28 March 2020

Posted by Discount Insurance on Saturday, March 28, 2020
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The coronavirus crisis has hit the property sector, including the buy-to-let sector, hard with agents and landlords having to adjust to a new way of doing business very quickly.

This is an ever changing situation and guidelines change daily. To complicate matters, many situations that affect the buy-to-let sector are not explicitly covered by government guidance, including visits from tradesmen, building work or house moves.

Here are a few answers to come of the issues affecting the buy-to-let market in the current climate.

Can I carry out maintenance work in my occupied rental property?


The government has not given specific guidance to the private rental sector on maintenance, but a statement on Wednesday from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government attempted to offer a bit of clarity.

Provided the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms, however mild, maintenance work can be carried out in people’s homes, the statement said.

The spokesperson stressed it was important that everyone maintained the government rules on social distancing and stood two metres apart while the work was being carried out.

"No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so," the statement said.

Public Health England said they can provide advice to tradespeople and households on an individual case-by-case basis.

But, the advice is still not enough to satisfy the Gas Safe Register who said they were suspending gas safety inspections until they received further guidance from the government and a clearer picture on what work is deemed essential.

British Gas has also cancelled all routine appointments such as annual service visits, but are continuing to deal with emergencies and are prioritising vulnerable people.

Annual gas safety checks must by law be carried out in rental properties once a year and many landlords are concerned they could be penalised if they are unable to get the appliances in their rental property inspected within the timeframe.

As yet there is no specific advice on this or instructions on what landlords should do if they cannot access the property due to tenants self-isolating in case of an emergency or urgent repairs ie a gas leak or broken boiler.

Can letting agents still conduct viewings?


No. Despite some agencies dragging their heels even after the stricter measures came into force on Monday, insisting they fell under “essential workers”, agents do not fall into this category.

Many letting and estate agents have now shut their offices and agents are working remotely. There should be no inspections, valuations or in-person viewings. Agents and landlords are instead moving to virtual tours and sending video links via WhatsApp to prospective tenants. Check-ins/outs, signing contracts, etc can all be done remotely.

Can I move house during lockdown?


Again, there is no specific government advice on this, but a degree of common sense should be applied. Some removal firms continue to operate, while others have chosen to complete pre-booked moves before shutting down. There should be no new moves until at least 11 April when the lockdown is being reviewed - any contract you ask a tenant to sign should bear that in mind.

Stay at home
Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
Wash your hands as soon as you get home

Government advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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