The Coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses across the country to adjust their working practices in order to meet the guidelines in place. Your landlord clients may be wondering about the implications the restrictions have when it comes to certain duties they’re required to fulfil.
Should landlords visit tenants or properties?
The Coronavirus Act 2020 does not change landlords and agents obligations on property repairs that are outlined in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, s.11. However, during the current pandemic, you should only visit properties to conduct repairs which are deemed essential, these are repairs that if not completed would put tenants at risk. If you find yourself needing to visit properties for essential repairs you should ensure you are following social distancing rules at all times.
It is also advisable to check in advance whether anyone is self-isolating or experiencing any symptoms. If the answer is yes, think carefully as to whether the work can wait until their self-isolation period is over.
Neglecting maintenance work during the pandemic could potentially cost landlords thousands of pounds in compensation. This is because tenants now have the power to take legal action if essential maintenance isn’t carried out.
What does the government say?
In its guidance for landlords and tenants, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government acknowledges that planned inspections may be difficult during this time. However, it reiterates that this is ‘no reason to allow dangerous conditions to persist’.
Good property management demands regular review and maintenance. As such, Landlordsguild.com states, landlords should still be conducting urgent and/or essential repairs and maintenance during the pandemic to ensure properties meet the required standards.
This means the duty falls to you to determine whether or not a job is essential or whether it can wait until the lockdown is lifted or at least eased. To help, the government describes urgent issues as those likely to affect the physical or mental health of your tenant and impact their ability to live safely. These include issues related to:
- the fabric of the building, for instance a leaking roof
- plumbing, meaning a tenant cannot use the toilet or washing facilities
- the boiler, meaning a tenant does not have access to hot water or heating
- white goods, for example if the washing machine breaks down or fridge-freezer ceases working and tenants are unable to wash clothes or safely store food
- security, for instance a broken window or lock
- equipment a disabled tenant relies on in need of repair or installation
Who can carry out the work?
In other guidance on social distancing, the government explains how tradespeople can visit homes as long as they are well and are not showing signs of Coronavirus. But they shouldn’t enter properties where someone is isolating due to advice they have been given or because one or more of their family members has symptoms. Unless, it states, the work is to remedy ‘a direct risk to the safety of the household’ which includes urgent repairs.
Maintenance workers and inspectors are still able to visit blocks of flats and HMOs for essential and/or urgent work such as testing alarms and lighting systems. Make sure you document all correspondence with tenants and workers with regard to maintenance and repairs.
What about non-essential tasks?
The guidance advises tenants and landlords to adopt a ‘pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues which are affected by COVID-19 related restrictions.’
If you have good rapport with your tenants, you may look to work with them to identify maintenance concerns and repairs that require immediate attention, as well as tasks that can wait. You could even consider utilising video calls to conduct remote inspections, which will help you to identify issues and at the same time keep you and your tenants safe.
Encourage your tenants to tell you about any issues as soon as they notice them. The guidance states you should make every effort to review and address issues ‘where reasonable and safe for you’ – and don’t forget to record any attempt you make to resolve the issues.
Cleaning tips for blocks of flats
If you own and let blocks of flats, it is usually the landlord’s (or management company’s) responsibility to ensure communal spaces, such as stairways and entrances, are kept clean during the pandemic – which could involve you encouraging tenants to help in the effort and maintain a high level of cleanliness.
Of course, you may look to hire a cleaning company, though this may not be possible in the current climate.
The following cleaning advice for tenants caring for communal areas comes courtesy of Under One Roof:
- Wear disposable, protectives gloves if available, especially when handling disinfectant
- Pay particular attention to areas such as handrails, door handles, entry keypads and bells that will be touched regularly by tenants
- Clear off visible dirt using soap and water before disinfecting surfaces (as dirt can make disinfectants less effective)
- Apply disinfectant to dry surfaces – whether you use wipes or a spray solution make sure you read the instructions to ensure safe application
- Aim to clean floors two or three times a week and objects such as handrails and door handles once a day if possible
Here at Stride we understand that every property portfolio is unique. So whether you’re a property portfolio owner or a managing agent, we can help you find the right level of cover for your investments. Talk to one of our experienced team members today on 023 9224 8790.