Government guidance on how landlords and letting agents should handle tenancy management during this coronavirus outbreak has been minimal, and mostly concerned with financial aspects.
However, as a landlord – and particularly as a self-managing landlord -, you have legal liabilities and responsibilities when it comes to property maintenance that you’ve obliged to take care of, too.
As a self-managing landlord, what are you to do if you receive a message from your tenants reporting a maintenance issue during lockdown?
A message to all Self Managing Landlords ('Let Only') about the things to consider to stay safe, and ensure the safety of your tenants and contractors, whilst also still managing the tenancy effectivly through this unprecedented pandemic.
Posted by Hannah McCartan on Wednesday, 18 March 2020
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What are My Responsibilities?
Firstly, it is imperative that you put the health and safety of your tenants, contractors, and yourself first.
The Government has made it clear that landlords’ repairing obligations have not changed, and that it is in the interest of the tenant and landlord to ensure the property is kept in good repair and free from hazards. The COVID-19 outbreak will not be an acceptable reason to withhold from undertaking essential or emergency maintenance.
Any non-essential maintenance should be put on hold. However, you must keep a clear record of the issue as reported, and make a plan to resolve it as soon as is possible.
Situations where it would be deemed urgent to arrange a repair could include, but not limited to:
- If there is a problem with the fabric of the building, for example the roof is leaking
- If your boiler is broken, leaving your tenant without heating or hot water
- If there is a plumbing issue, meaning your tenant does not have washing or toilet facilities
- If the white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken, meaning the tenant is unable to wash clothes or store food safely, or an oven meaning the tenant would be unable to cook food
- If there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door
- If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair
Assessing the Situation
As visiting the tenant isn’t going to be possible in the first instance (while you establish the urgency of the maintenance), you need to find alternative solutions to assessing the maintenance required.
Asking your tenant to send plenty of photos, or to conduct a FaceTime/Skype video call with either yourself or your contractor would be advisable.
What about Landlord Gas Safety Certificates?
Landlords are still required to meet all legal requirements under Gas Safety Legislation, and to make every effort to renew certificates in a timely manner.
There are provisions to account for situations where a landlord cannot do this, but you must demonstrate you have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.
It is a legal requirement for landlords to instruct Gas Safe qualified engineers to conduct annual gas safety checks and complete a Landlords’ Gas Safety Certificate. A copy of this certificate should then be provided to the tenants within 30 days of the checks being conducted. Click here to read how to check your certificate is valid.
If you are not able to gain access to the property due to restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19, or are not able to engage a contractor to carry out the necessary work for the same reason, we recommend you document your attempts to do so (including all correspondence with your tenants).
What about the Risk of Catching Coronavirus?
You must follow sensible precautions to keep yourself safe when you or contractors or others are visiting the property, as outlined in public health guidance here.
You can take additional measures such as ensuring contractors and tenants remain in separate rooms during any visits, and following Government advice on hygiene and cleanliness before, during, and after visits.
Wherever possible, avoid all direct contact between your tenants and visitors to the property.
If you are unsure you are able to manage your property effectively during the pandemic and are considering a fully managed service, McCartan offers a Landlord Rescue Service – get in touch here.