COVID-19: Update 4

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The government has now updated the law regarding works that are required to properties during Covid-19. Viewings and how these are to take place. The lettings and estate agent’s industry are to stay open. Opening an industry overnight without giving them any warning will always lead to problems.

What are my responsibilities as a landlord?

Do I need to ensure my letting agent, if I have one, is looking after my property correctly? Can they carry out viewings in the right way?

We enclose in this guide what can be done. What cannot be done as well as the potential pitfalls as a landlord. COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. Landlords still have a responsibility to their tenants, however.

If I send a contractor to a property do I have any responsibility to ensure his working practice within it?

You are responsibly for ay contractor that you may send into a property. You must ensure that your contractor has a COVID-19 policy at the very least. There are certain rules that the contractors must abide by. It is critical that you get some form of confirmation that they have a Covid policy. If not, we would not send a contractor round. You need to understand that you are potentially liable if there is an issue. Your insurance may not cover you for this if you do not find out.

You must think about the risks. They will need to do a risk assessment.

They will need to assess and manage the risk of COVID-19. If you are instructing the contractor, you have a legal responsibility. You need to ensure that the workers are protecting themselves. If you employ them direct, and they work for you, you are fully responsible. This means you need to think about the risks that they face. You need to ensure that they are doing everything reasonable and practical to minimise them.

You must ensure that a risk assessment is carried out for the address. As risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork. It is about identifying sensible measures to control risks in the workplace. You will have a duty to consult anybody you employ on a health and safety basis.

Thinking about managing the risk.

The whole idea of this is to reduce the risk to the lowest reasonable practical level. This is by taking preventative measures. You must ensure that your contractors take this very seriously. All health and safety must be considered.

There is simple rules.

  1. a) Every works area should have the increased frequency of hand washing and service cleaning.
  2. b) They must follow the social distancing guidelines already set out by the government.
  3. c) They should ensure that any tenants they encounter have a social distancing understanding. It would be best if the tenants were not at the property at all when the works took place.
  4. d) Other mitigating actions will include increasing the frequency of hand washing and service cleaning. Keeping the work to a bare minimum. Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other. Using back-to-back or side to side working other than face to face. Reducing the number of people each person must contact. Perhaps using fixed teams or partnering.
  5. e) They need to ensure that any face-to-face work is not for sustained periods of time. You must ensure whether this is reasonable and acceptable. If not find another way of working.
  6. f) In the assessment they should take regard to whether people doing the works are especially vulnerable.

What will I need to do also when working in people’s homes?

  1. No works should ever be carried out in a household which is isolating. If one or more family members have symptoms not works should take place. If an individual has been advised to shield no works should take place. There are exceptional circumstances where they can. However, there may be a direct risk to the safety of the household. Your tenants can deny access for any works. If they are vulnerable or shielding it is then their decision. This is fundamental.
  2. If the tenants do allow contractors in where a household is vulnerable then avoid face to face contact. You should make sure that all PPE is put in place. You should ensure that a risk assessment has taken place.

An example of this would be the contractor knocks on the door and stands back two meters. The tenants will open the door then move to a room that is at least two meters away from where the works will be carried out. The contractor enters and shuts the door. The contractor must wear gloves and a face mask and if possible, shoe protectors. They then carry out the works. Wipe down the area that they have finished at. Then call to the tenant to let them know that they are leaving the premises. The tenant should then be asked to wipe down the area again for themselves.

  1. The contractor should ensure that before they go in, they wash their hands with soap and water. They can use a hand sanitiser. If they use tools on a regular basis these should be wiped down and cleaned. They should be doing this every day to reduce any risk of passing on infection to other people.

Should my contractor keep the works area clean even if it is in an empty house?

Absolutely they should ensure that the areas in the workspace are clean. This is to prevent the transmission by touching contaminated surfaces.

Steps that will normally be needed will be.

  1. a) Frequently cleaning or objects and surfaces that are touched regularly.
  2. b) Arranging methods of safe disposing of waste.
  3. c) Removing all waste and belongings from the works area at the end of every day.
  4. d) Washing their hands for at least 20 seconds by using soap and hot water.
  5. e) Using face masks if possible.
  6. f) If hand washing facilities are not accessible, they should use hand sanitiser.

I have my property on the market. I want viewings to be carried out, what do I need to do?

This is now a huge area of rules and regulations for carrying out viewings. It also includes inspections in relation to a property. The government are trying to ensure that business is staying opening. But they must do so in a safe way. You can therefore carry out viewings as well as inspections if they are necessary.

What happens to people who are vulnerable or shielding?

They government recognise people who are shielding or otherwise vulnerable may have needs to move home. It must be in balance with the increased risk of COVID-19. If the tenant is shielding or vulnerable, then consider whether you really need to risk the situation. You cannot force the tenant to allow entry at any point.

What if people are self-isolating or have tested positive for COVID-19?

The government do not feel it is appropriate for people who impose a risk of transmitting COVID-19. People who are self-isolating should not leave their home or undertake any property viewings. If there are already contractually committed to moving home, then they should look to try and delay this.

How should viewings be conducted?

People should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person where possible. To minimise the public health risk. If the household are showing any forms of Covid 19 all viewings should be cancelled. If they are self-isolating, then physical viewings should be delayed. All viewings must take place by appointment. They should also include some form of PPE. Make sure you talk to all the household.

The covid-19 rules are as follows.

  1. They encourage people to do their property search online wherever possible. Initial viewings should be done virtually. Physical viewings should only be conducted where people are seriously considering making an offer.
  2. Agents, or landlords, may ask the home occupier to conduct virtual viewings i.e. to record a video showing their property.
  3. Any physical viewings should be conducted by appointment only and no open house viewings should take place.
  4. If the property is being viewed then the tenants should open all doors prior to the viewing. They should allow access to hand washing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.
  5. Encouragement should be made for the tenant to vacate the property. Viewings take place when empty.
  6. When viewing a property all parties should either wash their hands or avoid touching surfaces. Agents/landlords will ask to restrict the number of people attending. A viewing should be on a social distancing can be practised.
  7. Agents/landlord can accompany viewings, but social distancing rules must take place.
  8. If you do not have hand washing facilities then hand sanitiser. This should be provided by the agent/landlord.
  9. After the viewing has taken place the homeowner should clean all surfaces. These include the door handles and any other surfaces. This should be done by a standard household cleaning product.
  10. Although not a rule, we would suggest that all people wishing to view wear gloves. A face mask to protect themselves as well as the tenants.
  11. You should always communicate all the above rules to the tenants prior to doing any viewings so that the tenants are aware.

I have an estate agent who is dealing with my property are there any rules? What regulations they now need to adhere to during Covid-19?

The details the agents have the adhere to are as follows.

  1. a) Agents should ask whether any parties are showing symptoms of COVID-19. Have they been asked to self-isolate ahead of the viewing?
  2. b) Agents should use a points system to visits to their offices and when conducting viewings.
  3. c) Agents should not carry out open house viewings.
  4. d) Agents should strongly encourage clients to view property virtually in the first instance. Then only physically attended a property which they have a strong interest in.
  5. e) Agents can accompany physical viewings and seek to maintain a minimum of 2 meters distance from others where possible. Where social distancing is not possible, and the visit is in an enclosed space they should consider wearing a face covering within the government guidelines.
  6. f) Where agents do not accompany a visit, they should make sure that both buyers and sellers/landlord and tenants aware. They should let everybody know how the viewings should be conducted safely.
  7. g) Agents should not drive clients to appointments.
  8. h) All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser. Immediately after entering the property the internal door should be open and surfaces wipes down before they enter. However, all applicants should be requested not to touch anything.
  9. i) Agents should do what they can to ensure flexibility when arranging move dates.
  10. j) Agents should work with their clients and other agents to arrange a new date if the parties fall ill with COVID-19 or are self-isolating.
  11. k) Agent should ensure that the keys are cleaned before handover.
  12. l) Lettings agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic, self-isolating or where it has been deemed then are clinically vulnerable or shielding.

All the above is extremely important and landlord should ensure that they are fully covered in this regard.

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