During the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that all Landlords continue to fulfil their Landlord obligations and the obligations under any Licensing Scheme, to the best of their ability, whilst continuing to integrate government advice into their practices. It is worth noting that this is an ever changing situation and therefore it is essential that Landlords stay up to date with the relevant information and any changes.
Please note that there has been no relaxation in the legislation that governs the PRS or a Landlord's obligations under any Licensing Scheme. Therefore, it's imperative that you do everything possible to protect both your own interests and the health and wellbeing of your Tenants. Also please do not forget that the Local Authority continues to have its statutory duty to Public Health and to reactively investigate complaints received about a privately rented property and will do so in a manner so as to avoid infection. As a result of any inspection you will still be required to work with the Local Authority in an attempt to resolve any issues and safeguard both your properties and your Tenants.
Finally, if you have had a completed Home Safe Compliance Check prior to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic or you have had any issues raised on your property prior to the pandemic or even during the pandemic, then the following FAQs should answer any of your queries. To be clear, even if the outcome is that a particular issue cannot currently be resolved, Landlords will still be required to communicate their efforts and demonstrate that the matter is periodically being revisited in order to bring the issue to a close.
The following FAQs may change or evolve as we move forward through these unprecedented times, so again, please keep up to date.
Is Home Safe still continuing a 'proactive' compliance check programme during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic?
The position of the Local Authority and Home Safe has always been to take a risk-based approach to compliance checks due to the potential risk to the health and wellbeing of the tenant and the Local Authority's duty to protect public health. On the evening of the 22nd March 2020 the Prime Minister issued further advice, this was reflected upon and the following day a decision was made to put all compliance check programmes on hold. This decision will be reviewed periodically.
At present we have no proposed date to restart the programmes but we can reassure all members that Home Safe will deliver the required number of compliance check programmes, within all scheme areas. Please note, that at the request of the Local Authority, Home Safe may still be required to carry out a compliance check on your property, however this will be on a reactive basis and in extreme circumstances.
Do you still require an acceptable Plan of Action (POA) following a compliance check that has already been carried out?
Yes. We believe there is no reason why you should not acknowledge the findings of the report and provide a POA for dealing with failed items within a reasonable timescale. A reasonable timescale during the time of this pandemic may of course be different to more normal times. You need to be aware that even during these difficult times your obligations have not changed and you are still at risk of claims driven by the Unfit for Human Habitation Bill. It will not be considered an acceptable defence to simply say that you could not resolve an issue due to Coronavirus, instead you will be expected to demonstrate the measures you took during this time and the continued efforts that you made, in order to try and resolve the matter. Home Safe is your mechanism for recording these efforts, through our POA system.
If I do not supply an acceptable POA within 3 days (for High Priority issues), 10 days (for Medium Priority issues) or 20 days (for Low Priority issues) will I be in breach of my T&Cs of membership?
Yes. We understand that finding contractors to repair failed items may be more difficult during this period but you still have a responsibility to the occupiers of the property to communicate your efforts and to communicate with Home Safe as part of your POA. In some cases, particularly where occupiers are following all the advice to prevent infection, a hazard found in your property could be more life-threatening to them than the Coronavirus.
Am I still responsible during this time for getting works done?
Yes. As difficult as this situation is for everybody, you still have an obligation to protect occupiers of your property from harm. Some Landlords may have picked up on the Government's advice about essential and non-essential works, the latest advice from MHCLG is that maintenance should and can still be done, if in the course of those efforts it is deemed unsafe to attend, based on your own screening processes, then non-essential maintenance can be managed accordingly but essential maintenance will still need to be resolved immediately, taking appropriate steps and with the support of your Local Authority if required.
If I supply an acceptable POA but the contractors cancel their appointments what will happen?
You need to contact Home Safe immediately so we can assess the situation and advise on the best course of action. Your involvement in this is critical, in order to ensure that you are providing the best possible service for the occupiers of your property. We may need to refer the case to the Local Authority for help. Please note that if your existing contractors are unable to support, then the advice would be to try alternative contractors. It is essential you keep a record of all the contractors you have attempted to instruct.
What is the guidance for contractors entering properties to complete works?
The Government advice is quite clear and all responsible contractors should be following it. They should be taking steps to minimise non-essential contact, in order to limit the potential exposure to the Coronavirus. They should continue to deal with all emergencies. When appointments are booked either you or your contractors should be asking questions like these:
- Have you or anyone in the property been diagnosed with Coronavirus?
- Are you or anyone in the property self-isolating?
- Have you been in contact with anyone who has tested positive or who is in the
- Is anyone in the property at higher risk i.e. over 70, diabetic etc?
- Has anyone in the property travelled to a high-risk area since November 2019?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then the situation should be assessed, in order to determine the appropriate solution.
When a contractor does visit a property, they should take additional precautions including hand-washing – before, during and after the appointment, wearing gloves, and if they feel appropriate, a mask. They should protect all occupiers by exercising social distancing at all times and ask all occupiers to do the same.
If I get the work done, do I still need to provide evidence of High Priority issues and confirmation of Medium Priority issues being resolved?
Yes, in the event that works are able to be completed there is no reason that should prevent the necessary evidence of completion being collected. Furthermore, Landlords should still be in a position to provide their evidence in the normal way. This can be provided without any increased risk of infection.
What if I genuinely can't resolve an issue and the issue is classified as 'High' or is clearly an imminent risk to my tenants health and wellbeing?
In such an instance, Home Safe should be informed immediately and you should contact your Local Authority's environmental health department, in order to request assistance and make them aware of the situation. In cases of emergencies, such as suspected gas leaks or power cuts, you should still report the issue to the appropriate organisations. For electricity related issues you can call 105 free from any phone and for gas you can call 0800 111 999.
Can I stop my payments to Home Safe if my tenants stop paying me?
No. As a Landlord with a property in a Selective Licence area, you still have a legal obligation to have a licence and you will still be required to adhere to your landlord obligations and licence conditions. In addition to this, your property will still have the agreed number of compliance checks in 5 years, as originally planned. The service Home Safe provides you with also includes general compliance that may crop up at any time outside of the property compliance check programme and in that regard our full support is still available to you. It’s also worth noting that whilst the compliance check programme is on hold, Home Safe or the Local Authority may still be required to carry out an inspection, under strict safety measures, should a report or complaint of a serious nature be received about your property.
The Government has put in place measures to support both tenants and landlords. In the event of a non-paying tenant, as a result of the Coronavirus, you should review the situation and direct your tenant to the Local Authority in order to determine if they are able to access any financial support. As a landlord with an affected tenant, you can also approach your mortgage company and apply for a payment holiday on your mortgage.
Where can I find the latest Government guidelines for the Private Rented Sector?
To view the latest Government guidelines for the Private Rented Sector please click the following link https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-and-renting-guidance-for-landlords-tenants-and-local-authorities
Should you require any further information please contact Home Safe by email using email@example.com, we encourage all members to stay safe, protect the NHS and protect lives.