What are the new restrictions?
Following the relaxation of the lockdown rules and restrictions in December 2020, the country saw a significant rise in the spread of the Coronavirus. With rising cases and concerns of the impact of the spread of the virus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a further lockdown on 6th January 2021. It is expected that the third lockdown, which has been imposed by our Government, is due to last until mid-February 2021.
The new lockdown enforces a strict ‘stay at home’ order and closes many businesses except those who provide essential services. People are required to stay at home in all but a limited number of circumstances including essential shopping, seeking medical attention or exercise.
What are the rules on repairs taking place?
In the Government guidance, it is made clear that ‘it is vital that local authorities, landlords and tenants continue to work together to keep rented properties safe.’ It is in the best interest of both tenants and landlords that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.
In accordance with the government guidance, landlords are able to take steps to carry out repairs and safety inspections under the national lockdown which is currently in force. It is important to note that any such repairs and safety inspections must be undertaken in line with public health advice and the relevant coronavirus legislation.
There remains guidance in force for those people who are working in, visiting or delivering to people’s homes during the lockdown and throughout the pandemic. This guidance is regularly updated and can be found here.
How are tenants affected?
Tenants are bound to have concerns as to whether outstanding works to address the disrepair to their homes will be carried out. Tenants have often raised issues with delays in works being carried out or completed by their landlords. We have often seen landlords relying on the current pandemic as a reason to delay carrying out essential works, despite the guidance issued by the Government, which makes it clear that works inside homes are able to continue in order to ensure the rented properties are kept safe.
Despite guidance allowing trades people to enter domestic properties to carry out required works, it is understandable that many tenants are apprehensive in allowing people to enter their home due to the ongoing threat of the virus. The guidance states that those entering domestic properties must ensure that they are following public health guidance. This guidance includes maintaining a two metre distance and appropriate face coverings.
Should a tenant feel that such measures are not being adhered to, tenants should raise this with their landlord. The guidance makes clear that landlords should respect that some tenants will want to be cautious. However it should be noted that tenants remain under a duty to give their landlords/agents access to their homes and should not refuse access unreasonably. In these difficult times it is essential that both landlords and tenants engage in open communication with both parties taking a reasonable approach to try and resolve issues.
Guidance makes it clear that contractors can attend properties if necessary as long as social distancing measures are adhered to and as long as the tenant is not in a period of self-isolation.
The works that can be carried out are not limited to urgent works but include the following:
- Routine inspections
- Essential and non-essential repairs and maintenance
- Planned maintenance both internally and externally
We have often seen landlords unwilling to commence repairs, using lockdown restrictions as a reason for delaying works. It is clear from the current guidance that trades people are allowed to enter homes and landlords cannot unreasonably delay repairs from taking place.
We would advise tenants to report repairs to their landlord in the usual way. Whilst it may be that landlords are taking slightly longer than usual to carry out works, they should not refuse. If a landlord refuses to carry out works during the lockdown period or there is unreasonable delay, tenants should refer to the guidance and demand that works are carried out. If the landlord persists in refusing to carry out works, tenants should seek legal advice, particularly where the repairs are of a serious nature where their health or safety is at risk.