Further to the implementation of the Coronavirus Bill (now the Coronavirus Act 2020), special measures have been brought in to assist tenants affected by coronavirus. So what does this mean for landlords and tenants, and how does it help protect everyone?
Below are some day-to-day scenarios for landlords and how the Coronavirus Act 2020 will affect them. Obviously this situation could change at any time, so it landlords must make sure that they are constantly up-to-date with legislation at this difficult and often confusing time.
Evicting a tenant or giving notice
If you’re a landlord, this means not expecting tenants to move even if you have already issued notice of your intention to regain possession of your property, or if you issue notice for any reason whatsoever during this period.
Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, until 30th September 2020, landlords will need to give their tenants three months’ notice if they intend to seek possession of Assured Shorthold Tenancies. The Government has also issued a Practice Direction to stop any possession claims from progressing. This suspension applies for a 90-day period from 27th March 2020, for any housing possessions proceedings in rented, leasehold and home ownership sectors.
Accessing a Property
- Landlords’ repair obligations remain unchanged. Tenants have a right to a warm and safe place to live. Properties must still be kept in good repair and free from dangers.
- Good management requires regular review and maintenance of a property, but planned inspections may be more problematic at this time. However, there is no reason for dangerous conditions to be allowed to persist.
- Tenants should inform landlords early if they encounter any issues with the condition of their property. Video calling can be used to reduce the need for in-person inspections of property issues.
- Where reasonable and safe for you, and in line with other Government guidance, efforts should be made by landlords to review and address issues that have been raised by tenants, and keep records of all interactions.
- Inspectors or maintenance workers can still visit blocks of flats and multi-occupied properties for essential or urgent work, such as inspecting and testing fire alarms, lighting systems and heating.
- Urgent health and safety issues are those which will affect your tenant’s ability to live safely and maintain good health in the property. This include (but not limited to):
- If there is a problem with the building exterior, e.g the roof is leaking
- If your boiler is broken, leaving a tenant without heating or hot water
- If there is a plumbing issue, leaving a tenant without 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 major security issue, such as a broken window or external door
- If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair
What about gas and electrics and their upkeep?
- Landlords must provide tenants with all necessary gas and electrical safety certification at the beginning of a tenancy (and carry out all scheduled inspections and tests where required).
- 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, and they must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. If a landlord is unable to gain access to the property due to restrictions in place to tackle coronavirus, or is unable to get a contractor to carry out the necessary work, it’s recommended that all attempts to do so are documented, as well as any correspondence with the tenant.
What about conducting viewings or scheduling a move into a rental property?
- The Government has advised against home moves wherever possible. See separate advice here
- It is advised that landlords and tenants engage constructively about access to a property, and that it is only for urgent issues.
- This means that ideally no one should visit the property to conduct viewings, although this is officially allowed now providing social distancing takes place.
- If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on maintaining social distancing.
- Anyone with coronavirus symptoms, who is self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice and avoid moving home unless absolutely necessary.
- Where moves do need to go ahead, advice should be followed (see our blog for more advice)
What if my tenant can’t pay their rent right now?
You may be asking whether you should stop charging rent during this current time. The advice from the Government is as follows:
- Landlords are not required to do this. Most tenants will be able to pay rent as normal and should continue to do so, and they will remain liable for the rent during this period.
- Each tenant’s circumstance is differen, with some being worse affected in terms of their ability to pay than others. It is important for landlords to be flexible and have an open conversation with their tenants at the earliest opportunity.
It might become the case that tenants are unable to pay their rent, due to losing their job or becoming furloughed, so may ask for a ‘rent holiday’. Although there is no Government mandate for landlords to comply, you may feel obliged to help them out. If this is the case then a landlord could look into applying for a mortgage holiday for the property if needed.