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.
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?
The government has announced radical measures to protect tenants in these unprecedented times. No renter, whether in private or social housing, should be forced out of their home nor be concerned about the threat of eviction for at least a three month period.
Landlords are encouraged to reach out to their tenants to establish if they need any support (for example, find out if they 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 it should be noted that any person(s) convicted of illegal eviction or harassment may be liable for up to 2 years imprisonment.
Landlords will be aware that the government has extended the 3 month mortgage payment holiday to buy-to-let mortgages.
Appeals to the First-Tier Tribunal - London
The following advice was issued on 19 March 2020:
(1) All listed hearing dates and mediations for cases proceeding in the London Region of the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) Residential Property are hereby postponed until after 29 May 2020.
(2) Where parties can continue to comply with existing directions in current cases, they should seek to do so and co-operate with each other for this purpose. Save to that extent, all current directions on existing cases are suspended until after 29 May 2020. Thereafter, the tribunal will aim to issue fresh directions, unless circumstances prevent this happening.