Coronavirus advice for landlords
We recognise and appreciate the uncertainty and confusion that the coronavirus pandemic is causing. You will be aware the situation is changing daily and we will continue to refer to guidance from the government.
We are currently reviewing our procedures in light of this advice and list some of the temporary changes we are making to our processes below.
House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licensing
We have stopped routine licensing inspections and are proposing to issue licences on the basis of the information provided at application. Further information will be sought by officers by email and telephone.
Properties subject to licences issued in this manner will receive a compliance inspection in the near future. If the inspection finds that the property, or the way the property is occupied, differs to the information supplied, the licence may have to be varied. This may include an alteration to the permitted number allowed on the property, once we have undertaken a measurement of room sizes.
The schedule of work which forms parts of the HMO licence is based on the council's HMO standards which you should read and familiarise yourself with.
Duty to carry out repairs
Landlords or their agents should still be accessible to tenants by telephone or email. Essential works such as water supply, safe electricity and gas supplies, fire safety, drainage problems, pest control and heating failure will still need to be addressed. Landlords, their representatives and tradespeople should follow advice on social distancing and working safely.
Any tenants self-isolating are advised to avoid any visitors to their home and this in turn may affect your ability to inspect properties or organise maintenance or repairs. In these circumstances, we advise the landlord to keep a dialogue going with the tenant. You should document the reason you cannot carry out the check, including asking the tenant to explain in an email or writing why they are self-isolating. You should book an inspection as soon as possible after the tenant has completed the self isolation period.
Complaints from tenants
We are continuing to provide a complaint response service over the phone and email to tenants during this period as part of our commitment to ensure all tenants have a safe place to live. We acknowledge the current limitations for landlords in terms of access and contractors, but we expect landlords to carry out essential works outlined above. Where necessary the council will still take enforcement action if a landlord fails to carry out essential works.
Common parts in HMOs
The common parts of HMOs (room-by-room lets, bedsits and also the common parts of blocks of flats) will still need cleaning. You should ensure your cleaners, or the company you use, have carried out an up-to-date health and safety risk assessment. It would be sensible to treat all areas as potentially having been in contact with a confirmed case and to take appropriate measures. NHS advice on how to stop germs spreading can be found on their website.
What about tenants who cannot pay their rent?
On 10 March 2021, the government announced further measures to protect tenants in these unprecedented times.
From 9 August 2020, the notice period a landlord must give a social or private sector tenant before they can start court proceedings, was increased to 6 months in most circumstances and will remain in place until 31 May 2021. This will ensure residents in both the private and social sectors can stay in their homes and have enough time to find alternative accommodation or support.
The only exceptions to this are in the most serious of circumstances, such as incidents of domestic abuse, anti-social behaviour, and serious arrears of more than 6 months' rent. Other than in these circumstances, there will also be a pause on bailiff-enforced evictions in England until at least 31 May 2021.
For any notices issued between 26 March and 28 August 2020, the required notice period was 3 months.
Landlords are encouraged to reach out to their tenants to establish if they need any support (for example, find out if they are elderly or self-isolating), or whether their financial position has changed. The government has asked that landlords show compassion to tenants and reassure them they will be safe in their homes.
We take this matter seriously and anyone convicted of illegal eviction or harassment may be liable for up to 2 years imprisonment.