What has changed with the second lockdown?
On 31st October 2020, Boris Johnson announced new national restrictions for England to be imposed by way of another lockdown from 5th November 2020 for a 4 week period, until the review date of 2nd December 2020. These new restrictions, similar to those of the initial lockdown of March 2020 require people to stay at home as well as the closure of certain businesses and venues so as to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus.
What was happening until now?
On 18th May 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government wrote to all social housing residents stating that, ‘As we start to ease lockdown measures, landlords should be able to carry out routine as well as essential repairs for most households’ this is with the caveat that protective measures are adhered to (remaining at a distance; wearing masks etc.) and, obviously, that repairs are not undertaken if a person is self-isolating.
There is also Guidance in force for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes during the pandemic. This guidance is regularly updated and can be found at here.
How does the new lockdown affect housing repairs for tenants?
In light of the recent Lockdown announcement due to be in force from 5th November 2020, undoubtedly, tenants now have concerns as to the outstanding works to address the disrepair in their home. A common issue that tenants tend to raise with their landlord or their Solicitor, is the delays and/or the lack of works taking place by their landlord. This was, and continues to be an issue throughout the course of the pandemic and we note that many landlords have relied on Covid-19 as a reason for delay and that, despite the Guidance, many urgent works remain outstanding.
Government guidance for tenants and landlords during the second lockdown
The current government guidance is that the risks must be managed and therefore, the objective is to “to reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority.”
Whilst detailed guidance is yet to be published by the Government, taking to social media, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick outlined several key measures:
- The housing market will remain open, allowing both renters and buyers to move house
- Tradespeople will be allowed to enter homes, provided they follow the aforementioned social distancing guidance as set out by the Government
- Mortgage holidays will continue for people who are struggling to pay their mortgage. The scheme had been due to end at the weekend, with an update expected shortly from the Financial Conduct Authority
- Hardware stores and builders merchants will be permitted to remain open throughout the lockdown
- Construction sites will continue to operate throughout the lockdown
It seems clear then, at least for now, that landlords are unable to unreasonably deny repairs to tenant’s homes solely relying on the fact that there is a national lockdown. The guidance available at this stage clearly outlines that tradespeople will be allowed to enter homes, provided social distancing measures are in place. By the same token, tenants are also unable to unreasonably refuse access, unless of course, there are circumstances which render them to be vulnerable i.e. they are elderly, have a disability, or have young children, or they are self-isolating.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has undoubtedly had a significant and devastating, social and economic disruption worldwide. Thousands of individuals are at risk of poverty, homelessness, and are still living in suitable housing however, we at HJA seek to assist tenants during these difficult times. We strongly advise tenants that landlords can and should be completing repairs to their property evening during this second lockdown. Failure to do so could give rise to a legal claim.