Updated 24 July 2020
As of 23 July 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, summarised in our key points for housing associations below. Main updates include advice on:
- Shielding individuals, advising that routine repairs and maintenance may take place in their homes from 1 August 2020.
- Legal remedies available for landlords and tenants when dealing with anti-social behaviour in rented properties during this period.
- The abandonment of properties, reiterating that tenants must comply with their tenancy notice requirements if they wish to end their tenancy and advising landlords to ensure they take appropriate steps to repossess their property legally.
- That landlords and tenants should consider mediation to resolve disputes where possible in order to avoid matters going to court.
- Clarification that landlords still have powers available to them through the courts to gain access to their properties where a tenant is not self-isolating or shielding, but persistently refusing to allow them access to the property. This is for the purpose of carrying out repairs as well as for reasons of health and safety such as the carrying out of gas checks.
We are particularly pleased to see new advice related to gas safety, which were included in response to issues we raised on behalf of our members.
Relevant sections of the guidance have also been updated to include a reference to observing local advice where specific restrictions apply to local areas.
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 24 August. The guidance refers 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.