There are warnings being issued to self-managing landlords of a surge in coronavirus-inspired complaints from tenants. These complaints are about everything from maintenance not being dealt with properly to safety certificates expiring.
Landlords need to be able to demonstrate they are sticking to the new rules that protect tenants and contractors against COVID-19.
Clear communication and record keeping are vital in these trying times. Landlords must also keep up-to-date with the latest Government guidance for landlords and tenants.
Here are the answers to some common questions to help you through the next few weeks:
1. What if my tenant reports maintenance but I’m self isolating?
The law is clear that landlords must adhere to their legal responsibilities regarding maintenance under Section 11 of the Housing Act.
However, only emergency maintenance should be undertaken during lockdown.
Asking tenants to send plenty of photos, and ideally a video, will help you assess the severity of the issue. You will also have a record of the maintenance being reported so you can document the steps you are going to take from there to complete the repair.
You should start planning which contractor you are going to instruct to complete the work well in advance in case they are not available.
2. My usual contractor is not working – I won’t be able get the work done until they are working again?
It doesn’t matter if your usual contractor isn’t available; landlords’ repair obligations mean it is your responsibility to source a new contractor – especially if it is an emergency situation.
If the repair can wait, then clear communication to your tenants is vital to manage their expectations.
3. Do I need to to protect my contractor from my tenants, and vice versa?
In short, yes. Self-managing landlords are responsible for the heath and safety of their contractors even outside of a pandemic situation, so you need to make sure you have a copy of their insurances, relevant certificates, risk assessments and proof of ID on file (this is considered best practice). At the moment, you’ll also need to make sure your contractor hasn’t had any COVID-19 symptoms or been in contact with anyone who has tested positive for the disease – and the same for your tenant.
You should also document these conversations in case an outbreak does occur and your tenant and/or contractor is affected.
4. My Landlord Gas Safety Certificate is due to expire during lockdown, what do I do?
The Gas Safe Register have maintained that gas appliances must be tested and Landlord Gas Safety Certificates produced annually.
If there are exceptional reasons for it not to be completed prior to the current certificates expiring (such as the tenant is self-isolating or showing symptoms), this needs to be extremely well-documented for future evidence. Landlords should not insist on a contractor enters a property where the tenant expressly states no-one should enter.
Ultimately, these safety certificates are to protect tenants from fatal harm, so should be completed at the earliest opportunity.
Landlord Gas Safety Certificates are able to be completed 2 months in advance of the expiry date of your current certificate, so if you know your tenant is safe and well now, it is worth considering bringing the date forward and getting it done ahead of time.
5. Do I need an Electrical Installation & Condition Report for 1st June (2020)?
Currently, this deadline has been introduced in England only – so no. Electrical Condition Reports will become a legal requirement for Welsh properties in the new Renting Homes Act, which is due to come into effect next year.
That said, it is a condition of your Rent Smart Wales licence, which is a legal requirement, for landlords to know their electrics are safe. The only way to know your electrics are safe is to have a qualified electrician check and produce a report.
Alongside managing the personal challenges posed by coronavirus, there remains a significant responsibility for landlords to be compliant with the law and meet their legal obligations.
Are you concerned about handling your tenancy during coronavirus? Book in for a free 15-minute consultation with one of our lettings experts today.