HMOs and COVID-19 – Landlord and Tenant Advice

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2020

General advice – Current Restrictions

Once the national lockdown ends on 2nd December, Norfolk will be in the Tier 2 level of restrictions for the foreseeable future. You should follow the current government restrictions and also the general advice of Hands, Face, Space.

If anyone within your household develops symptoms, or has a positive COVID-19 test, you must follow the Stay at Home government guidance.

Advice for tenants

If you’re living in an HMO, you need to take precautions to protect yourself and others, especially if the property has shared facilities.

If you have symptoms or a positive test

You must tell your property manager/landlord and fellow tenants if you have COVID-19 symptoms or received a positive test result, as you will all need to isolate for 14 days. Your landlord is not required to provide alternative accommodation if a tenant contracts the virus.

Communal areas and shared facilities

To reduce the chance of contamination, follow the guidance below:

Bathroom & Toilets

  • If possible, set up a rota for use.
  • Use your own towels, do not share.
  • Clean the toilet, hand basin and bathroom after use.
  • If a tenant has the virus, they should use the facilities last.

Kitchen

  • If possible, set up a rota for use.
  • Use your own towels, do not share.
  • Use a dishwasher if available.
  • Cooking equipment, crockery and cutlery should not be shared unless cleaned first.
  • Keep food in your room if possible. Chilled/frozen items should be clearly identified with the tenant’s name.
  • Anyone self-isolating should wear a face mask, use the kitchen last and consume food in their room.

Laundry

  • Wash at the highest temperature possible within the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Dirty laundry that has been in contact with someone unwell can still be washed with other laundry.
  • Do not shake dirty laundry, this can disperse the virus.
  • Clean/disinfect anything used to move laundry in between uses.

Waste

If anyone demonstrating symptoms in the property has waste, they should follow this procedure:

  • Put rubbish in a plastic bag and tie when full.
  • Place this into another bin bag and tie.
  • After 72hrs, put this into the usual waste bin

If you cannot store waste for 72hrs, contact your local council or a specialist waste contractor for a Category B infectious waste collection.

Bedrooms

  • Don’t let others into your room and keep a distance from others in the house.
  • Don’t let visitors into the building.
  • Don’t congregate in communal areas, keep a safe distance from others.

Getting repairs done

Your landlord is still responsible for keeping your home safe and well maintained during the pandemic. However, if you or another tenant is self-isolating, only emergency repairs should be carried out. You must advise your landlord or agent of anyone self-isolating, in order that they can advise the tradesperson in advance. You must also follow social distancing guidelines when they visit your home.

During the pandemic, your landlord may delay non-emergency repairs until it is deemed safe to carry out these works.

Financial information

If you are struggling to pay your rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a number of options, depending on your situation:

  • Council tenant – contact your local council for assistance.
  • Social housing – contact your housing provider for assistance.
  • Private accommodation – contact your landlord or agent in the first instance.

Further specialist advice can also be sought from organisations such as: Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service.

Eviction during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants cannot be forced out of their homes. Landlords must give tenants 3-6 months’ notice (depending on when the notice was served), unless you’re evicted using a Section 8 notice, which can only be served in certain circumstances.

If you do not leave at the end of the notice period, you landlord will apply to the court for a possession order. If this is granted and you still do not leave, they will apply for a warrant for possession. Further information on private renting evictions can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Advice for Landlords

As a landlord of an HMO you have a duty of care to your tenants. You should make health and safety decisions based on the circumstances of your property and your tenants, to make sure all are kept as safe as possible.

Buildings are a place where viruses can spread easily, therefore regularly cleaning with disinfectants is crucial.

Keep an open communication with tenants, as they should advise you if anyone has symptoms or a positive test result and needs to self-isolate. You will also need to advise them of any delays to repairs or other services should you or your contractors have to isolate.

If a tenant has COVID-19 symptoms

If one of your tenants has symptoms or received a positive COVID-19 test result they will need to self-isolate. You do not need to provide alternative accommodation to other tenants, but you will need to advise them by email or text. All tenants will need to social distance and avoid entering each other’s rooms.

In order to try and limit the spread of the disease and help keep your tenants healthy, you can arrange for the following steps to be taken:

  • Arrange regular cleaning and disinfecting of communal areas.
  • If you have to cancel cleaning services due to a tenant isolating, supply the property with additional cleaning materials.
  • If applicable, arrange for hand sanitiser to be placed around the property.
  • Ventilate shared areas (kitchens, bathrooms, lounges) as much as possible.
  • Consider implementing a rota system for shared facilities.
  • Display Public Health England self-isolation information in common areas.
  • Ensure tenants are educated on the importance of cleaning shared facilities between uses.
  • Ensure the building Wi-Fi can support additional usage to support tenants working from home.
  • Provide tenants with workstations in rooms if they are working from home.
  • Understand the Public Health England advice on property decontamination, should any tenants contract COVID-19.
  • Provide additional waste facilities to allow for storage of suspect waste for 72hrs.
  • If necessary, help tenants that are isolating to arrange a Category B infectious waste collection.

Educate Yourself

It’s likely that your tenants will look to you for advice on how to keep safe during this pandemic, especially if they are required to isolate. Try to acquaint yourself with the latest updates from Public Health England and be able to advise your tenants when necessary.

Right to Repair

During the pandemic, you can suspend Right to Repair if it becomes impossible to carry out a repair within the maximum time set, due to circumstances out of the control of you or your contractor. You must advise your tenants if this happens.

You are still responsible for keeping the property in a safe and well-maintained manner, and emergency repairs must be carried out, even if a tenant is self-isolating. If a tenant is self-isolating, you should advise the tradesperson before they attend the property. A tradesperson with COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, should not carry out any work.

Rent Issues

A number of financial measures have been put in place by the Government to help Landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a Buy to Let mortgage you can be given a 3-month mortgage holiday, and some lenders are providing further support where possible.

If you are having financial difficulties, speak to your mortgage lender in the first instance. You can also gain further information about financial support for businesses during COVID-19 from the Gov.uk website.

Eviction during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, landlords must give tenants 3-6 months’ notice depending on when the notice was served, unless you apply for a Section 8 notice. If a tenant does not leave at the end of the notice period, you can apply to the court for a possession order. If this is granted and the tenant still does not leave, you will need to apply for a warrant for possession. Further information on private renting evictions can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Further information

If you need any further information on the impact of COVID-19 for both landlords and tenants, GOV.UK has guidance online. If you have a specific question that is not answered here, please get in touch with us.


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