-isolation.
As part of the government’s ongoing response to the pandemic, the Coronavirus Bill 2020 has now been published. It puts in place a number of changes to the way privately rented properties are managed by temporarily extending notice periods for repossession using S8 and S21 notification.
Landlords with a buy-to-let mortgage could take a payment holiday of up to three months if their tenants have been impacted by the coronavirus and where the tenants are offered a similar rent holiday.
What are the main changes to possession?
The provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020, that increased the required notice period length, were initially due to expire on 30 September 2020 but have now been extended through legislation to 31 March 2021. This means that from 29 August 2020, with the exception of the most serious cases, landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants six months-notice. These serious cases include those in relation to anti-social behaviour (including rioting), domestic abuse, fraud and where a tenant has accrued rent arrears to the value of over six months’ rent.
Are all tenants entitled to a rent holiday over the next three months?
No. If your ability to pay your rent will be affected, it’s important to have an early conversation with your landlord. Rent amounts agreed in your tenancy agreement are still legally required to be paid. Any rent deferred during this period will still be expected to be paid back via a payment arrangement.
Tenants unaffected by coronavirus, and those who can still afford to pay full or reduced rent, should continue to pay.
It is important to discuss your circumstances with your landlord at the earliest opportunity so you can put suitable arrangements in place regarding a possible rent holiday for all or part of your rent.
Should landlords be contacting tenants about rent?
Landlords are encouraged to be proactive during this time and contact their tenants via phone, email or text. It allows the opportunity to discuss tenants' financial circumstances and whether temporary arrangements need to be agreed. It will also allow landlords to judge whether they apply for a mortgage holiday.
Houses in multiple occupation (HMO) licensing
We will be carrying out routine licensing inspections as necessary and will try to respond to applications based on the information provided, in addition to information sought by email and telephone. Any HMO licence issued without a pre-licence inspection will result in a compliance inspection as soon as possible. If it is found that the information supplied does not match the actual property or how it is occupied, the licence may have to be varied, including the number of occupants allowed.
Please see our HMO Amenity Standards for further guidance on room sizes and facilities expected.
How can I minimise health risks in my HMO?
Official advice is that tenants:
- remain in their own room as much as possible, avoiding communal areas;
- use separate cutlery and crockery;
- clean their own dishes and use a separate tea towel;
- schedule routines so that the person self-isolating uses the bathroom last;
- use separate towels and cloths;
- clean surfaces thoroughly.
Tenants should be following the government and NHS advice regarding staying at home, self-isolation and social distancing. Tenants should be encouraged to inform other occupants of the house, and visitors, if they are self-isolating or have experienced symptoms, as the whole household will need to self-isolate as per guidance issued.
Landlords should consider providing links to government and NHS advice, displaying self isolation posters to encourage handwashing and social distancing, and even ensuring there is soap and/or sanitiser at the property.
The government has issued guidance on decontamination in non-clinical settings which HMO landlords should have regard to during routine and deep cleans and between tenancies.
Common parts in HMOs
The common parts of HMOs (room by room lets, bedsits and also the common parts of blocks of flats) will still need cleaning. You should ensure your cleaners or the company you use has carried out an up to date health and safety risk assessment. It would be sensible to treat all areas as potentially having been in contact with a confirmed case, and so protective clothing such as disposable gloves and apron should be worn. Hands should be washed with soap and water after all protective clothing has been removed. Where a higher level of contamination may have been present (for example, where unwell individuals have slept) additional protective equipment such as a surgical face mask and full-face visor should be considered.