Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for clients & tenants
What you need to know about the Coronavirus if you are a tenant or a landlord
THIS PAGE IS BEING REGULARLY UPDATED
Publish date: March 17th 2020 // Last update: April 21st 2020
We are committed to keeping you in the loop with the ever changing advice from the Government regarding property rental, whether you are one of our tenants or landlords.
The UK Government has released a pdf with Guidance to Tenants and Landlords regarding Covid-19. This is a 21 page document but we have consolidated some of the salient information below to help you. Download the PDF here.
For further information visit the UK Government’s dedicated webpage for the crisis is here; https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus The UK Governments link above does give the option of having email alerts for all things relating to the crisis and I would urge you all to sign up.
OFFICE HOURS & STAFF AT TOWN & COUNTRY
Following the Government Guidance; as of Monday 23rd March the UK Government has asked all people to stay at home except for several reasons; shopping for essentials, essential work, medical reasons for yourself and for those in need and finally for one form of exercise per day. If you are in any doubt, the guidelines can be found here.
In line with the Government update regarding the Coronavirus, I can now confirm that our Hove office is now closed to discourage people from meeting.
We will do our level best to ensure we minimise disruption for you but we ask for your understanding whilst we work through these difficult times.
Below is some practical information for you, our valued tenants and landlord, about how we intend working through this rapidly evolving situation.
The Government has made announcements with regards to the private rental and housing sector and some of these that would concern you are as follows;
- Emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place
- No new possession proceedings through applications to the court to start during the crisis
- Landlords will also be protected as 3 month mortgage payment holiday is extended to Buy to Let mortgages
I think it is vital that we are realistic in terms of disruption to employment for tenants and the problems this may cause. Having spoken to a client yesterday he took the very measured approach that should he be able to get a three month payment holiday then it is only fair for the tenants to receive the same, arrears can then be arranged to made up at a later date.
We are of course aware that this situation could cause difficulties for some tenants in terms of employment and wages.
We ask that you keep in touch with us, so we in turn can update your landlord, with any difficulties you may face so that we can work together to minimise any potential issues that may arise.
We will also keep closely in contact with any of our clients that this may affect. We have made the decision to hold off on scheduled rent increases at this time although any already undertaken will remain in place.
If you are worried about paying your rent or have a tenant you are concerned about, please email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org
We have also been advised that we cannot refuse to accept notice.
I did ask whether we are permitted to ask, in writing, for confirmation that only their household will help them vacate and comply with Government and Public Health guidelines and they stated this would be a good measure to have in writing for our own protection.
Fortunately we have very few available properties but have been contacting all landlords with vacant properties. We have filmed virtual tours so that we have a digital file to be able to send to any interested applicants.
We can no longer carry out physical viewings on available properties as per the Government guidelines. All documents can be signed digitally, which means that commencing a tenancy is a very straightforward process and helpful in this current situation should it be seen as ‘essential’ that a new contract begins.
The Government has clarified its position on house moves, advising that home buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving home until the Coronavirus crisis has abated.
The Government says ongoing sales and rental house moves can proceed “if moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay”.
In terms of available properties, if applicants have not signed tenancies this would be seen as ‘non essential’ and would therefore need to be postponed as it would be against the instruction from the UK Government.
If it can be proven that it was essential for someone to be moved – and it was evidenced that the applicants would move using the required social distancing measures – then it is possible this could occur. However this is still a grey area so each instance should be judged on a case by case review and the Government have not given anything remotely like a guarantee in regards to this.
I can fully appreciate the concern regarding this and will be contacting any clients whose properties may be vacant and therefore affected at this time.
Perhaps some clarity from the Government. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government released the following statement;
Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.
Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has Coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
It would appear therefore that works can continue which is great news for you all. However it is vital that procedures are followed along government guidelines.
The link to this is from a letting trade website as here.
There are a lot of questions in terms of this specifically as could, for example, a dripping tap be classed as essential as if it were left it could cause a much bigger problem further down the line? We will of course be maintaining properties as much as possible during these very trying times and will be in contact if we are in any doubt as to your instructions should queries arise.
As it stands we still expect to instruct contractors, where possible, on a range of jobs that undoubtedly will require doing to either protect the safety of tenants or properties to avoid serious damage. One thing that is a priority is gas safety as it is a criminal offence should a tenant be injured due to gas appliances that have not been suitably checked by a Gas Safe registered contractor. Guidance for Landlords can be found here and is actually quite useful for other types of contractors in broad terms.
For tenants, our contractors will work on the following basis;
- For tenants, they must be present to allow access for any maintenance issues that may arise as keys will not be able to be collected from our offices.
- Contractors will not attend properties where tenants are self-isolating or have symptoms of the virus.
- We are still awaiting guidance from the Government, in terms of emergency maintenance responsibilities for landlords, in properties where tenants are self-isolating or have symptoms of the virus. I will provide updates on our social media pages and our own website with information when received in this regard.
For clients, I will be drafting guidelines for all contractors used on your behalf shortly. I am awaiting information from the Government, in terms of your obligations for repairs under the Housing Act, and, in particular, over emergency works if a tenant has the virus or is self isolating.
I would expect that in this instance you would still need to carry out your obligations but that the tenant would be asked to be in a separate room. Contractors would be within their rights to have protective clothing and anti-bacterial cleaning included in their costings for the works.
For those properties that we manage jointly with our partners at RDA Estates; rest assured that we will of course be working closely with them on all aspects of your property management.
A FINAL NOTE
I will continue to signpost tenants to the Government pages and will of course ensure you are kept up to date if this affects you.
Being in uncharted territory I hope that you are finding this information of use. If there are dramatic changes in legislation, Government measures, or indeed our own working practices, I will keep you updated.
Keep a close eye on our social media pages Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin for further information and use these platforms to reach to us directly to us. Above all, please stay safe, look after yourselves and others.
Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or queries.
As ever let me end by saying I hope that wherever you are in the world that you stay safe and look after yourselves and your loved ones.