Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Landlord information and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): information and guidance for landlords

The private sector housing team recognise and appreciate the uncertainty you may be experiencing during this time. You will be aware the situation is changing daily and we will continue to refer to guidance from the Government.

You can find the latest information on the situation in the UK on the gov.uk website. For information on symptoms, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you think you might have coronavirus, visit the NHS coronavirus webpage.

We have reviewed some of our procedures in light of official government guidance. We have also produced some frequently asked questions to help answer your concerns:

Do I still need to apply for an HMO licence?

Yes. It is important to still apply for an HMO licence as it remains a criminal offence not to and could lead to an unlimited fine upon conviction or the issuing of a civil penalty notice of up to £30,000. In addition, tenants can apply for a rent repayment order (RRO). To apply for a licence, and find out more details about HMO licensing, including RROs, please visit camden.gov.uk/hmolicensing.

Can I apply for a temporary exemption notice (TEN)?

A TEN is only issued for a short period (three months) when a property is actively being taken out of being licensable e.g. it is on the market to be sold or the owner is moving back in. 

Will an officer still want to inspect my property?

During this time inspections will not be taking place. We will instead issue licences based on the information provided with the application. If needed, we will contact you for further information by phone or email. We may also contact your tenants. A future compliance inspection will be carried out to all properties with a licence issued in this manner, when information will be checked and works required on the licence should have been completed. If the inspection finds that the property or the way the property is occupied differs to the information supplied, the licence may have to be varied. This may include an alteration to the permitted number once we have undertaken a measurement of room sizes

The schedule of work which forms parts of the HMO licence is based on the Council’s HMO standards which you should read and familiarise yourself with.

Do I still need to carry out works to my property?

Landlords or their agents should still be accessible to tenants by telephone or email.

Essential works will still need to be addressed as these might seriously affect the health and safety of your tenants. These include remedying problems with water supply, safe electricity and gas supplies, fire safety, drainage, heating and hot water, pest control, leaks and works to windows and doors that may affect security. If tenants are self-isolating, please see advice below.

Landlords, their representatives and tradespeople are expected to follow advice on social distancing.

The Council is continuing to provide a complaint response service to tenants during this period as part of our commitment to ensure all tenants have a safe place to live. Where necessary the Council will still take enforcement action if a landlord fails to carry out essential works.

How can I make sure the contractors I use are following official government guidance?

Each company offering services will have to carry out its’ own risk assessment in terms of protecting the health and safety of their employees and any members of the public. 

You should ask to see the risk assessment when you choose a contractor. It is important the risk assessment is up to date with information about how the contractor will protect their employees and residents and help reduce the spread of coronavirus. 

Is there any flexibility on HMO licence deadlines?

If you are experiencing difficulties as a result of coronavirus, please contact us as soon as possible. We will look at each licence on a case by case basis .Please document any communication with your tenants and contractors so we can assess the situation fully.

There may be circumstances where we will consider other means of reducing the risk of a hazard in the property on a temporary basis. You should seek advice from the officer who issued the licence before carrying out any alternative works.

Should I still make sure the common parts of my HMOs are clean?

In some houses in multiple occupation (including houses converted to self-contained flats), the landlord is responsible for cleaning the shared areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, hallways/stairs etc. If these areas are the landlord’s responsibility, then these should continue to be cleaned.

You should ensure your cleaners or the company you use has carried out an up to date health and safety risk assessment. It would be sensible to treat all areas as potentially having been in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, and so protective clothing such as disposable gloves and apron should be worn. Hands should be washed with soap and water after all protective clothing has been removed. Where a higher level of contamination may have been present (for example, where unwell individuals have slept) additional protective equipment such as a surgical face mask and full-face visor should be considered.

NHS advice on how to stop germs spreading can be found here.

In some cases, tenants may not feel comfortable with cleaners coming into the property. In such cases you should speak to all the residents to see if you can agree on alternative arrangements, at the same time ensuring that cleaning does take place in accordance with government and NHS guidance.

What do I do if my tenant is self-isolating?

Any tenants self-isolating are advised to avoid any visitors, and in these circumstances we advise you to keep a dialogue going with your tenant.

However, essential works will still need to be addressed as these might seriously affect the health and safety of your tenants. These include remedying problems with water supply, safe electricity and gas supplies, fire safety, drainage, heating and hot water, pest control, leaks and works to windows and doors that may affect security.

In these circumstances you and your contractors must take the precautions needed (i.e. full protective clothing) to keep everyone safe. Please follow the official government guidance around social distancing.

What if the tenant is older or vulnerable?

If your tenant is 70 or older, under 70 with an underlying health condition, or pregnant they are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus and will be following strict social distancing measures. Only essential works should be carried out, for example remedying problems with water supply, safe electricity and gas supplies, fire safety, drainage, heating and hot water, pest control, leaks and works to windows and doors that may affect security. In these circumstances please follow the official government guidance around social distancing.

In order to reduce social contact, inspections and non-essential repairs and maintenance should not be taking place during this period.

What can I do if my tenant is not paying their rent?

The government is bringing in emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from private rented accommodation while this national emergency is taking place. 

We urge all landlords to work with their tenants to reach an agreement in terms of paying rent if they are experiencing difficulty because of the coronavirus. The Council is providing support for tenants to ensure they do not suffer from evictions nor harassment during these difficult times. A separate FAQ has been provided for tenants in terms of accessing support and advice - and who to complain to if they have problems.

The Council takes this matter most seriously and it should be noted that any person(s) convicted of illegal eviction or harassment may be liable for up to 2 years imprisonment.

More information on the protection for tenants can be found on the gov.uk website and also on this landlord news page.

How can I afford to pay for the licence fee or the works if I am not receiving any rent?

The government has announced financial support for businesses. The Council website has further information on financial support available. Further information can also be found on the gov.uk website. 

The government has also extended the three month mortgage payment holiday to ‘buy to let’ mortgages.

What about my appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT)?

Any landlords with existing appeals to the FTT should have been contacted directly by the tribunal. However, the following advice was issued on 19 March 2020:
(1)    All listed hearing dates and mediations for cases proceeding in the London Region of the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) Residential Property are hereby postponed until after 29 May 2020.  
(2)    Where parties can continue to comply with existing directions in current cases, they should seek to do so and co-operate with each other for this purpose.  Save to that extent, all current directions on existing cases are suspended until after 29 May 2020.  Thereafter, the tribunal will aim to issue fresh directions, unless circumstances prevent this happening.

Additional advice is available from these organisations:

NHS UK

GOV.UK

Guidance for social distancing and for vulnerable people

National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA)

Private Sector Housing Enforcement Policy