Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for landlords and tenants
Everyone has the a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live.
Where safe to do so, it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are well maintained, kept in good repair and free from hazards.
The Private Sector Housing Team will continue to carry out essential urgent inspections in person where other means of inspection are not possible. However the majority of our initial assessments are now taking place remotely.
Prior to carrying out any inspection in person we will undertake a pre-inspection screening questionnaire to determine whether it is appropriate to carry out a visit or inspection of premises. This will be sent with appointment letters.
Please note: the questionnaire needs to be completed before we will consider visiting you.
Your participation is important to help us take precautionary measures to protect everyone during this time.
The Government has published detailed Guidance for tenants and landlords [external link]; landlords can take steps to carry out repairs and safety inspections across tiers 1-4 [external link] provided these are undertaken in line with public health advice [external link].
Some of the questions we are being most commonly asked include:
What if my property needs repairs?
- Landlords have the same responsibilities for repairs during the coronavirus outbreak.
- You might not be able to get the problem fixed during the usual timescales but shouldn't delay repairs unreasonably, particularly if these are external repairs without the need to enter the property.
- Anyone who comes to carry out repairs should follow government guidance and public health advice for working safely in people’s homes [external link].
What about the requirement for landlords to ensure certain installations are in place or safe, for example electrical inspections, gas safety checks, fire alarms, emergency lighting?
- Safety in the home remains extremely important and therefore all landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations – and in the private rented sector, the new electrical safety regulations which apply to new tenancies from 1st July 2020 and will apply for existing tenancies on 1st April 2021.
- The authority will consider carefully if landlords can show evidence that they have been unable to carry out inspections or works, despite having taken reasonable steps, before carrying out any enforcement.
- Inspectors/maintenance workers can still visit blocks of flats and multi-occupied properties for essential or urgent work such as inspecting and testing fire alarm and emergency lighting systems.
What if a gas safety inspection is due?
- Annual gas safety checks are still an important legal requirement.
- Gas safety inspections, however, should not be carried out in homes where an individual is self-isolating until after the isolation period has ended, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household.
- You should rearrange any gas safety checks that are due if they cannot go ahead safely because someone in your house is at high risk or self-isolating. Advice is available on the Gas Safe Register website [external link].
What if my tenant doesn't want anyone to access their house?
- Tenants normally have to allow landlords access to carry out repairs.
- If someone in the house is self-isolating or at high risk, Government Guidance [external link] says that landlords should only send someone if there is a serious problem that puts tenants at risk.
- Tenants can ask to postpone any non-urgent repairs however landlords and contractors can now carry out both routine and essential repairs in households with clinically extremely vulnerable occupants. In these cases, landlords and tenants should work together to make prior arrangements to ensure that social distancing is maintained (insofar as possible).
- Where a tenant is not self-isolating and persistently refuses to allow access to the property to carry out essential repairs, landlords still have the powers and tools available to gain access to their properties during the period affected by coronavirus. This includes access to the courts to obtain an injunction.
What happens if my tenants are moving during the lockdown period?
The housing market in England remains open in tiers 1-4, people looking to move home will be able to both continue with planned moves and view new properties to move into in the future.
Additional Guidance [external link] on moving home during the coronavirus outbreak says that homeowners and renters should follow public health advice.
You may however need to:
- postpone the move
- negotiate start and end dates of both old and new tenancies.
Can tenants stop paying rent because of the coronavirus outbreak?
There is no payment break or holiday for renters. They can only pause rent payments if the landlord agrees.
Some landlords can apply for a break in mortgage payments if their tenants are struggling to pay rent due to coronavirus, but this won’t always be possible. Tenants will still have to make up missed payments later.
Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability.
As a tenant if you find yourself in financial difficulty, an early conversation with your landlord can help you both, as you can agree a plan. This can include a temporary agreement not to seek possession action for a period of time and instead accept a lower payment of rent or agree a date in the future for rent arrears to be paid by. If this is agreed, tenants and landlords must stick to the agreed plan. Tenants must communicate with their landlord immediately if they are unable to do so.
The Government has put in place a major package of financial support to help people pay for their living costs, including rent. This support includes those who are self-employed.
If you are struggling financially due to a change in your earnings or employment, then you may be able to apply for Universal Credit. Shelter has a useful guide [external link] on how to claim Universal Credit.
It’s not just the unemployed who receive benefits, tax credits or other allowances. Even if you are in work, retired, or already in receipt of some tax credits or benefits, it is worth checking that you are not missing out on money that rightfully belongs to you.
This Benefits Calculator is supplied by Turn2us [external link], a national charity that helps people in financial hardship to gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and support services.
This page was last updated on 31st December 2020
All guidance is subject to frequent updates and should be checked regularly for up to date information on our Coronavirus page.