Following the Prime Minister’s announcement about a new national lockdown, we have been in touch with government officials to establish what this means for housing associations. Please read on for our initial analysis, and an outline of our next steps. If you have any immediate questions, please get in touch with us.
Main points for housing associations
The government has published guidance on the new lockdown, and we have been working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to clarify a number of points for the housing sector.
- Moving home: Renters and homeowners will still be able to move, and removal firms and estate agents can still operate, but must follow coronavirus safety guidance.
- Construction: Construction sites can and should continue, but must follow coronavirus safety guidance.
- Repairs and maintenance: Tradespeople will be able to enter homes, but must follow coronavirus safety guidance. This applies to both routine as well as emergency repairs and maintenance work.
- Gas safety inspections: Gas safety inspections are expected to go ahead. We appreciate that your organisation may face difficulties with access as residents may feel unsafe with inspectors in their home and will discuss this with MHCLG and the regulator.
- Offices: Staff may only leave their home for work if they cannot reasonably work from home.
- Critical workers: Unlike the previous lockdown, schools are now closed. Critical workers can access schools or educational settings – although the current guidance does not explicitly reference housing association staff, our interpretation is that some roles housing associations provide fall under a number of the categories listed in the guidance, as was the case in the first lockdown in March. We are urging the government to clarify this position.
- Evictions ban: The government has now confirmed an extension of the ban on bailiff enforcement of evictions for all but the most serious cases for at least six weeks (up to the end of 21 February) with measures kept under review. The guidance on possession proceedings has been updated to reflect the current position and provides a useful overview of the whole process of evictions. The exemptions where evictions can still take place are illegal occupation, false statement, anti-social behaviour, perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector, where a property is unoccupied following death of a tenant, and serious rent arrears greater than six months’ rent (which was previously nine months). Court rules and procedures introduced in September in response to the pandemic remain in place and courts will continue to prioritise the most serious cases. In addition, all landlords are still required to give six month notice periods to tenants until at least 31 March, except in the most serious circumstances.
- Providing services for residents: The government has now updated its landlord and tenant guidance. Landlords can take steps to carry out repairs, maintenance and safety work, including routine and essential inspections and repairs, as well as any planned internal works to the property under the current national lockdown. Any work must be undertaken in line with public health advice and the relevant coronavirus legislation.
Vaccines and testing
We are continuing our work to ensure that the government’s testing and vaccination programme prioritises all forms of supported housing, for both residents and staff, and to clarify how these will be delivered in practice.
Our next steps
We will continue meeting with government officials to discuss the national lockdown and its impact on our sector. As further information becomes available, we will update our website to share new information and government guidance. This will include any changes to the landlord and tenant guidance.