To restrict the spread of the coronavirus, the Government is now limiting the movement of the entire population. Most people are now required to only leave the house for limited reasons.
In addition, as of 23rd March 2020 they are also recommending that people at higher risk due to an underlying health condition self-isolate strictly for the next 12 weeks.
Both of these practices will have an impact on the way landlords interact with their tenants.
This guide is designed to provide information and support for landlords on both practices and will be regularly updated as the Government advice changes.
What should everyone be doing?
Stay indoors. You should only leave the house for the following reasons –
- Shopping for essentials (food, medicine, etc) in as few visits to the shop as possible
- To exercise once a day
- Travelling to and from work where the work cannot be done from home
- To care for a vulnerable person
- For a medical reason
Where you do leave the house you are not allowed to congregate in groups of more than two people unless the other people are all part of your immediate household.
There are also further restrictions on movement for people who need to self-isolate.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of a new continuous cough and/or high temperature.
What should I do if I develop these symptoms or notice them in a tenant?
Anyone who lives alone with even mild symptoms is now advised to self-isolate for seven days.
For people who live with others, the advice is for all members of the household to self-isolate for 14 days from the point the first person showed symptoms. If anyone does develop symptoms towards the end of this period they should still isolate for seven days from the point of showing symptoms.
If any ill person in the household has not had any signs of improvement and have not already sought medical advice, they should contact NHS 111 online. If your home has no internet access, you should call NHS 111.
The cough may persist for several weeks in some people, despite the coronavirus infection having cleared. A persistent cough alone does not mean someone must continue to self-isolate for more than 7 days.
What is the advice for tenants who are self-isolating, particularly in shared properties?
It's important that anyone self-isolating follows the Government's advice, to minimise the risk of infecting others. This is particularly important in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) where individuals share amenities.
It’s also important that tenants in shared properties let the property manager and their fellow tenants know if they have symptoms, as the Government advises that the whole household should now self-isolate for 14 days.
What is the advice for tenants who are self-isolating due to risk factors rather than developing symptoms?
As of 22nd March 2020, an estimated 1.5 million people are also advised to avoid leaving their house for 12 weeks in all circumstances due to the risk to their health. These individuals will be contacted by the NHS to inform them in the next week.
Landlords may wish to consider offering further living assistance to any tenants who are contacted by the NHS and advised they fall into this category. If they do, they should follow the instructions in the NHS letter.
For tenants who are required to self-isolate but do not show symptoms, the other residents of the property must follow social distancing requirements, but they are not required to self-isolate at this time.
If I do interact with my tenants during this time what should I be doing?
You should consider whether it is necessary to interact with your tenant during this period. You should be avoiding any interactions that cannot be done from home so wherever possible you should only communicate via phone, text or email.
If it is absolutely essential, and you and they are not symptomatic, or being advised to self-isolate due to your risk factors, then you should practice social distancing during any visits.
You and any contractors should also ensure you are following the Government's guidance on handwashing while visiting the property.
What should I do if my tenants are not showing symptoms?
While tenants are responsible for their own health, you may wish to signpost tenants to official advice by email and advise tenants to keep up to date with the latest advice where necessary.
The NHS advice includes guidance on simple hygiene measures which everyone can practice to minimise transmission of the virus.
You should avoid visiting the property as much as possible.
Landlords may also wish to consider providing additional support for vulnerable tenants, such as the elderly, disabled and those with a long-term illness. You should only do this is if you are not symptomatic and you should practice strict social distancing when you do.
What steps should I take to minimise health risks in my HMO properties?
Tenants should follow the Government advice. Landlords may wish to consider emailing copies of government advice, as well as having soap and/or sanitiser sent to the property.
Tenants should be encouraged to inform housemates if they are self-isolating or have become ill as the whole household will need to self-isolate.
Public Health England (PHE) has released some posters which HMO landlords may find helpful to email to their tenants. These posters are available to download below
The NHS has also released a poster with advice on self-isolation which should be emailed to tenants.
The Government has issued guidance on decontamination in non-clinical settings which HMO landlords may want to familiarise themselves with.
Should a deep clean be necessary, the landlord should bear the cost. Cleaning of properties between tenancies should be thorough.
What is social distancing?
As part of the strategy for slowing the spread of the virus, the Government is suggesting that everybody try to practice social distancing as much as is pragmatic.
Most landlords will notice this practice via an increasing number of tenants working from home over this period. With the Government’s latest announcement this practice will now apply to substantially more employees.
For tenants and landlords who are pregnant, have an underlying health condition, or are aged 70 or over, the Government is strongly advising they follow social distancing more stringently than the rest of the population.
What should I be doing as a landlord in regards to social distancing?
Contact your tenants and find out if any of them would fall into the higher-risk categories that lead to more extensive social distancing. These groups in particular are strongly advised against having visitors in the property so you are advised not to arrange any inspections or non-essential works during this period unless it cannot be avoided.
Higher risk individuals may also need assistance with receiving food and medicine during this period. Many people are volunteering to assist with deliveries of these items. If you do wish to do this you should liaise with your tenant as to the best method of delivering items without physical contact.
Further information on social distancing is available here.
How should I plan for managing my properties if I need to self-isolate?
If you have identified that you need to self-isolate, it’s important to avoid exposing your tenants to risk. It’s also important to plan as there is a high likelihood that you may need to self-isolate in future, whether due to symptoms of the virus or needing to follow social distancing measures.
You should put in place alternative arrangements for the management of their properties and ensure tenants are aware of these. This may involve contact by telephone, email or text only and an agent or friend temporarily taking on the management responsibility.
It's important to make contingency plans now as you may need to implement them at short notice.
If you require financial support during this time please see our guide on this for landlords.