Today (28 March 2020), MHCLG has published some comprehensive and consolidating guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities.

The guidance covers various topics including:

  • rent
  • mortgage payments
  • possession proceedings
  • court action
  • property access
  • health and safety obligations
  • repairs
  • conducting viewings
  • and more …

The guidance reminds tenants that they should continue to pay the rent to the best of their ability and should speak to their landlord if they experience troubles.

As a tenant, should I stop paying rent during the outbreak?

Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. The government has a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.

There is guidance in respect of repairs including reminding landlords that repairing obligations have not changed.

Where reasonable, safe for you and in line with other Government guidance, we recommend that you allow local authorities, landlords or contractors access to your property in order to inspect or remedy urgent health and safety issues.

In respect of gas safety and electrical inspections, the guidance provides:

Landlords must provide tenants with all necessary gas and electrical safety and any other relevant certification at the beginning of a tenancy (and carry out all scheduled inspections and tests where required). Where inspections have already been carried out, documents can be provided by post or in some circumstances it may be possible to provide digital copies.

Landlords should make every effort to abide by existing gas safety regulations and electrical safety regulations which come into force on 1 July. There are provisions in both regulations to account for situations in which a landlord cannot do this …, and they must demonstrate they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law.

We are encouraging local authorities and other enforcement agencies to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to enforcement in these unprecedented times. You can read the latest guidance for landlords and Gas Safe engineers and inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive here

If you are not able to gain access to the property due to restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19, or are not able to engage a contractor to carry out the necessary work, we recommend you document your attempts to do so and all correspondence with your tenants.

In respect of conducting viewings, the guidance advises against this but if a tenant is contractually bound to move in to a property and wishes to continue, that is fine (as long as all public health guidance is followed).

The guidance is worth a read as it covers most topics of concern in a good question and answer style.