Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants
The information and any opinions contained in this summary are for general information purposes only, are not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances.
The Government has published an advisory guide for both landlords and tenants, which contains information about recent changes to the law as a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak. It sets out the new responsibilities and rights for both parties. The Government’s guide document is 21 pages long and this article, from The Retail Mutual, provides a summary of the main points and how the new rules and regulations will affect you as a landlord. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government as the publishers of the guide state that it will be subject to frequent updates and therefore should be checked regularly.
Landlords should talk to their mortgage companies as soon as possible
As a landlord, you will suffer the knock-on effect of the situation if your tenants are struggling to pay their rent, as you will be unable to meet your mortgage obligations. Naturally, the Coronavirus Act 2020 aims to protect both parties, with landlords encouraged to engage in proactive conversation with their tenants. If you think you may have difficulty in meeting your mortgage commitments, you should speak with your mortgage company regarding the circumstances that you find yourself in as soon as possible.
Information contained in Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants
- Seeking possession new rules
- Rent arrears guidance
- Property access
- Health & safety obligations
- Moving and viewings
The contents of the guide are divided into 3 sections with sub-divisions:
- Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings
- Court action on housing possession cases during the coronavirus outbreak
- Property access and health and safety obligations – Tenants and Landlords
1. Rent, mortgage payments and possession proceedings
Summary of contents
This section covers a tenant’s responsibility towards paying rent during the outbreak, rent arrears, protection for tenants, mortgage repayments, shared ownership, landlord responsibilities towards charging rent, eviction and possession proceedings, as well as rights for people where the accommodation comes with the job.
Tenants should continue to pay their rent if possible
Your tenant should continue to pay their rent during this period if possible and if unable to do so, should speak with you as their landlord at the earliest opportunity. As a landlord, if a tenant is struggling to pay their rent due to income fluctuations, it’s important to offer support and understanding and try to work out some form of agreement. Advise your tenants that local authorities provide support so that they can remain in their homes. The Government has asked landlords not to issue a notice seeking possession, particularly as your tenant may be ill or facing other hardships as a consequence of COVID-19.
A suspension of court orders for 3 months beginning 27th March 2020
Your tenants and secure licensees are protected under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and you will have to give a notice period of 3 months or longer. At the end of this 3-month period a court order will be required. If you have already served a possession order on a tenant or you send a notice during the next 90 days, you will not be able to take action in the next 90 days with the suspension initially applying from 27th March.
Mortgage holidays for landlords of up to 3 months
Mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to 3 months if required due to coronavirus-related hardship, although the sum owed remains and mortgages continue to accrue interest. It is a similar situation for shared owners.
2. Court action on housing possession cases during the coronavirus outbreak
Summary of contents
This section covers what it means for landlords and tenants in the private or social rented sectors, who is covered by the suspension of housing possession cases and how the Coronavirus Act 2020 interacts with the courts suspending housing possession claims.
Postponement of all housing possession claims
The Master of the Rolls, with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor, has issued a Practice Direction to stop possession claims from proceeding. This is in response to public health advice advising against non-essential public movement. All housing possession claims that are in the court system will be postponed.
3. Property access and health & safety obligations
Summary of contents
In this section, there is advice and rulings for tenants and landlords. For tenants, it covers repairs, boiler breakdown, landlord access, planned moves and what to do if you think you have the virus, or somebody is ill in an House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). The section for landlords covers the current situation for repairs to the property, legal obligations regarding gas and electricity inspections, access to the property and risks about catching the virus.
A pragmatic and common-sense approach between landlords and their tenants
The objectives are to keep everyone safe with local authorities, landlords and tenants all working together to keep rented properties safe. A pragmatic and common-sense approach is advised for all parties. Landlords will not be unfairly penalised where COVID-19 restrictions prevent them from meeting some routine obligations.
Landlords should address urgent health and safety issues
Planned inspections will naturally be more difficult at this time but dangerous situations and urgent health and safety issues must be addressed. It’s important that your tenants can live safely in their rented accommodation so that their mental and physical health can be maintained.
Dangerous situations include:
- Problems with the fabric of the building including a leaking roof
- Broken boiler – no heating or hot water
- Plumbing issues – washing and toilet facilities
- Faulty white goods including fridges, freezers, or washing machines
- A security-critical problem or installation – broken window or external door
- Repairs to equipment that a disabled person relies on
As a landlord, every attempt should be made to fix the problems but if you cannot gain access to a property due to the restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19 or cannot get a contractor to do the necessary work, you should document all attempts that you have made and why the repairs and maintenance cannot be carried out.
Access to a property to conduct viewings or where a move is scheduled
Your tenants should delay all moves wherever possible whilst the emergency procedures are in place. If moving is the only option for your tenant, strict separation rules must apply in order to minimise the spread of infection. Viewings of a property should not go ahead unless deemed urgent and are health and safety related.
Communication is key during these unprecedented times between landlords and tenants
These are unprecedented circumstances and a common sense and pragmatic approach must be the order of the day. As a landlord, it is essential to communicate with your tenants and follow up all conversations with emails.
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What can The Retail Mutual do for my rental property?
The Retail Mutual understands that this is a difficult and frustrating time for landlords and their tenants with the strict measures that are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please get in touch if you have cover with us as our team are looking forward to helping you with any questions that you may have.
As you can imagine, we are receiving a high volume of calls and enquiries regarding the coronavirus. We are continuing to answer all enquiries and are doing our best to respond in a timely manner. We appreciate your patience and understanding at this time. To help answer some of the recurring questions, we have created our coronavirus resource hub. This includes FAQs and useful Government information and links, as well as helpful and useful content to support you through this outbreak.