Important information for landlords during the COVID-19 crisis
This page was last updated at 10.30am on 5 January 2021.
We’ve rounded up all the latest government recommendations and our own advice, to help keep things as normal as possible for you – for as long as the coronavirus crisis lasts.
As it stands, house moves are still allowed – the latest lockdown (from January 2021) won't prevent existing and new home moves from occurring, in both sales and rentals. Phew.
However, there are still things to consider.
First and foremost, you should be prepared to delay moves if any party (including a tenant) becomes ill during the process, or has to self isolate. At this point, it's advised that letting agents and landlords should endeavour to avoid ending tenancies where the tenant wants and is able to stay. It's important to be aware of (and follow) the government's guidance on coronavirus and renting which explains current rules and legislation in detail.
If you must find a new tenant for a property now, it's recommended that any initial viewings should be conducted virtually to limit face to face contact. In-person viewings should be conducted by appointment only, and "open houses" must be avoided. You should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing, open windows and doors where possible to allow air to flow through, allow access to handwashing facilities for visitors, and ideally separate towels/paper towels.
If tenants are still living in the property, you should ask them to vacate while viewings are taking place to minimise contact between different households. All parties should wash their hands during the viewing, and avoid touching surfaces. You can also ask attendees to restrict the number of people coming on the viewing so that social distancing can be practised effectively.
Once a viewing has taken place, all surfaces like door handles and sides should be cleaned with standard household cleaning products, and towels disposed of safely/washed. For more information about viewings, refer to this government advice.
We're actively encouraging SpareRoom users to conduct viewings via video call instead, and upload a video to your ad to showcase the property, room, and people who live there.
When it comes to deposits and progressing things, we’d still encourage users not to hand money over for a room before they’ve seen it in person – but instead use this time to build a shortlist of properties and only go to view ones they're really serious about.
However, if you really need to secure a new tenant, you can ask for a small holding deposit – but this should only be the equivalent of one week’s rent, in line with the Tenant Fees Act.
Your current tenants
COVID-19 is having a serious impact on income for a lot of people – freelancers, self-employed people and those on zero hours contracts are particularly vulnerable. If your tenants are in a situation where they can’t make their rent payments, there is support out there for you.
Last year, the government announced a package of measures to protect renters and landlords during the national emergency – and as part of this, they’re offering a six month mortgage “holiday” to landlords, including those with Buy to Let mortgages. This was recently extended to last until at least 31 March 2021.
Using the "payment holiday" could alleviate the pressure on you as a landlord, or be passed on to tenants who may be out of work and having financial difficulty. At the end of this “holiday” period, it’s expected that landlords and tenants will work together to establish an affordable repayment plan – considering tenants’ individual circumstances.
Most tenants can't be evicted right now – unless there's a very serious reason. You can find out more about this on gov.uk.
Repairs and maintenance
With social distancing in mind, carrying repairs and maintenance to your property is a little more tricky. The latest government advice says that any visits to a property must be conducted in accordance with their guidelines on working in other people's homes and social distancing rules.
You should still make every effort to abide by gas and electrical safety requirements – which are still really important for tenants' safety. This could be more difficult right now, for example if a tenant has coronavirus symptoms, is shielding or the household are self isolating. In this situation, it's crucial to take reasonable steps to comply – read this Health and Safety Executive guidance for more information.
Right to Rent checks
Right to Rent checks have been temporarily adjusted to make it easier for landlords and letting agents to carry them out during the coronavirus outbreak.
This means that, until further notice, you don't need to see original documents – prospective and current tenants can now submit scanned documents or a photo of the documents (via email or mobile app), rather than originals. You can also complete the check via a video call. Where an individual doesn't have the right documents to demonstrate their right to rent, you should contact the Landlord Checking Service.
You can find more information about how to conduct a Right to Rent check during the COVID-19 crisis on gov.uk.
Although we endeavour to keep our coronavirus (COVID-19) content as accurate and as up to date as possible, the situation is rapidly changing, so please ensure you refer to gov.uk for the latest advice and information.