Vacant property and social distancing rules?

by Readers Question

15:38 PM, 15th April 2020
About 6 months ago

Vacant property and social distancing rules?

Make Text Bigger
Vacant property and social distancing rules?

Hi, I have a flat that will be vacant from this weekend and have been advertising for the past month before the lockdown happened.

My question is I still get daily enquires and people wanting a virtual viewing. Am I allowed to be doing this and can I re -et the property?

I would be following the social distancing rules as will be doing virtual viewings, digital contracts etc. Am I to be the judge that it is essential for someone to move house during this time?

Do I need to ask the potential tenants if it is essential?

Many thanks

Gemma


Share this article

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

Comments

Rob Crawford

8:51 AM, 16th April 2020
About 6 months ago

You won't be following the Gov'ts guidelines but that's what they are guidelines, not legislation. Some may say it's irresponsible to not comply, but if you can do it in a way that protects both yourself and the prospective tenant whose going to know?

Gary Nock

10:09 AM, 16th April 2020
About 6 months ago

The Guidance is supported by the Act; and the Guidance clarifies the Act as follows:

The Coronavirus Act 2020 and Associated Legislation.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament on the 25th
March 2020 following a televised newscast by the Prime Minister advising the country of the 3
week lockdown on the 23rd March 2020. This made general and specific law in relation to the
control of coronavirus. Alongside this, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)
(England) Regulations 2020 as Statutory Instrument 350 of 2020 came into force at 1pm on the 26th March 2020. This states:
Section 6.—(1) of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020: "During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse
( paraphrased):
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need—
(f) to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it
not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the
place where they are living;
(l) to move house where reasonably necessary”

Under the Act and associated guidance Estate and Letting Agents were classed as non-essential businesses and were instructed to close by MHCLG on the 24th March 2020.

MHCLG “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Landlords and Tenants March 2020”
The Guidance issued by MHCLG in the document “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for
Landlords and Tenants” states on page 20:
“3.11 What about access to a property to conduct viewings or where a move is scheduled?
• Government has advised against home moves wherever possible. See separate advice here
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-
covid-19-outbreak
• We recommend that landlords and tenants engage constructively about access to a property, and that it is only proposed for serious and urgent issues. Follow the Government’s latest guidance on distancing measures necessary to help stop the spread of the virus here:
https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
• This means that no one should visit the property to conduct viewings, or anything else which is not urgent and health and safety-related.
• Home buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new home while
emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus"

I think it's pretty clear. Unless the house move is " reasonably necessary" - i.e you have a homeless tenant or the contract was agreed before lockdown then lets should not be going ahead. Even with social distancing etc the tenant cannot " virtually" move in. They will need to physically go there. They may need a removal firm or family or friends to help them move. If in a block of flats they will have to traverse communal areas and come into contact with others. Is stopping having a void " reasonably necessary?" Is it helping the national effort to prevent coronavirus spread? Or is it a need to fill the property?

I have 3 properties empty which is costing me around £1500 a month. I have struggled with the above both legally and morally. I also run a lettings agency and in common with many other agencies are holding off on lettings until the lockdown stops. It's all about the bigger picture and not letting our personal/business needs and circumstances override what the government is trying to do. At the end of the day it's your choice if you do the let. But you then live with the consequences of it. Tenants are a fickle lot at times and if you do the let against the law and guidance and they get Coronavirus who will they blame? Themselves for moving or the landlord or agent for allowing them to do it? And secondly- who will they sue? And can you be sure that you have complied? Just wait for the ambulance chasing lawyers " Did your landlord or agent allow you to move during lockdown? Did you catch coronavirus as a result? You may be entitled to compensation. Ring our Compensation Vulture Hotline for further details"

These are the facts. The individual make the choice and lives with it.

Gemma

10:26 AM, 16th April 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Gary Nock at 16/04/2020 - 10:09
Thank you for all the detailed advise. I have messaged prospective tenants and asked if it is essential that they move as taking away my personal situation I don't want anyone to be in danger etc and one person in particular has come back that they live on a shared house and have a 5 day old baby that the need/want to shield from other people so they they or their baby are safe from the virus.

Clint

10:54 AM, 16th April 2020
About 6 months ago

I recently had a tenant move in on 27th March where, I let him go into the property on his own while social distancing whilst I opened the door. Following that emailed all documentation and tenancy was arranged.
Yesterday, I got an email from the council asking me if I had any properties available as they said they had tenants ready to move in immediately.
Right to rent also at present does not require you to meet the tenant and the government has also published how to rent during the lockdown so it should not be a problem.
All in all, if one can keep to the social distancing measures it should not be a problem as even the council are acknowledging that tenants can move at present.

Gunga Din

11:16 AM, 16th April 2020
About 6 months ago

I'm pondering this myself. Tenant-finding agent, through contact from the council, called me y'day with two homeless tenants council are looking to house.

As a rule I insist on meeting prospectives first, looking them in the eye, checking them out like a job interview etc. but accept it might have to be different this time.

Smoke alarms have to be tested on the first day of a tenancy - someone has to do it and I can't leave that to the tenant. Inevitably (Victorian houses) there are technical issues to sort out at the beginning of a tenancy.

I live 300+ miles away but the flats are my sole income source and I could argue I can't deal with this from home.

BB

13:26 PM, 16th April 2020
About 6 months ago

Had tenants come to the end of their tenancy and move out. Had new prospective tenants view and agreed to start new tenancies and move in. This all during the past few weeks. All usung local High Street agencies and their in house Inventory Clerks. Seems to me it permitted.

I did however, when anticipating many difficulties in this area several weeks ago, I contacted my LHA offering the property for their use and to furnish it to accommodate people in need. After many many questions they never ever made any determined decision.

Gary Nock

15:14 PM, 16th April 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Gemma at 16/04/2020 - 10:26
Gemma get them to confirm that in an email. Its then" reasonable and necessary" and covers your back

Paul Shears

15:54 PM, 16th April 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by BB at 16/04/2020 - 13:26
Mine said that they did not need any accomodation......

Rob Crawford

14:54 PM, 17th April 2020
About 6 months ago

Has anyone seen a definition for the term permitting a move, "to move house where reasonably necessary;" as used in the legislation?

BB

8:22 AM, 19th April 2020
About 6 months ago

Reply to the comment left by Rob Crawford at 17/04/2020 - 14:54
Good point Rob and thanks for raising it. I feel there needs to be clearly defined line of yes/no. Since commenting above, I ve encounter a prickly issue with a Tenant of mine, I d like some advice regarding this, please. It's now in a separate post - this is in regards to the removal of Tenants belongings post end of tenancy. Many thanks BB.

1 2

Leave Comments

Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.

Forgotten your password?

OR

BECOME A MEMBER

Absent freeholder since purchase in 2011 suddenly appears?

The Landlords Union

Become a Member, it's FREE

Our mission is to facilitate the sharing of best practice amongst UK landlords, tenants and letting agents

Learn More