Maintenance and property access guidelines as issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, March 2020
PLUS How the coronavirus restrictions will impact on your tenants.
At Carrick Johnson Lettings & Property Management, we are committed to helping to ensure that everyone renting their home has a safe and decent place to live. As part of our national effort to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak it’s vital that we work alongside local authorities, landlords and tenants to keep rented properties safe.
We continue to support the positive partnership between our landlords and tenants which underpins all well-functioning Letting agencies, such as our own.
It has never been more important that we as representatives of landlords and tenants take a pragmatic, commonsense approach to resolving issues that present themselves during this worldwide crisis..
What does the current situation mean for repairs to my property?
- Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live – and it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.
- Good management requires regular review and maintenance of a property, but we understand that planned inspections may not be possible at this time. However, that is no reason to allow dangerous conditions to persist.
- We are encouraging tenants to inform us early and engage constructively in the event that they encounter any issues with the condition of the property. Technological solutions such as Smartphone’s can be used to reduce the need for in-person inspections of property issues.
- Where reasonable and safe, and in line with other Government guidance we will make every effort to review and address issues brought to our attention by your tenants, and keep records of our efforts.
However, in these unprecedented times we encourage tenants and landlords to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues which are affected by COVID-19 related restrictions.
What is deemed ‘urgent and necessary?
- Inspectors or maintenance workers can still visit for essential or urgent work such as inspecting and testing fire alarm and emergency lighting systems.
- Urgent health and safety issues are those which will affect your tenant’s ability to live safely and maintain their mental and physical health in the property. This could include (but is not limited to): −
- a problem with the fabric of the building
- the roof is leaking
- the boiler is broken, leaving your tenant without heating or hot water
- If there is a plumbing issue, meaning your tenant does not have washing or toilet facilities
- If the white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken, meaning the tenant is unable to wash clothes or store food safely
- If there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door
- If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair
As a landlord can I ask my agent to conduct viewings for letting?
- In the interest of safety to our workers and our tenants and in the national bid to protect the NHS and save lives, we are committed to following the Government’s latest guidance necessary to help stop the spread of the virus which you can find here https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
- The Goverment has issued the following advice..
“We therefore recommend that landlords and tenants engage constructively about access to a property, and that it is only proposed for serious and urgent issues. This means that no one should visit the property to conduct viewings, or anything else which is not urgent and health and safety-related.”
What if I have a tenant scheduled to move into a property?
- Tenants should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new home while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus.
- If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on maintaining strict separation to minimise the spread of the virus.
- Anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice and not move home for the time being.
- Where moves do need to go ahead, all those involved should take care to follow Government guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
What about my legal obligations to provide regular gas and electrical safety inspections?
Will I be prosecuted if I can’t get access because I or my tenants are self-isolating?
- Landlords must provide tenants with all necessary gas and electrical safety and any other relevant certification at the beginning of a tenancy (and carry out all scheduled inspections and tests where required). Where inspections have already been carried out, documents can be provided by post or in some circumstances it may be possible to provide digital copies.
- Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations and electrical safety regulations which come into force on 1 July. There are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot do this (see box below), and they must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.
- The Government is encouraging local authorities and other enforcement agencies to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to enforcement in these unprecedented times. You can read the latest guidance for landlords and Gas Safe engineers and inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive here https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help-and-advice/covid-19-advice-and-guidance/
If we are not able to gain access to the property due to restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19, or are not able to engage a contractor to carry out the necessary work, we will document our attempts to do so and all correspondence with your tenants.
How does the Coronavirus Act 2020 interact with the courts suspending housing possession claims?
- The decision taken by the Master of the Rolls means that housing possession claims in the court system will be postponed, this means landlords will not be able to progress any claims where they have already issued a notice seeking possession for a 90 day period (subject to review).
- This new measure applies to cases currently in progress and cases where a landlord has already commenced possession proceedings on expiry of a notice seeking possession.
- A tenant issued with a three-month notice immediately after the Coronavirus Act 2020 comes into force would see that notice expire in three months. At the expiry of the notice, a landlord who wanted to take the next steps in progressing the possession claim would have to apply to the courts for a possession hearing, a process that ordinarily takes 6-8 weeks, and may take much longer under the current circumstances.
- The legislation covering notice periods is in force until 30 September 2020 and is subject to review and may be extended by secondary legislation.
- The suspension of housing possession cases is by a Practice Direction under the Civil Procedure Rules. The practice direction will suspend possession proceedings under Part 55 of the Procedure Rules for 90 days from 27th March.