The latest advice issued today is that although tradespeople can complete repairs at properties if they take precautions, landlords should avoid face-to-face contact with existing or prospective tenants.
The government has told landlords and letting agents that they should not conduct house viewings or complete routine inspections of properties, but has said that their tradespeople can complete emergency repairs.
But confirmation has yet to come through from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about essential tasks such as gas safety and electrical equipment testing and whether these will be exempt from the lockdown as ‘essential services’.
It is also understood that ministers are considering whether to allow many of the companies serving the private rented sector to continue doing their work if a property is owned by someone working in frontline health and emergency services.
Until yesterday industry organisation Gas Safe Register was recommending to landlords that they book inspections by an approved engineer as soon as possible if their renewal date was within the next two months.
The organisation says that following the lock-down announcement last night, it is urgently seeking guidance from the Cabinet Office and the Health and Safety Executive about whether residential property safety inspections will be deemed ‘essential services’.
Also, landlords who are refurbishing properties can continue their work as construction sites have also been given the green light as essential service, it was confirmed this morning.
But all this advice from government remains just that – guidance; the necessary legislation to make it an offence to ignore the rules has yet to make its way through parliament, although this is expected to be achieved at any moment.
One grey area is whether landlords can help tenants move into or out of a property; there are a large number of outstanding rental tenancy contracts that were signed and paid for up-front before the Coronavirus shutdown, and now lockdown, gripped the nation.
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