In part two of our landlords guide to the coronavirus we will take a look at property visits and how to safely undertake important inspections/repairs.
In reality, the coronavirus is everywhere although slowly but surely the UK government is clawing back control. It will take some time to get back to “normal” and in the meantime many landlords may need to reconsider tenant/property visits. There are obviously many issues to take into account although there is an array of official guidance from the authorities.
Is the visit vital?
Under strict social distancing regulations you should not visit any other household within the lockdown period. This obviously involves a danger of transferring the virus from house to house and person to person. However, as a landlord there will be occasions where you will need to visit a property for essential repairs. In this situation the guidelines are as follows:-
• Maintain a 2 m distance from tenants at all times
• Wear protective clothing such as gloves/masks
• Restrict your stay to an absolute minimum
There are many regular visits which can be delayed until the coronavirus issue is under control and the lockdown has been lifted. This will be a judgement call for the landlord, after taking into account the rules and regulations.
Third party inspections
Regular third party visits such as gas safety inspections have been a regular subject in recent questions posed by landlords. While they obviously have a legal obligation to undertake safety inspections on a regular basis, how does the coronavirus impact this obligation?
Again thankfully there are detailed guidance notes on how third-party inspections should be carried out:-
• Any inspection will require the consent of both the tenant and the third party inspector
• Appropriate protective clothing must be worn at all times
• Commitment to frequent hand washing/use of sanitisers
• Tenants have the right to terminate inspection at any time
• Inspectors have the right to terminate inspection at any time
The fact that both parties have the right to terminate an inspection at any time is based upon safety and the fact that all parties must be comfortable with the situation. We will now take a look at tenants in self isolation and how this will impact any property visit for any reason.
Tenants in self isolation
There are literally thousands upon thousands of people in the UK in self isolation after showing symptoms of the coronavirus. Bullet point guidance is as follows:-
• If the tenant of a property is in self isolation then any inspection must be delayed for a minimum of seven days
• Where there is more than one person in a household, and one person is self-isolating, this delay should be extended to a minimum of 14 days
• Those tenants who are shielding for 12 weeks need to be in isolation for the full 12 weeks – any inspection cannot proceed until the end of this period
As we expand on the government regulations and guidance with regards to landlords, it does focus on the fact as to whether an inspection/property visit really needs to go ahead in the current climate.
Documenting inspection delays
As a landlord it is certainly a good idea to document any delays in regulatory inspections (and the specific reasons) as a consequence of the coronavirus. While the details and the timings may be clear in your mind today, looking back six months or a year down the line, things may not be as defined. So, to cover your back in the event of questions and queries at a later date, document all property visits, inspections as well as those which were delayed.
Tenants moving property
Even though the UK government has requested property transactions are “frozen” during the coronavirus crisis, there is no blanket ban. The authorities have left it in the hands of landlords, in this example, to be sensible and take a pragmatic approach to the situation. This may include:-
• Extending current tenancy arrangements until after the crisis is over
• Showing flexibility where tenants request termination of rental arrangements due to the coronavirus
While not advisable to welcome a new tenant during the current crisis there are situations where there may be no other option. In this instance it is worth noting that the coronavirus can remain infectious for up to three days on plastic, stainless steel and other solid surfaces. It is therefore vital that the appropriate cleaning is undertaken before welcoming a new tenant.
While there is some flexibility in the guidelines, the regulations are very straightforward. You should refrain from visiting rental properties unless there is a very important reason to do so, such as vital repairs. This is the only way that we will be able to control the virus and then eventually revert to a more “normal” life again.