We are aware that some of our housing association members wish to advise their staff and residents to continue to follow coronavirus precautions, such as mask wearing and social distancing on a voluntary basis, during maintenance and gas safety inspections. However, some members have reported to us that, following the official lifting of lockdown, some residents have refused to comply with these precautions as they are no longer a legal requirement.
Housing associations are of course still legally required to carry out safety checks, such as gas safety checks and maintenance works. They may be reluctant, however, to ask their staff or engineers to enter a property if they feel this puts staff at risk or undermines their own policy.
We have been working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on this issue who have highlighted relevant advice in several different pieces of guidance. These are the ‘working safely during coronavirus’ guidance and section two of the landlord and tenant guidance. This guidance states that “if necessary, local authorities, landlords or contractors can safely access properties in order to carry out a range of works”.
This guidance makes reference to the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection and states that “no work should be carried out in households that are isolating because one or more family members has symptoms, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household or the public. However, tenants who are not self-isolating but who are concerned about the transmission of [coronavirus] may be reluctant to allow landlords, or their contractors, to enter their homes to carry out work.”
The guidance states that, in this case, residents should discuss this with their landlord and may decide they wish to delay the work. In these cases, housing associations should work with residents to help them understand why the work is necessary and what the risks are of not carrying out the work to try find a way to carry out work so the residents feel safe. Similar advice is given under Scenario 6 in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance on gas safety checks.
Whilst not directly applicable, this guidance could offer parallels in the event that residents do allow access but are unwilling to follow coronavirus infection prevention measures. For example, the housing association could discuss with the resident why the work is necessary, and what the risks are of not carrying out the work to try to find a way to carry out the work that the housing association believes is safe both for the resident and for the staff members involved. The HSE guidance suggests that, in some scenarios, the landlord may need to try this approach repeatedly with the resident, and to keep written records.