** Updated 27th March 2020 **
With increasing reports of confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases across the UK, it is important to ensure the safety of both you, your viewers, your existing tenants and any contractors you employ.
We urge you to follow the advice being given by Government and the NHS. You can read the current advice from the NHS here.
Using information from a number of sources including Government and trade bodies, we have tried to answer some of the questions that 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.
Viewings & Advertising
According to the latest Government guidance, you can continue to market your property for let, but you should not allow people in to view your property.
Furthermore, there should not be any visitors into the property at all, meaning that a landlord can not attend a property with a tenant in-situ and there should be no in-person viewings.
If your property is vacant, you may be able to conduct virtual viewings (via skype, zoom, WhatsApp etc). A new Statute was passed yesterday and came into immediate effect in England which forbids anyone leaving the place where they are living “without reasonable excuse”, so you must only leave to conduct a virtual viewing if absolutely necessary.
If your property is currently tenanted, your tenant may be willing to conduct a virtual viewing on your behalf.
If you decide that you would like to suspend your advert for the time being, please let us know as soon as possible. As a gesture of goodwill during this difficult time, we will be happy to suspend your advertisement and relist when you are ready to, with the balance of your remaining advertising time (your advert is valid for up to 2 months or until let).
If you would like to continue advertising, it would be great to include a video tour of your property. If you have one, just email it across to us.
New Tenants Moving In
Many landlords are currently in the process of letting their property, either with references underway, contracts being signed, or the move being imminent.
At this time, the advice from Government is that house moves can go ahead if absolutely unavoidable. Where possible, renters and landlords should delay moving 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 social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus.
Inventory clerks are continuing to work, taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and others, however we are aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult for tenants to find removals companies or vans for hire to physically get moved.
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.
There are certain things your tenant can do to ensure a steady flow of income and the government is keeping this page up to date. Your tenant should investigate all avenues as there may be financial assistance available to them.
Assistance is also being provided to employers by the Government and grants may be available to ensure your tenants keep a significant amount of their income while they’re not working.
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.
Government proposals also include suspending the eviction process, with no new possession proceedings to start during the crisis. This means that you will be unable to start proceedings to evict tenants for a three-month period – whatever the reason.
Maintenance, Inspections & Legally Required Certificates
All non-emergency maintenance and inspections should be postponed. Likewise, you should not attend the property yourself unless in an emergency.
Landlords have a legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, to ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue, and to keep a record of each safety check.
If you anticipate difficulties in gaining access as the COVID-19 situation progresses, you have the flexibility to carry out annual gas safety checks two months before the deadline date. Landlords can have the annual gas safety checks at their properties carried out any time from 10 to 12 calendar months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check.
You are encouraged to arrange your annual gas safety checks as early as possible, as a contingency against tenants being in self-isolation for a period of 14 days, or gas engineers being unavailable due to illness.
If the tenant refuses access for legally required certificates to be completed, we advise you to keep a dialogue going with them. You should document the reason you cannot carry out the check and ask the tenant to explain in writing why they are not allowing access. It’s also advisable to inform the local authority housing team that you are unable to complete the inspection at this time.
You should book the inspection for as soon as access is possible.
Essential works, such as water supply, sanitation and heating failure will still need to be addressed. Landlords, their representatives and tradespeople should follow advice on social distancing.