Guidance for Landlords During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Here you can find some useful information for Landlords during this strange and confusing time.

We understand that the current crisis is a confusing and stressful time for most and as a landlord you may be worried about whether your tenants can pay their rent, what will happen if essential works, such as gas safety inspections, are required on your property or what happens during the lockdown if your tenant reports an emergency, alongside other concerns.

We want to offer as much support as possible, so to help put that stress at ease, we’ve put together the landlord’s guide to keep you informed on everything you need to know during the COVID-19 outbreak and current lockdown measures advised by the government.

1. Reporting Repairs & Emergencies

If your property is managed by D&D we will continue to handle all maintenance requests, essential works and emergency call outs. There are some disruptions to our services as a result of government restrictions and guidance, but we are doing our best to ensure that our service is running as smoothly as possible.

Tenants Reporting a Repair:

In the case of any maintenance issues, we still encourage our managed tenants to report these via our online Report a Repair platform as normal.

For the meantime, our contractors will only be able to attend to emergency call outs and undertake essential work, such as gas safety inspections (please see below for more information). General maintenance issues are currently postponed until further notice, but we are continually communicating with your tenants to ensure that these issues are logged via our Report a Repair platform, as this will enable us to address them once the lockdown restrictions have been lifted.

If your tenant reports urgent works, an emergency or your property needs essential maintenance:

In the case of any urgent works, emergency call outs, such as gas leaks or fire, or essential maintenance, such as gas safety checks, we want to ensure that everyone involved remains safe and protected.

If your tenant needs to report an emergency they are asked to follow the advice on our Report a Repair page by clicking here BUT please also note that they are also asked to abide by the below protocols:

  • If a contractor must attend your tenanted property to attend an emergency, the tenants are asked to ensure that all members of the household are not in the property other than to let the contractor into the house. This may mean that all household members vacate the property to go for a walk, or, if possible, remain in their garden or outdoor space.
  • If this is not possible, we ask our tenants to remain in one room together away from the contractor.
  • If any household member is sick, self-isolating or vulnerable, the contractor will discuss their own protocols for handling such circumstances with the household directly.

We’ll be dealing with any reported emergency call outs and essential maintenance needs as normal, giving priority to the most serious cases. In the unlikely event that our contractors can’t attend a property, we’ll do everything we can to limit the impact it may cause and to find a solution asap. We’ll also maintain contact with you and your tenants to keep you both updated on the progress of the situation.

Can I access my rental property, and do I still need to ensure my property is fit for use?

Landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard – emergency call outs and essential works should be made. Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations and electrical safety regulations which come into force on 1 July.

If your property is not managed by Davies & Davies please be aware that there are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot abide by existing gas and electrical safety regulations and you must demonstrate you have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. If you aren’t able to access the property due to restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19, or you’re not able to engage a contractor to carry out the work, we recommend you document your attempts to do so and all correspondence with your tenants. If your property is managed by us, we will handle all of this on your behalf.

An agreement for non-urgent repairs to be done later should be made between tenants and landlords, which we can help negotiate for landlord’s whose properties we manage.

The government encourage landlords and tenants to adopt a pragmatic and common-sense approach to issues that may arise in the current circumstances. Tenants continue to have the right to a decent, warm and safe place to live and it is in everyone’s best interests to ensure properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards. If a contractor must access the property it is still necessary to obtain permission from your tenants with at least 24 hours’ notice. If D&D manage your rental property, we will ensure that any access requests abide by current legislation.

It’s worth noting that tenants living with serious hazards that a landlord has failed to remedy can still be assured of local authority support. Landlords should also know they should not be unfairly penalised where COVID-19 restrictions prevent them from meeting some routine obligations.

For more information on accessing your property and your responsibilities towards repairs please see the ‘Guidance for Landlords and Tenants During COVID-19’ by gov.uk by clicking here.

What are considered urgent and emergency works?

Urgent health and safety issues are those which will affect your tenant’s ability to live safely and maintain their mental and physical health in the property. This could include (but is not limited to):

  • If there is a problem with the fabric of the building, for example the roof is leaking.
  • If your boiler is broken, leaving your tenant without heating or hot water.
  • If there is a plumbing issue, meaning your tenant does not have washing or toilet facilities.
  • If the white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken, meaning the tenant is unable to wash clothes or store food safely.
  • If there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door.
  • If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair.
  • If there is a fire or flood.

If there is a suspected gas leak your tenants are advised to call National Grid Gas Emergencies 0800 111 999 (This is a 24-hour emergency line). If the issue is of a serious nature, such as a crime, fire or serious injury your tenants are advised to call the emergency services immediately.

Can I still go ahead with visits and inspections?

As this is not considered an essential visit, the answer is no. We will be postponing all non-essential visits such as:

  • routine tenancy inspections;
  • viewings towards the end of your tenancy.

Who to contact if your property is managed by Davies & Davies:

Just because our team are working from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t reach them! If you’re having any concerns, please make sure to contact your property manager directly. You can find their remote working contact details here:

Katrina Fernandes: 07737151290 / Katrina@daviesdavies.co.uk

Fabio Sampaio: 07581081085 / Fabio@daviesdavies.co.uk

Alisha Eversley-John: 0756231568 / Alisha@daviesdavies.co.uk

My property is not managed by Davies & Davies:

If you are a landlord who let your property through Davies & Davies but you are not currently a landlord whose property is managed by us then please liaise with your tenants directly about any emergency call outs, essential works or general maintenance issues.

We’re very happy to provide advice to any landlord clients of ours during this difficult time, whether your property is managed through us or not. So, if you’d like some guidance, or perhaps you are interested in your property becoming managed by Davies & Davies, please get in contact with our Head of Property Management Katrina Fernandes: 07737151290 / Katrina@daviesdavies.co.uk

2. Worried your tenants can’t pay all or some of the rent?

Fears of paying rent have reached an all time high for the global population, so you’re not alone in this and we’re here to help guide you through this difficult time. This is a very worrying time for everyone and we’re very sympathetic that landlords are concerned about whether your tenants will be able to pay their rent and the effects this may have on your mortgage payments.

We encourage our landlords and tenants to approach these difficult circumstances with kindness – together we will try to come up with a solution. If you’re feeling anxious, want some advice or help please do not hesitate to reach out to us – supporting our landlords is one of our biggest priorities.

The government has announced measures to protect both landlords and tenants affected by coronavirus. Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by the terms of their tenancy agreements to the best of their ability during the outbreak, but if they find themselves unable to do so these are the next steps that are taken:

a. We ask our managed tenants to get in contact with their property manager:

If your property is managed by Davies & Davies Estate Agents then we have directed all of our managed tenants to get in contact with their property manager if they are worried that they might not be able to pay all or some of their rent.

We will then get in touch with you on your tenant’s behalf and try our best to work out a way forward for both parties.

Solutions, where possible, might involve temporary rent reductions or rent repayment plans.

If your tenant has got in contact with you directly and your property is managed by us, please do let your assigned property manager know immediately on the details below:

Katrina Fernandes: 07737151290 / Katrina@daviesdavies.co.uk

Fabio Sampaio: 07581081085 / Fabio@daviesdavies.co.uk

Alisha Eversley-John: 0756231568 / Alisha@daviesdavies.co.uk

b. We then use best practice to verify our managed tenant’s claims:

If your tenant is having difficulties paying their rent and asks to reach a solution with their landlord, we will first ask for proof of their current circumstances. This might take the form of:

  • an email or letter from their employer confirming that they have been made redundant, put on furlough or their hours/wages reduced;
  • proof of any pre-existing health condition;
  • an email or letter from their accountant.

We may also then call their current/previous employer, accountant or GP on their registered business telephone number to verify their status.

We put these steps in place as a necessary part of the process in order to protect those landlords who are willing and able to support their tenants during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Can I evict my tenant(s) if they are unable to pay all or some of the rent?

Not currently. The new Coronavirus Act 2020 means that until 30th September 2020 most landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless they have given their tenants three-months’ notice.  If you intend to seek possession (i.e. serve notice that they want to end the tenancy) – this means that you can’t apply to start the court process until after this period unless you have a very good reason to do so.

This suspension of housing possessions action will initially last for 90 days, but this can be extended if needed.

Tenants are still liable for their rent and should pay this as usual. If they face financial hardship and struggle to pay this, support is available for both tenants and landlords in most instances.

For more information on housing possession please see the ‘Guidance for Landlords and Tenants During COVID-19’ by gov.uk by clicking here.

I’m reducing my tenant’s rent – can I claim this from the deposit when the tenancy ends?

It’s important to be clear in any wording with your tenants as to whether you intend to defer the rent (so it can be collected at a later date) or whether you are cancelling the rent (so that the tenant does not ever have to pay it).

Care should be given over the wording, whether in an updated tenancy agreement or simply over email and detail a timeframe. If you can show your intention and get the agreement of the tenant, you would be able to claim it from the deposit if any shortfall wasn’t repaid before the eventual end of the tenancy.

If we manage your property we can help with this process.

For more information about tenancy deposits please see the tenancy deposit scheme website.

What can I do about my mortgage repayments?

Mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to three months, where needed, due to coronavirus-related hardship, including for buy-to-let mortgages. The sum owed remains and mortgages continue to accrue interest during this period.

Where a tenant is unable to pay their rent in full the landlord – if a mortgagor – should discuss this with their lender.

Should I stop charging rent during the outbreak?

No, you are not required to do this. Most tenants will be able to pay rent as normal and should continue to do so, as they will remain liable for the rent during this period.

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one-size fits all’ approach, as each tenant’s circumstance is different, and some will be more badly affected in terms of their ability to pay than others. As such, it’s important for landlords to be flexible and have a frank and open conversation, at the earliest opportunity, with either your managing agent at Davies & Davies or your tenants directly if your property isn’t managed by us – this will allow both parties to more easily come to a solution together and limit potential stress and worry.

3. Are your tenants due to move in/out of your property soon?

We understand the ‘Should I…? Shouldn’t I…?’ motions your tenants may be going through right now if they’re due to move during the lockdown period, so hopefully we can shed some light on this for both of you.

The answer is they shouldn’t. The government’s stay at home regulations clearly state that people should stay in their homes for the next three weeks, except in very limited circumstances, and this may go on for longer. While we understand this is a very pressing issue, you and your tenant’s health come first so it’s important that they take the necessary steps to stay protected.

If your tenants have already signed a new tenancy agreement, they might ask us to try to negotiate a new start date with you in order to avoid paying the rent before they move.

If their fixed term contract ends if they’re still living in your property, their current tenancy will usually continue as a periodic tenancy, meaning their tenancy will run on a month to month basis.

Its important that we all work together and that both landlords and tenants show goodwill in order to comply with the public health guidance over the next coming weeks.

If your tenants find that moving is completely unavoidable due to contractual reasons and if both parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, its important to follow the advice on maintaining strict separation to minimise the spread of the virus. If your tenants are due to move into an empty property this is much easier and safer to organise.

It’s important to note that the government have thus far (at time of writing) not passed legislation that moving house is illegal or not possible, it is just advised that, wherever possible, you should avoid moving or take additional safety measures.

4. One of my tenants has reported that they have the virus

Landlords are not obliged to provide alternative accommodation for tenants if others

in the property contract the virus. Likewise, no one can be removed from their home because of the virus. This also applies to tenants in a House in Multiple Occupation.

The Government has issued specific guidance on what to do if someone in a household has contracted the virus, including self-isolating the whole household for 14 days. You can find that guidance by clicking here.

You may wish to direct your tenants to Government guidance on and on cleanliness and hygiene for non-medical locations to this source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings

5. Helpful general information

Council Tax

If you’re struggling to pay council tax on your residential property due to your circumstances under the current outbreak, its worth speaking with your local council directly to explain your situation as they may be sympathetic to your case and offer assistance. You can direct your tenants to do the same if needed.

Both Haringey and Hackney Council have stated you may be able to claim a discretionary reduction in Council Tax if you’re experiencing exceptional hardship.

Islington Council has provided a helpline for anyone who has concerns for themselves or someone else they know and need support. You can contact the help line on 020 7527 8222.

Here are more contact details for more information on council tax from local councils we serve:

Haringey

Website: https://www.haringey.gov.uk/council-tax-and-benefits/council-tax

Email: council.tax@haringey.gov.uk

Contact Number: 020 8489 1000 – Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Hackney

Website: https://hackney.gov.uk/menu/#council-tax

Contact Number: 020 8356 3154

Islington

Website: https://www.islington.gov.uk/council-tax

Email: weareislington@islington.gov.uk

Contact Number: 020 7527 8222.

Utility Bills

If you’re struggling financially, or are in arrears with gas or electricity bills, it’s worth contacting your supplier, as they may provide support including:

  • Reduced bills or debt repayments.
  • A temporary break in your bills or debt arrangements.

If you have a pre-payment meter, examples of what they may be able to do include:

  • Arrange for someone else to top up your meter.
  • Add credit to your account automatically.
  • Send you a pre-loaded top up card.

This may require leaving your meter box unlocked if you need someone else to top it up.

Please note that disconnections of pre-payment meters are suspended.

For more help on bills and finances during the COVID-19 pandemic, its worth checking out the advice from Money Saving Expert here: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/03/uk-coronavirus-help-and-your-rights/


If you have any other concerns or questions that haven’t been answered here please get in touch with your property manager on the details below:

Katrina Fernandes: 07737151290 / Katrina@daviesdavies.co.uk

Fabio Sampaio: 07581081085 / Fabio@daviesdavies.co.uk

Alisha Eversley-John: 0756231568 / Alisha@daviesdavies.co.uk

Please note: all advice given within this article is for general guidance only and should not be considered legal advice.

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