Further COVID-19–related guidance has been released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government including non-statutory guidance for Landlords and Tenants on property access and health and safety obligations.
The Government is continuing to remind Landlords and Tenants to do all that they can to stop coronavirus spreading, while sensibly recognising that both parties need to work together to keep rented properties safe and decent places to live.
It is for this reason that the Government recognises that Landlords and Tenants continue to take a pragmatic, common sense approach to resolving any issues between them.
Repairs in my home
It is very important to remember that the Landlord’s repair obligations have not changed.
Indeed, the Landlord remains contractually bound, by virtue of the repair provisions in a typical tenancy agreement, to carry out repairs.
The Landlords’ repair, and in some cases, property improvement obligations, are also underpinned by legislation: Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and now also the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.
The challenge comes when in order to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Government’s advice to Landlords and Tenants alike, is to maintain a strict physical separation from others during this unprecedented time.
As part of its guidance to deal with this, the Government is encouraging both Landlords and Tenants to engage with each other constructively – and often.
For example, it will be necessary, especially if the national lockdown carries on for weeks, perhaps even longer, for Landlords, their agents or contractors, to gain access to a property to inspect and if necessary, carry out urgent repairs.
In our view, provided at least 48 hours’ notice is given (except in emergency), and the person gaining access to the property is wearing personal protective equipment and stays at least two meters from any occupant, there is no reason why an inspection cannot take place and urgent repairs carried out.
The Government guidance states that urgent repairs include (but are not limited to) fixing a leaking roof, repairing a boiler, ensuring a hot water supply and heating in the property, fixing a broken window or external door. Urgent repairs now also include fixing white goods such as a fridge or washing machine if a tenant is unable to wash clothes or store food safely.
Landlords will recognise and well understand repairs to the structure of a property e.g. fixing a leaking roof or repairing a boiler but repairing white goods, including a washing machine is new territory and points to a future where landlords must not only keep the property in good repair but free from hazards.
If landlords are not able to gain access to carry out an urgent repair, the key principles continue to apply: document your attempts to do so and also all your correspondence with tenants, including any replies you have had from them. In addition, make further attempt to get access and continue to do so until access is granted.
As ever, a pragmatic and common sense approach is required, perhaps even now more than ever.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at April 2020.