As we move through the different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, landlords can be forgiven for thinking that the guidelines are changing on a daily basis. We wanted to highlight a number of items that landlords can be doing now.
Make sure you know your tenants
With COVID-19, you need to know if your tenants are likely to become unable to pay their rent. Create a spreadsheet of your tenants and draw up profiles of each of them, detailing their financial situation. This will help you determine what proportion of your tenants are at risk now and going forwards in these uncertain times.
Check in with your tenants and start a conversation
If you (or your management company) have not already done so, contact your tenants, as this will help open up a dialogue in case they do run into trouble. Provide them with your guidelines and organisations to contact should they encounter difficulties in payment. Clarity in writing is helpful in this situation.
Keep doing critical safety checks when possible (e.g. fire, gas, electrical) and emergency maintenance
You should not neglect critical annual checks at this time, but you should communicate with your tenants and current Government regulations around social distancing should be followed at all times. However, if you are unable to gain access to your property because tenants are sick, self-isolating or you cannot secure the services of the workman required, you are expected to demonstrate that you have taken reasonable steps to comply with the law, with evidence such as email communication. Once all parties are available, you should look to arrange the safety check as soon as possible. And it should go without saying, that if there is an emergency, you should do everything possible to resolve it for the tenant. It is now also law that every buy-to-let property tenanted has an EPC rating of E or above, so you should factor in any necessary works to comply with this.
Take a pragmatic approach to non-essential maintenance, but help tenants request repairs
Tenants should contact you to request non-urgent repairs, but where they are impacted by COVID-19-related restrictions, you should take a common-sense approach to when they should be completed, likewise, for non-essential regular maintenance. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has published guidance for landlords and tenants with more details.