Home moves in the social and private rented sector (including mutual exchanges)
Tenant, staff and contractor safety should be letting agents’ and landlords’ first priority when managing home moves. Please refer to guidance for landlords on meeting their duties and legal obligations in the social and private rented sectors during the pandemic.
Letting agents and private sector landlords should follow Scottish Government guidance on COVID-19 and renting which explains the current approach in the Private Rented Sector, including tenant protections. Propertymark has also produced guidance, see related links.
Work carried out in people’s homes, including visits by letting agents and landlords, can continue, as long as the Business and Physical Distancing Guidance is followed and importantly, provided the person visiting is well and is not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither they nor any of their household are self –isolating. When work is being carried out inside a house, workers and occupants should ensure the mitigation measures outlined in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): general guidance for safer workplaces - gov.scot (www.gov.scot) are adhered to.
In areas at Level 4, housing services are essential services and work in other people’s homes should only be undertaken if it cannot be delayed and appropriate safety measures can be implemented. The list is not exhaustive but essential services might include gas and safety electrical checks, for example. All housing and service providers should be considering how to continue essential services in a way that is both Covid safe and meets the essential needs of tenants. Local risk assessment and exercising judgement on a case by case basis will continue to be crucial in ensuring essential services are provided to keep households and workforce safe.
Specific advice on all home moves in the rented sector includes:
viewings should not be conducted in properties where tenants are showing symptoms or self-isolating. If tenants are at high clinical risk from COVID-19, they should not be compelled to allow viewings to take place in the property.
Landlords and agents and should ask whether any member of a tenant’s household is showing symptoms, or has been asked to self-isolate, or is shielding before going ahead with any visits to properties. Appointment viewings. Virtual viewings should be carried out where possible, with physical viewings only where there is no other alternative.
Landlords and agents must give tenants appropriate notice before visiting the property and should not enter the property without the tenant’s consent, except in an emergency. Any visits to a property must be made in accordance with the Scottish Government guidelines on physical distancing. Visits to properties in areas at protection level 4 should be delayed, where possible.
Where possible, repairs, gas and electrical safety checks and energy performance assessments should be conducted in the period between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in.
If this is not possible, and visits are needed to an occupied property, this should be done by appointment with measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit.
Landlords should make every effort to abide by gas safety requirements, which continue to be of great importance for tenants’ safety. This may be more difficult due to restrictions associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, for example where a tenant has COVID-19 symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding. Under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach. The HSE has produced guidance on how to deal with specific circumstances.
Landlords should also make every effort to abide by electrical and other fuel safety requirements, which continue to be of great importance for tenants’ safety. This may be more difficult due to restrictions associated with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Letting agents may also want to consider obtaining landlord and tenant consent for inventory clerk appointments to also occur before a tenant moves in or after a tenant moves out during vacant periods if possible.
Where there is no alternative, landlord staff and agents can accompany landlords and prospective tenants on physical viewings but should seek to minimise contact with prospective tenants and home occupiers at all times and follow government guidelines on physical distancing and the use of face coverings.
Where an unaccompanied viewing is being carried out agents and landlords should make sure that tenants and prospective tenants clearly understand how the viewing should be conducted safely and that they should comply with health guidance including physical distancing.
All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the property, with internal doors opened and surfaces having also been cleaned with standard household cleaning products before they enter. If any party need to wash their hands in the property, separate towels or paper towels should be used The landlord should be responsible for providing the cleaning products and towels.
Properties should be deep cleaned in the period between the property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. See guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings