As the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak continues to be felt across the world, new rules relating to housing have been put in place, some of which have redefined the UK rental landscape temporarily. As of today, the four key changes the government has implemented are as follows:
In-person viewings have been suspended
The government has advised that no in-person viewings should be conducted. Properties can still be advertised and where possible agents can conduct virtual viewings but at no point should prospective tenants be crossing the threshold to properties they don’t live in. Where you are in the position of having signed up to rent a property but have not yet moved in, tenants should delay moving where possible and come to a new moving arrangement safely and amicably. However, if the new home is empty, then the house move can progress as planned subject to these public health guidelines.
The notice period for evictions has been extended
Under the Coronavirus Act 2020, which came into force on 25 March 2020, landlords, including those operating in the private sector, cannot begin eviction proceedings for at least three months. Regardless of whether they’re planning on using Section 8 or Section 21, landlords are now required to give a three-month notice period before they begin. Evictions already in progress will now be subject to a three-month suspension. The 6A Notice seeking possession of a property on a standard AST has been updated to reflect this change.
Rules around Right to Rent eased
From 30th March 2020, the face-to-face aspects of Right to Rent have been waived to reduce the need for in-person meetings. Landlords and agents now need to be sent a scan or photos of the appropriate documents being used to evidence the Right to Rent. They must then have a live video chat with the person being checked and ask them to hold up the original of the scanned document in order to verify it matches the person applying. Once this reduced period of checking is over, landlords and agents have eight weeks in order to redo any check done during the period face-to-face.
Repairs and maintenance: urgent health and safety issues prioritised
While a landlord’s obligations towards his or her tenants have not changed, tenants and landlords are both advised to take a pragmatic and sensible approach to repairs and maintenance issues. Prioritise urgent health and safety issues defined by those affecting a tenant’s ability to live safely and maintain their physical and mental health, such as issues related to boilers, white goods or other health and safety matters.
MHCLG published this extensive guidance titled "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants" which explicitly encourages landlords to enable tenants to report repairs & maintenance issues using technological solutions:
"We are encouraging tenants to inform landlords early and engage constructively in the event that they encounter any issues with the condition of the property. Technological solutions such as smartphones can be used to reduce the need for in-person inspections of property issues.
Where reasonable and safe for you, and in line with other Government guidance, you should make every effort to review and address issues brought to your attention by your tenants, and keep records of your efforts. You can find further guidance on visiting properties to make repairs here."
When a contractor has to attend a property in person, tenants should ensure they remain in separate rooms and follow government advice on hygiene and cleanliness before, during and after visits. Wherever possible, avoid direct contact between residents and visitors to the property. Landlords are under no obligation to find new dwellings for people if someone in their property contracts the virus.
We at Fixflo remain committed to keeping you up-to-date with government changes. However, as the virus changes, so too will the government’s response to it, so please keep checking the news and sign up for updates here.
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended for information only. It does not constitute legal advice and Fixflo does not accept liability based on this article. Please note that the situation is evolving rapidly and readers are advised to follow the latest government guidelines in their regions.