Covid Guidance for Letting Agents and Landlords as Restrictions Ease
After nearly a year and a half of lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions, England has now seen the easing of most of the measures put in place at the start of the pandemic. With an end to social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing in public, there has also been the reopening of theatres, music venues and bar service in pubs, amongst other changes. But what is the Covid guidance for letting agents and landlords as we look to move cautiously towards ‘normal’?
The government and Propertymark have released new rules and best practices to help the rental sector navigate the next few months. Here are the main points that you need to know.
Section 8 and 21 Notice Periods
During the pandemic, the notice periods landlords were required to give tenants to leave their properties in Section 8 and 21 claims were extended. This recognised the financial difficulties that many tenants faced, as well as the tricky nature of viewing and securing other rental properties. The government has adjusted the notice periods throughout the last year and a half, reacting to how it saw the market.
From 1st August, the notice period returned to two months in recognition of the end of restrictions in England.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, known as the furlough scheme, will continue until the end of September 2021, despite the economy opening up in July. This allows businesses time to get back up to speed and decide on whether they can afford to bring all staff back to work. This is of particular interest to landlords and letting agents, as there could be issues with tenants’ ability to pay rent once the support finishes if businesses decide not to continue their employment.
Industry trade organisation Propertymark suggests that “masks will not be legally required but they are advisory for agents and clients...It is important that agents are sensitive to vulnerabilities and anxieties that clients and staff alike may have.”
This is in line with the government’s latest advice that, although there is no legal requirement, it is advisable that people wear masks in crowded and enclosed spaces, as well as when meeting people that you do not normally interact with. Of course, this is a key element of the job of a letting agent.
It seems obvious, but because the pandemic is not yet over, tenants and landlords should immediately isolate if they have symptoms of Covid 19, before seeking out a test. Propertymark makes it clear that “no viewing should take place if any person in a property is showing symptoms of Coronavirus or self-isolating”. This applies to agents, landlords, prospective tenants and current tenants during the viewing process.
Previous guidance during the pandemic had been for letting agents to work remotely. The new guidance suggests that they can return to the office, although to be wary of coronavirus symptoms. Staff do not need to socially distance themselves from colleagues, but it is essential that they do not attend work if they have a new continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss or change to their sense of taste or smell.
Despite the easing of restrictions, the government Covid guidance for letting agents and landlords is still to perform initial viewings virtually if possible.
In its official advice, the government advises tenants to "discuss the possible implications of Covid-19 with your legal professional and consider making contractual provisions or other necessary measures to manage these risks…There is a greater risk that home moves may need to be delayed if someone in the transaction shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating.” It suggests that all parties are flexible in their approach to rentals at this time.
Don’t forget that outsourcing your property management is the best way to keep up to date with all your obligations, Covid-related and otherwise. We offer two packages that help you maintain compliance with all the rules and regulations relating to the management of properties. Find out more on the dedicated page and contact us today to talk about your requirements.