Covid 19 – A guide for landlords

Blog’s update: The government has published new guidelines in regard to property viewings the 13th May 2020:

“People should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks. If any member of either the household being viewed, or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed. All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household.

· We encourage people to do their property searching online wherever possible. Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible and physical viewings should only be conducted where buyers are seriously considering making an offer on a property.

· To support this, agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings. This will help reduce the number of properties people need to visit before finding their future home.

· Viewings should be conducted by appointment only and no open house viewings should take place.

· If your property is being viewed, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing, and allow access to hand-washing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.

· As most people choose to do, we encourage that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household.

· When viewing a property, all parties should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible. Agents will ask you to restrict the number of people who accompany you on a viewing so that social distancing can be practised, and only those in your immediate household should be there.

· We expect agents to accompany clients on a viewing but follow social distancing rules wherever possible. Where viewings are unaccompanied, agents should make sure viewers and homeowners understand how they should conduct themselves.

· Once the viewing has taken place, the homeowner should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.”

Over the last few weeks we have come across a lot of confused and sometimes misleading information online in regard to the Government Guidelines in response to the Covid 19 outbreak.

We have read the guidelines ourselves, and attended several online meetings with legal advisors and national organisation representatives like David Cox, CEO at ARLA Propertymark, and Paul Shamplina from Landlord Action, to interpret the guidelines in the correct way.

We’ve put together a guideline that we’d like to share with you.

Right To Rent Checks:

It is normal practice and a requirement by Law to check the ID of your tenant prior to the check-in to make sure he/she is allowed to live in the Country.

During the pandemic, a copy of the passport (and resident permit / visa where applicable) sent via email will be sufficient if backed up with a video call showing that the person you are speaking with corresponds with the person depicted in the ID’s picture. Within eight weeks from the end of the lock down you will need to check your tenant’s form of identification in person.

Inventories, Check-In & Check-Out Reports:

For essential moves, property inventories and check-in and check-out reports are currently allowed. However, they would need to be done at least 72 hrs (the maximum time the virus is understood to survive on hard surfaces) prior the check-in and 72 hrs after the check-out, always in absence of the tenants. Tenants may receive the reports via email.

The day of check-in the tenant will collect keys maintaining social distancing and taking as much precaution as the situation allows.

All mid-term inspections should be postponed.

Essential Repairs and Certificates:

The government announced that all non-essential repairs must be put on hold.

For example, painting a room will not be deemed essential and can wait. But a gas leak or an ongoing uncontainable water leak are essential repairs as failure to remedy the fault will result in further damage, and these kinds of issues should be attended to with as many social distancing precautions in place as possible.

Gas Certificates and an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) are considered essential and remain mandatory even during the pandemic.

In many cases, the properties that need one of these certificates will be occupied by a tenant who may refuse entry; a contractor could potentially infect the premises. As long as you keep a log of all attempts made to gain entry you will be fulfilling your responsibility.

Are the planned new electrical regulations still due to start on 1 July?

The answer is yes. From 1st July 2020 all new tenancies or renewed tenancies will require an electrical installation condition report (EICR) (and from April 2021 for all existing tenancies). The landlord or his estate agent will need to ensure that every 5 years a new inspection is carried out by a qualified electrician.

Tenants are obliged by contract to pay their rent:

It has been estimated that 72% of landlords have been asked by their tenants for a rent reduction following a lot of misleading information circulating online.

Although the Government’s guidance encourages landlords to offer support to tenants who may have lost their jobs, tenants are still obliged by contract to pay their rent.

Any arrears accumulated will remain payable and the tenant could be subject to legal action to recover outstanding amounts.

Section 21 and 8 Notices:

Section 21 and Section 8 notices have an extended notice period of 3 months minimum (previously it was 2 months). This provision will continue until at least the 30th September this year.

Are viewings allowed?

We have been advised by ARLA to carry on virtual viewings only through videos or 3D virtual tours taken pre-pandemic. However there are very few organisations that affirm that if necessary (without explaining the meaning of “necessary”), and if the property in question is vacant, in-person viewings can be conducted while maintaining the social distance. This advice clashes with the news given us last week by Propertymark’s CEO that an estate agent was prosecuted for carrying out a viewing last month. These guidelines are not at all clear, but our personal advice and current practice is to not carry out in person viewings.

The government regularly updates the guidelines for best practice within our industry and we will endeavour to keep you updated.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us should you require more information on the current situation – we would be more than happy to assist.

Alex & Matteo