COVID-19: Advice for landlords
We recommend private landlords follow the latest advice and guidance provided by Government.
The Government has suspended evictions during COVID-19 and landlords cannot evict tenants in private rented accommodation at this time.
Tenants and rent during COVID-19
As a landlord, if you become aware of tenants who may be in difficulty, advice is available from specialist providers such as:
We encourage landlords to communicate with their tenant(s) to reach payment agreements if they're experiencing financial difficulty because of COVID-19. We recommend landlords be flexible and have frank and open conversation with tenants as soon as possible, to allow both parties to agree a sensible way forward.
Landlords with mortgages
Mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays for up to three months where it's needed due to coronavirus-related hardship, including for buy-to-let mortgages.
On 2 June 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority confirmed that borrowers can apply for an extension to any holiday already taken, while extending the window for new applications to 31 October 2020. Please note that mortgage payment holidays are not automatic and as a landlord, you will need to apply to your lender to check your eligibility. The sum owed to your lender will remain and mortgage(s) will continue to accrue interest during a payment holiday period. This means that you'll still have to repay the money you owe, for the months covered by a payment holiday.
HMO and COVID-19
Landlords must hold a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licence, as it is a criminal offence not to.
The Government has issued specific guidance on what to do if someone in the household has contracted the virus, including self-isolating households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
If a tenant is advised to self-isolate, landlords can help tenants by closing non-essential communal space where it may not be possible to maintain social distancing, such as small shared spaces for use by more than one household, for example.
As a landlord, you can still let out rooms in your HMO. The Government has issued guidance on how to minimise the risks of spreading coronavirus when moving home. There may be additional risks involved in moving into a HMO at this time, which is why it is important for all involved to take reasonable precautions.
During viewings, landlords should advise HMO tenants to stay away from indoor common areas such as kitchens, bathrooms or sitting areas, whilst a viewing takes place. If it's not a tenant's own private room that is being viewed, they can remain inside their room with the doors closed.
Landlord repairs and maintenance during COVID-19
As a landlord, you must still be contactable by your tenants by phone or email. Essential maintenance and urgent repairs still need to be managed, as they may affect the health and safety of your tenants. These types of repairs or maintenance may be:
- issues with water supply or water leaks
- safety of electrical or gas supply
- fire safety
- heating or hot water supply
- pest control
- window and door security.
Landlords should communicate with tenants to arrange visits for such maintenance or repair works. Landlords and contractors are expected to follow social distancing when visiting tenanted properties and should check whether tenants are isolating due to coronavirus before visiting.
Electrical and gas safety in privately rented properties
The new Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Regulations 2020 were made on 18 March 2020 and apply to all new tenancies from 1 July 2020. These regulations will also apply to existing tenancies from 1 April 2021. The Electrical Safety Regulations require landlords to:
- have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every five years
- provide a copy of the report (known as the Electrical Safety Condition Report or EICR) to their tenants, and to the local authority if requested
- if the EICR requires investigative or remedial works, landlords will have to carry this out within 28 days or a shorter period if specified in the report. Written confirmation of the completion of the remedial works from the electrician must be supplied to the tenant and the local authority within 28 days of completion of the works.
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 require landlords to have annual gas safety checks on each appliance and flue. These checks must be carried out by engineer registered with the Gas Safe Register and to keep a record of each safety check. Further advice about gas safety during COVID-19 can be found on the Gas Safe Register website.
Both regulations are clear about the issue of compliance. Landlords can evidence the steps they take by keeping copies of all communications they've had with their tenants, electricians and gas engineers, including any replies they had. Landlords may also want to provide other evidence they have that the installation, appliance or flue is in a good condition while they attempt to arrange works.
- With the Electrical Safety Regulations, a landlord would not be in breach of the duty to comply with a remedial notice if they can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply.
- A landlord's duties under the Gas Safety Regulations, a landlord wouldn't be liable for an offence if they can show they have taken all reasonable steps to prevent the contravention.
Cleaning communal areas
Landlords who are responsible for cleaning communal areas of shared properties, such as kitchens, bathrooms or hallways should continue to this responsibility. These types of areas should be regularly cleaned to limit the transmission of COVID-19. See NHS advice on how to stop germs spreading.
Be aware that some tenants may not be comfortable with cleaners visiting the property during this pandemic and we recommend landlords speak with tenants to reassure them. Landlords must ensure cleaning of communal areas is carried out regularly in accordance with Government and NHS guidelines.
Managing self-isolating or shielding tenants
Landlords should be aware that tenants should avoid visitors entering the property if they are self-isolating due to coronavirus.
However, where essential or urgent works need to be carried out at the property, landlords are advised to discuss these with the tenant(s) as certain works will still need to be addressed. Where such circumstances occur, landlords and contractors must take the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe by following social distancing and wearing the appropriate PPE. More information about working safely during COVID-19 can be found on GOV.UK.
Non-essential maintenance, repairs or inspection visits should not be taking place if tenants are self-isolating or are shielding if they are:
- over 70 years of age, or
- vulnerable and at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus.