The last few weeks have been nothing short of hectic with the rumours, counter rumours, truths and untruths regarding the coronavirus. While many private landlords are still in the dark regarding their liabilities and what they should do, affective guidance has emerged. There are a number of actions you can take regarding tenants in private rental accommodation which will protect those in the home and others in the local vicinity.
Low risk scenario
We know that the vast majority of people will experience a mild form of the coronavirus which should dissipate within 14 days. The fact that during this period they will still be able to infect others is probably the major concern with this group of individuals. So, very basic guidelines include:-
• Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water
• Cough into tissues and dispose
• Wipe down surfaces
• Avoid touching your face at all costs
If possible either email or post guidance to your tenants and point them to the following NHS webpage which gives more detailed guidance:-
We will now move on to the self-isolation scenario which more and more people will face in the weeks and months ahead.
There are specific issues to be aware of for private landlords where their tenants are forced into self-isolation as a consequence of the virus. These include:-
• Be as sympathetic as possible to their situation
• Make tenants aware of statutory sick pay changes
• Universal credit claimants may see a dip in their income
• Self-employed tenants may be hit hardest
Where a tenant is forced into self-isolation there should be a discussion with the landlord regarding a potential reduction in their short term income. Many landlords are taking a long-term approach to the situation with the potential to pay off any arrears over a prolonged period of time. There is also the issue of older tenants in isolation, a proposed self-isolation period for those over 70 of four months and any specific assistance they may require. Where possible, offer them support as many will be very concerned about their health as well as the roof over their heads.
The Italian government has suspended mortgage payments with many speculating that the UK government will follow suit at some stage. The general consensus seems to be that the UK is between three and four weeks behind the Italian scenario although we are not certain to follow the same path.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are causing additional concern as a consequence of the number of people in one property. It is very important to do carry out basic hygiene on a regular basis such as hand washing, cleaning surfaces, etc. However, where one of the HMO tenants is in self-isolation further step should be taken. These should include:-
• All tenants spending as much time as possible in their own private quarters
• The use of separate cutlery and crockery
• Cleaning of cutlery and crockery immediately after use
• Separate towels and tea towels
• Wipe down all surfaces after use
• Scheduling use of communal facilities so those self-isolating are last
• Advising all visitors and tradespeople of the situation
There are also various inspections and repair/maintenance which will be required on a regular basis. If possible, these should be delayed until after the coronavirus issue has ended in order to avoid infection.
The truth is that all of the guidelines issued for private landlords are straightforward, common sense but extremely effective. With talk that up to 60% of the UK population might experience coronavirus, using the herd mentality, this is not something which will “happen to other people”. The vast majority of us will be aware of coronavirus sufferers in due course and it is as much the responsibility of the government as it is the general public to take the necessary precautions.
Any financial implications will no doubt be announced in due course but the UK government is likely to assist as their Italian counterparts did just last week. This situation is very fluid, very fast-moving and very changeable so we await further advice in due course.