As of 1 June 2020, the government has issued an updated version of its non-statutory coronavirus guidance for landlords and tenants.
Much of this advice reflects the existing approach to the coronavirus crisis. However, there are some adjustments reflecting the easing of the lockdown.
The guidance is non-statutory in nature, meaning that it is not authorised by any Act of Parliament. As such, it carries no formal legal sanction in itself; but is consistent with the government’s understanding of the legal obligations of landlords and tenants.
It applies to residential tenancies in England across all sectors: local authority housing, housing associations and the private rented sector.
Key points for housing associations
Rent and possession proceedings
- Tenants are advised to continue to pay their rent if they are in a position to do so (with the assistance of welfare if appropriate). Tenants having difficulty in paying the rent should seek to engage with their landlord. Landlords should avoid taking possession action wherever possible.
- The current suspension of court hearings is due to expire on 25 June. The guidance does not directly address the expiry date (now three weeks away), but it does refer to work being carried out on a pre-action protocol encouraging landlords and tenants to agree an affordable timetable for clearing any rent arrears. The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has indicated that the government wants to see such a protocol in place before the suspension is lifted.
- Possessions remain subject to a requirement for three months’ notice. This is due to expire on 30 September, but this may be extended.
Repairs, maintenance and health and safety
- Landlords’ legal obligations remain in place, although it is recognised that as a matter of practicality their ability to discharge them may be affected by the pandemic.
- Landlords’ staff and contractors are now able, where workforce is available and resources allow, to enter properties in order to carry out repairs, maintenance and inspections. Except in special cases, such as if a member of the household is self-isolating or is being shielded. This includes entry to void properties to prepare them for reletting. It is very welcome that the guidance now explicitly recognises the resource constraints to which landlords are likely to be subject.
- Where a member of the household is self-isolating or is being shielded, landlords should undertake a risk assessment in which they balance the hazards of entering the home against the risks that the work is intended to address.
- Tenants are urged to admit the landlord’s staff or contractors for the purpose of carrying out repairs as well as for reasons of health and safety such as the carrying out of gas checks.
Moves can still take place although special measures will need to be in place, for instance to maintain social distancing during viewings. You can read our summary of more detailed guidance that has been issued separately on moving home.