COVID-19: General Tenant Advice

* Update 2nd November 2020 at 10:00 – England Only *

With the “stay at home” order coming in place across England due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it’s more important than ever to ensure your safety as well as the safety of your landlord or prospective landlord, and any contractors that may need to complete work at your home.

We urge you to follow the advice being given by Government and the NHS. You can read the current advice from the NHS here.

Viewings

According to the latest Government guidance, landlords can continue to market their property for let, and viewings can continue to take place whilst observing social distancing guidelines.

It is recommended that landlords show the property via live video link (WhatsApp, skype, facetime, zoom etc) in the first instance, and then allow physical viewings once the tenant has expressed a genuine desire to proceed further.

Open Houses should not be performed during the lockdown.

Moving House

All moves are allowed to take place, following strict social distancing guidelines.

As inventories, check-ins and check-outs are can now be performed. Mid-Term Inspections are on hold during the lockdown.

Paying your Rent

There are a lot of people in a similar situation and you should work with your landlord/agent to set up an affordable payment plan for now and after this difficult time has passed.

Remember you are still liable for the full rent, COVID-19 cannot be used as a reason to not pay your rent or reduce your rent payments and not repay the arrears that build-up as a consequence. You still have a legally binding contract with your landlord to pay the agreed rent, just the same as a mobile phone contract or loan on a car. You are ultimately still liable for your contractual obligations during and after all this is over.

If you are experiencing trouble making payments, the first thing you need to do is communicate with your landlord/agent BEFORE your rent is due.

Generally it is advised to make the largest rent payment as possible (using all the goverment assistance that you can) whilst still having money left over for living expenses during the outbreak. It would be wise not to build up a large amount of rent arrears, as this will need to be paid back at some point in the future.

Landlords who have mortgages (the large majority of whom do), may also have access to payment holidays if required. A payment holiday is merely a deferred payment, it still has to be paid back by the landlord and tends to have the knock on effect of increasing their total mortgage cost over the term. There seems to be a misconception that landlords who are getting reduced mortgage payments don’t have to pay it back and they can therefore give tenants reduced rent for a few months; they cannot. Basically put, both parties have to pay back any arrears at some point.

If you have a guarantor, you should also have a discussion with them so they’re aware of what going on. They may also be able to provide assistance.

Please remember, most landlords will be in a similar situation with their employment being affected as well.

Government & Income Assistance

There are several things you can do to try and keep a steady flow of income: –
– General Government advice hub – Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do
– For employees – COVID-19: guidance for employees
– For self employed – Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme
– If you have lost the majority of your income (check for eligibility) – How to claim Universal Credit: step by step

Please investigate all income avenues as there is a lot of assistance out there at the moment.

Assistance is also being provided to employers by the Government and grants may be available to ensure you keep a significant amount of your income while you’re not working. Please make sure you have a conversation with your employer.

The government is also restarting the 80% Furlough scheme, please speak to your employer for more advice.

Maintenance & Legally Required Certificates

All maintenance work can continue to be perfomed whilst following strict social distancing.

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.

Government guidance at this time is that wherever possible these safety checks should continue in order to keep you safe.

If you do not want contractors to attend for legally required certificates, you should let your landlord know as soon as possible. You should not be pressured to allow anyone in to your home if you do not feel comfortable to do so. It may be that your landlord asks you to put this in writing, as they need to be able to prove that access was attempted and refused, and the reason for this.

Inventories and Inspections

All inventories, check-out’s and check-in’s can take place whilst following social distancing guidelines.

Mid-term inspections should be put on hold during the lockdown.

Further Reading

Additional independant advice is also available via Citizens Advice and Shelter.

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