Virus: Safety of tenants is key responsibility of agents says government

Tenants’ safety should be letting agents’ first priority in the new era of activity during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a new document issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, agents are told to “endeavour to avoid ending tenancies where the tenant wants and is able to stay”.

The guidelines are specific on a wide range of issues and are as follows:

– private landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where it has been determined that they are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding;

– in other cases, 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 guidelines on working from other peoples’ 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;

– landlords should make every effort to abide by gas and electrical safety requirements, which continue to be of great importance for tenants’ safety. This may be more difficult due to restrictions associated with the coronavirus outbreak, for example where a tenant has coronavirus symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding. Under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach;

– 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 virus in line with government advice;

– letting agents and landlords should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed while broader measures remain in place, taking care to adhere to social distancing.

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