Coronavirus (COVID 19): information and guidance for tenants
On 13 May 2020 the government announced that it was easing the lockdown for the housing market and home moves. Lettings and sales are now allowed to go ahead but this is not a return to normality. The country is coming out of the lockdown in stages but coronavirus is still in the community, restrictions are in place and social distancing should be maintained.
The situation is changing daily and we are aware that you may be feeling concerned, we have therefore produced some frequently asked questions which we hope will help.
Get information on the coronavirus
Visit the NHS coronavirus web page for information on:
- how to protect yourself
- what to do if you think you might have coronavirus
Changes to the housing market, home moves, letting and sales
The process of finding, moving and landlord maintenance of a property will be different. The government has made it clear that, “tenants’ safety should be letting agents’ and landlords’ first priority”. It has produced guidance and also supported the industry in developing guidelines for both consumers and property professionals on safe home moves.
- Government landlord and tenant guidance
- Government advice for home moves
- Industry guidance: Re-opening the home moving market safely
This guidance has been put in place to help prevent the further spread of the virus and the possibility of stricter lockdown measures having to be reintroduced.
In addition to the above all businesses, including landlords, letting and managing agents, should have carried out a health and safety risk assessment, with particular regard to Covid-19, and developed and implemented a safe way of working.
Should you allow your landlord to visit and have access to the property
Now that housing market restrictions have been eased your landlord or managing agent may need to access the property to carry out work.
Landlords do not have an automatic right to enter a property if you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) but check your contract as there is usually a term which allows access (e.g. for viewings or repairs). If you live in a house in multiple occupation, renting an individual room or bedsit, the landlord could be entitled to access common parts.
Government guidance advises that the landlord should contact you beforehand to check the health of you and anyone you share with and pre-arrange a suitable time to visit or carry out work. This includes following guidance about social distancing and working safely in someone’s home.
How they do things should be arranged to protect your health and safety. You and other tenants are advised to share information about your circumstances and any concerns you have with your landlord. It is important that they are aware if anyone in the house is clinically vulnerable, shielding or has Covid-19 symptoms and is self-isolating. The landlord and or managing agents will have to adapt what and how they do things depending on your circumstances.
If you have the virus and are self-isolating you should not have any visitors in your home, including your landlord, for at least 7 days from the onset of symptoms. You and your landlord, and the people you live with, should follow public health guidance (see links to NHS advice above) and arrange access at a later date.
Repairs that you need in your home may still go ahead
All repair work can take place where tenants are not shielding or self-isolating. The guidance encourages tenants to let landlords know of any problems with the property and for landlords to take appropriate action.
Where work is needed it should be carried out following the guidance and new ways of working which help prevent further spread of the virus. It should be done by agreement and preferably when tenants are not present and/or near the area where work and social distancing and hygiene guidelines need to be followed.
Essential work should take a priority. Examples of this would be would work to fix an electricity or gas cut off, a severe water leak, suspected gas leak or emergency works to make your home safe and secure. Repairs in households where people are shielding or self-isolating should only be carried out if necessary to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the tenants and in these cases face to face contact should be avoided and careful cleaning hygiene precautions taken.
For detailed guidance about how work should be carried out in the home by contractors read: Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19).
Should you give access if your landlord wants to carry out gas and electrical inspections
The updated guidance says that landlords are still expected to carry out safety checks when they are due. Where it is not possible to do it in time they must keep a record stating the reasons why.
Annual gas safety inspections are a very important legal requirement as the check is to ensure that boilers are operating safely. If you smell gas and/or there are any other signs that your boiler is faulty report it immediately. You are advised to allow access for these checks but see above if self-isolating or shielding.
There is also a new requirement about electrical installations in rented properties that comes into force on 1 July 2020 for all new tenancies and 1 April 2012 for existing tenancies. It requires landlords to ensure that any electrical installation is safe before a tenancy begins and throughout its duration. Tenants should also be provided with a copy of the electrical safety report.
You can complain to the Council if your landlord won’t deal with your repairs
The Council is continuing to provide a complaint response service to tenants during this period. This is as part of our commitment to ensure all tenants have a safe place to live.
Landlords should be acting on requests for repairs though it is accepted that there may be limitations or delays in how and when this can be done. This will depend on the health status of tenants and to ensure that contractors are operating in a safe way. Where necessary the Council will still take enforcement action if a landlord fails to carry out essential works.
If you landlord refuses to carry out necessary repairs, you can contact the Private Sector Housing team on 020 7974 2543 or email: email@example.com
Your landlord may be allowed to show new people around the property
Restrictions on moving have now been lifted and landlords can let vacant properties and/or rooms. This should be done in agreement with existing tenants prioritising their health and safety.
Physical viewings should not take place in properties where tenants either have symptoms, are self-isolating, clinically vulnerable or shielding.
If this does not apply, viewings can take place but virtual viewings are recommended in the first instance and the landlord may need to access the property to create a video. Any physical viewings should be kept to a minimum and preferably the tenants should not be there. Viewings should be by appointment only with prospective tenants from single household visiting, and for a limited time.
When the landlord/agent is at the property they should follow safe working procedures.
See Industry Guidance: Re-opening the Home Moving Market Safely
If your landlord is not cleaning the common parts of buildings that you share with other residents
In some houses in multiple occupation, 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.
Landlords should ensure cleaners are following government guidance and wearing protective clothing such as disposable gloves and aprons.
It is very important that regular cleaning still takes place.
How to protect yourself in a shared house or flat
It is good practice to try maintain social distancing and minimise interaction with others, including others who you share a home with. Everyone in the household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face and clean frequently touched surfaces.
In shared flats or houses this can be challenging. You should minimise the time you spend in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas as much as possible and keep shared spaces well ventilated. Ensure regular cleaning of shared spaces, including all surfaces.
Follow the government guidance and read NHS advice on how to stop germs spreading.
What to do if someone in your house or flat has coronavirus
Updated government guidance for landlords and tenants makes it clear that the previous general guidance issued to a household with possible coronavirus applies to tenants of shared properties, see following:
Wherever possible if this is the case you should separate yourself from other people in your household.
If you share a toilet and/or bathroom, it is important that you clean them after you have used them every time. For example you should wipe surfaces you have come in contact with. You could consider drawing up a rota for showering/bathing, with the tenant self-isolating using the facilities last. Then they should thoroughly clean the shower, bath, sink and toilet.
If you share a kitchen with others, avoid using it whilst others are present. Take your meals back to your room to eat. If you have one, use a dishwasher to clean and dry your used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water and dry them thoroughly, remembering to use a separate tea towel.
You should only use your own toothbrush, and use separate eating and drinking utensils. This includes cups and glasses in the bathroom and bedroom, dishes, drinks, towels, washcloths and bedlinen. You should not share these items with other members of your household. Make sure that you thoroughly clean the area you have used with an anti-bacterial cleaning fluid.
If you are struggling to pay rent because of coronavirus
Speak to your landlord if you're struggling to pay rent. They could be sympathetic especially if you've lost your job or seen your income reduce suddenly. They might agree to a rent reduction or accept a late payment to your rent. Get any agreement in writing.
Buy-to-let landlords may get mortgage payment holidays if their tenants have financial problems due to coronavirus.
If you are earning less, worried about paying your rent, mortgage or bills, or have other financial concerns as a result of the coronavirus, please contact the Council. We can discuss what support might be available through our discretionary housing payment and our welfare assistance fund.
Shelter and Citizens’ Advice also have good advice on their websites about how to deal with rent arrears and claiming benefits.
If you are still able to afford your rent it’s best to continue to pay to avoid building up arrears.
Your landlord cannot evict you straight away as a result of coronavirus
Illegal eviction is a criminal offence – coronavirus does not change this.
It is illegal for your landlord to evict you without following the proper steps.
If you are an assured shorthold tenant, your landlord cannot:
- make you leave without giving you 3 months’ notice
- when notice expires, your landlord must go to court to get a court order
- you still do not have to leave the property after the court order expires
- your landlord will have to return to court to get a bailiff warrant before they can evict you
- you must immediately contact the council if your landlord locks you out of your home, even temporarily.
It is important to note that even if your landlord has given you what they call a ‘licence’ agreement you may still have the rights of a tenant depending on your living arrangements at the property. Please contact the council for further advice on this matter.
If you are a lodger, and live in the same house or flat as your landlord, you do not have the same rights. If you have a written agreement, then your landlord should only give you notice as stated in the agreement. If you do not have an agreement, then the landlord only has to give you reasonable notice (usually 2-4 weeks).
If you have already had notice from your landlord
All court actions for eviction have been put on hold and the date has recently been extended from 25 June until 23 August. Under the current legislation, most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants three months’ notice. This means that landlords cannot evict their tenants whilst this national emergency is taking place.
If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness
Who to contact if your landlord is telling you to leave now or harassing you
You can contact the private sector housing team on 0207 974 2543 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or housing advice on 0207 974 5801 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm). You can also contact the police on either 999 (if you are being physically threatened) or 101. They should respond to illegal evictions.