COVID-19: General Landlord Advice

* Update 13th May 2020 at 10:00BST – The government have released a detailed document with regards to reopening the lettings market. Please see below for updated advice, more details can be found on the government page below *

You can find the government guidance for landlords and agents here, it was published at 10:00am on 13/5/2020.

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The “stay at home” order is still mainly in place across the UK due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it’s more important than ever to ensure the safety of you, your viewers, your existing tenants and your contractors.

Using information from a number of sources including Government and trade bodies, we have tried to answer some of the questions you may have regarding your rental property. This is a fluid situation and advice is being updated regularly, so we encourage you to revisit this, and other reliable sources, frequently.

You may also find our sample letters relating to the coronavirus outbreak useful.

Keeping us all safe

We urge you, your tenants and your contractors to follow the advice being given by the Government and the NHS. You can read the latest advice from the NHS here.

In order to minimise risk and exposure you shouldn’t visit the property or send a contractor if anyone:

  • Has a high temperature or a new, continuous cough
  • Has tested positive for COVID-19, or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive
  • Considers themselves to be in a higher risk group
  • Is self-isolating

You should keep written evidence to prove that you have completed this check with all parties.

If you are under our managed service and need to arrange an urgent visit to the property for any reason, please contact us first.

Advertising & Viewings

According to the latest Government guidance, you can continue to market your property for let.

In the first instance, all viewings should be done virtually by either live video tours, pre-recorded video or professional video tours. Only tenants who have a genuine interest in offering on the property should then physically view the property after viewing the video tour. It should be only one member of the family/group with agent/landlord following strict social distancing rules.

  • Agents/Landlords should not allow prospective tenants into tenanted properties and should wait for the property to be empty.
  • Agents/Landlords should not carry out any open house viewings.
  • Agents/Landlords should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically inspect properties which they have a strong interest in.
  • Agents/Landlords can accompany physical viewings and seek to maintain a minimum of 2 metres distance from others wherever possible. Where social distancing is not possible and the visit is within an enclosed space, they should consider wearing a face covering in line with government guidance.
  • Agents/Landlords should not drive clients to appointments.
  • All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water (or hand sanitiser if not available) immediately after entering the properties, with internal doors opened and surfaces having been wiped down before they enter. Separate towels or paper towels should be used if possible and washed or disposed of safely after use.
  • Private landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where it has been determined that they are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding.
  • In other cases, where viewings can proceed, they should be conducted in line with the guidance on viewings earlier in this document.

If you have a video tour to load onto your advert, simply upload it to Youtube and set the security to public then email us the link.

Tenant Moves

All tenant moves can now take place. It is still recommended that there is a 72 hours window between the old tenants moving out and the new tenants moving in to reduce the risk of cross infection.

  • Agents/Landlords should do what they can to promote flexibility when arranging move dates, for example advising clients to ensure contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by coronavirus.
  • Agents/Landlords should work with their clients and other agents to broker a new date to move where sales are due to complete and one of the parties falls ill with coronavirus or has to self-isolate.
  • Agents/Landlords should ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before handover.

Inventories, Check-ins/Outs, Inspections, Maintenance & Safety Certificates

  • Any visits to a property must be made in accordance with government’s guidelines on working in other people’s homes and social distancing.
  • If possible, necessary repairs, gas and electrical safety checks should be conducted in the period between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. If this is not possible and visits are needed to an occupied property, this should be done by appointment with measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit.
  • Landlords should make every effort to abide by gas and electrical safety requirements. This may be more difficult due to restrictions associated with the coronavirus outbreak, for example where a tenant has coronavirus symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding. Under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach. Letting agents may also want to consider obtaining landlord and tenant consent for inventory clerk appointments to also occur before a tenant moves in or after a tenant moves out during vacant periods if possible.
  • Letting agents and landlords should take steps to ensure any properties are prepared ready for new tenants, this may include cleaning to minimise any potential spread of the virus in line with government advice.
  • Letting agents and landlords should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed while broader measures remain in place, taking care to follow government advice on social distancing to minimise possible spread of coronavirus.
  • For any new or renewal contracts from 1st July 2020, there should also be an Electrical Safety Certificate in place.
  • Mid-term inspections are still considered unsafe and should continue to be delayed.

Right to Rent

These can now be done remotely via a video call. Your new tenant should email you a copy of their ID. During a video call, the tenant should hold the original documents so that you can see both them and their ID together. You should ensure the copy you have is the same as the one they are holding, and that the person in the ID it the same as the person holding it.

You Want to Serve Notice/Your Tenant Has Served Notice

At the time of writing, both Section 21 and Section 8 Notices are subject to a minimum of 3 months’ landlord notice (1 for the tenant). The notice form itself has also been updated. Click here for the correct Section 21 and Section 8 Notices to use during the coronavirus pandemic.

You can find government notice guidance here.

Rent Payments

As we all know, incomes are being affected due to the outbreak.

We recommend that you ask your tenants to contact you as soon as possible if they are concerned about their ability to meet their rent payments.

The tenant is still liable for the full rent so you should work with them to set up an affordable payment plan for now and after this difficult time has passed. COVID19 cannot be used as a reason to permanently renegotiate your contract or rent payments, the same as if they had a mortgage or loan on a car. They are still liable for their contractual obligations.

Your tenants should do everything in their power to ensure they have a steady flow of income, there is a lot of government financial assistance available and they can find advice on our General Tenant Advice Page.

It is advisable to ask your tenants to pay as much towards the rent as they can. If you discount the rent too heavily, the debt accrued can soon become very large and the monthly repayments may be unrealistic for tenants, even after their income returns to normal.

You may wish to consider the deposit when you are working out a repayment plan, however you should do this with caution. If the property is being maintained well, and you do not expect sizable or any deductions to be required at the end of the tenancy, you could possibly look to offset some of the rent debt against the deposit.

Payment holidays of up to three months are being offered to landlords with buy-to-let mortgages, on the understanding the benefit is to be passed to the tenant. You should contact your mortgage lender for more details.

Remember that any payment agreement you make with your tenant should be agreed in writing.

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