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Updated Covid-19 advice for letting agents

Updated Covid-19 advice for letting agents

Friday 8th January 2021
Property Eye

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has updated its guidance document setting out general advice and information for the housing industry and those moving home in accordance with the national lockdown announced earlier this week.

Given that the housing market in England will remain open during this national lockdown, estate and letting agents, along with removers, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes will be able to continue working, but what do they need to know?

Letting agents and private landlords

Letting agents and landlords should be aware of and follow the government guidance on coronavirus and renting which contains further advice that may also be applicable such as on possession proceedings, repairs, maintenance and health and safety. Tenants should also be made aware of this guidance.

Tenants' safety should be letting agents' and landlords' first priority. The government has put in place protections for tenants during the coronavirus outbreak, including legislation to delay when landlords are able to start proceedings to evict tenants by requiring landlords to give tenants longer notice periods than usual.

The guidance below for landlords and letting agents is to help them safely let empty properties, or properties which tenants are voluntarily vacating. Letting agents and landlords should endeavour to work with their tenants to sustain tenancies as far as possible, where the tenant wants to and is able to stay.

+ Landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating.

+ In other cases (such as where tenants have been determined to be clinically extremely vulnerable) where viewings can proceed, they should be conducted in line with the guidance on viewings earlier in this document.

+ Any visits to a property must be made in accordance with government's guidelines on working in other people's homes and social distancing.

+ If possible, necessary repairs, gas and electrical safety checks should be conducted in the period between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. If this is not possible and visits are needed to an occupied property, this should be done by appointment with measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit.

+ Letting agents may also want to consider obtaining landlord and tenant consent for inventory clerk appointments to also occur before a tenant moves in or after a tenant moves out during vacant periods if possible.

+ Letting agents and landlords should take steps to ensure any properties are prepared ready for new tenants. This may include cleaning to minimise any potential spread of the coronavirus in line with government advice.

+ Letting agents and landlords should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed, taking care to follow government advice on social distancing and public health advice to minimise the possible spread of coronavirus.

+ Letting agents and landlords are reminded of the temporary COVID-19 measures that adjust right to rent checks, temporarily allowing these checks to be conducted remotely. Lettings agents and landlords should consider other areas where in-person payments, referencing or checks can be conducted remotely instead and take further legal or professional advice if required to implement properly.

+ Moves into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) are allowed. However, there may be additional risks involved in moving into an HMO at this time which is why it is important that all involved take reasonable precautions. During viewings, tenants that share an HMO are advised to stay out of indoor common areas, such as kitchens, bathrooms or sittings areas, during a viewing. If it is not a tenant's own private room that is being viewed they can also remain inside their room with the doors closed.

+ Moves into student accommodation are allowed. Letting agents, universities and accommodation providers should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins, following the latest public health advice and taking reasonable steps to reduce transmission.