The government has issued guidance for letting agents, landlords, and tenants on managing house moves and repairs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Managing house moves
The government is advising home buyers and renters to delay moving into a new home for as long as possible while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus. While the government says that there’s “no need to pull out of transactions”, it is urging all parties to “adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes”. It has issued guidance for managing “critical house moves”, where a new move-in date cannot be agreed:
- If the property is vacant, you can continue with the transaction, as long as you are following all government guidance on removals.
- If the property is currently occupied, the government encourages agreeing alternative move-in dates, after the stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) are lifted.
- If the move is unavoidable, where contracts have been exchanged and the parties involved can’t meet an agreement for a delayed move-in, you should “follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.”
- If there’s anyone involved in the move who has symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding from the virus, they should follow medical advice avoid being involved in the move where possible.
While the police have been given “emergency enforcement powers” in response to the coronavirus, critical house moves were excluded from this measure, if the parties involved can’t agree on a new move-in date.
Landlords obligations when it comes to repairs have not changed. Although routine inspections should be delayed until the stay-at-home measures have been lifted, urgent health and safety issues that affect a tenant’s ability to live safely in their home should be fixed, and landlords and contractors can continue to visit properties in order to assess and fix these issues. Urgent health and safety issues include (but are not limited to):
- Problems with the fabric of a building, for example the roof is leaking
- Problems with the boiler, leaving tenants without heating or hot water
- Plumbing issues, which means tenants don’t have washing or toilet facilities
- Problems with white goods, such as a broken fridge or washing machine, which means tenants are unable to wash clothes or store food safely
- Security-critical problems, such as a broken window or external door
- Equipment a disabled person relies on that requires installation or repair
Tenants should inform landlords early if they encounter any issues with the condition of the property, and the government is encouraging the use of technology to reduce the need for in-person inspections of property issues. Landlords should make every effort to review and address issues brought to their attention “where reasonable and safe” and keep records of these efforts.
Landlords should also make every effort to comply with both existing gas safety regulations and the new electrical safety regulations, which come into force on 1 July. There are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot do this, but they must be able to demonstrate that they’ve taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.
This article is based on the government’s guidance on moving home during the coronavirus outbreak and its guidance on for landlords and tenants during the coronavirus outbreak. It is intended as a guide only, is not exhaustive, and should not be considered legal advice. For more information, please refer to gov.uk.