Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for social landlords

Published: 18 Mar 2020

Guidance for social landlords during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Published:
18 Mar 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for social landlords

Q: What advice should we give to our staff? 

A: Immediate action should include circulating Government Guidance to staff. NHS Scotland have developed a communication toolkit containing a poster, video and social media posts for organisations to print and share: Download the coronavirus (COVID-19) communication toolkit.

Consider how you might be able to support staff with their health and well-being, particularly in a period where a prolonged shutdown of the office may be necessary. This might include testing options for virtual 1:1s and team meetings.

Q: What practical steps can I take now to support our business continuity efforts? 

A: Firstly, make sure that you keep up to date with the advice from government and health authorities. It is important that you ensure your business continuity/resilience plan is up to date and accessible to all who may need it. You may want to test your plans, simulating your continuity plan in advance of having to action it to ensure all staff fully understand what is required of them. You may want to audit the ability of your staff to be able to adopt agile or remote working. Establish the contingency arrangements for your contractors and suppliers. Finally, consider how you will communicate any changes to services to your tenants and service users, and how you will respond to any enquiries they may make.  

SFHA is working to provide a closed digital space for the sector to share learning, activities, documents and good practice; and develop sample templates and materials as appropriate and necessary. Further information will follow separately.

Q: What should we do if we are unable to deliver a particular service, such as a gas service and safety check or undertake an emergency repair, because a tenant is self-isolating or has the virus and refuses to give entry?

A: You should use your best efforts to deliver the service, undertake the safety check or make the repair. However, if you are unable to do so you should record this fact and that this is related to the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. You should consider retrying as soon as is possible and appropriate, having full regard for advice on selfisolation, hygiene and distancing and make sure that you reflect the level of such instances in your performance reporting. 

You will want to maintain good communication with tenants affected so they are clear on what action you are taking and the timescales for this.

Q: What should we do if we are unable to deliver a particular service, such as a gas service and safety check or undertake an emergency repair, because our contractor does not have people available due to sickness levels amongst its staff? 

A: You should use your best efforts to source an alternative provider – your, or your contractor’s, business continuity plan may have provision for this. However, if you are unable to do so you should record this fact and that this is related to the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. You should consider retrying as soon as is possible and appropriate, having full regard for advice on self-isolation, hygiene and distancing and make sure that you reflect the level of such instances in your performance reporting. 

You will want to maintain good communication with tenants affected so they are clear on what action you are taking and the timescales for this.

Q: If we need to move to doing only essential repairs, can we suspend Right to Repair? 

A: You can suspend Right to Repair in circumstances which you or your contractors have no control over and which make it impossible to do the repair within the maximum time set out. You must advise your tenants if you are suspending Right to Repair.

Q: Should we pause all evictions during the outbreak? 

A: You will have clear processes for managing tenancy issues which, if unresolved, could lead to eviction action as a last resort. You should manage each case individually, providing advice and support, including financial advice, to help tenants to sustain their tenancy.

The Scottish Government has called on all landlord not to evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to coronavirus. The Scottish Government is actively considering how best this can be addressed, and on what wider measures can be put in place to support people against the economic impacts of coronavirus.  It will aim to make further announcements on this as soon as is possible. 

People affected by coronavirus who are concerned about paying their rent can claim Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions which includes support for housing costs, if eligible. The UK Government has introduced some temporary changes to make this easier.

Q: What should we do if we start to see significant disruption to service levels? 

A: You will want to ensure that as far as reasonably possible they manage any impact on services and ensure that outcomes for tenant and other service users are maintained where possible. 

It is important that you maintain a record of which tenants, service users or residents are affected by such a disruption. This is so that you know to retry at the earliest opportunity, and so you can monitor, assess and report on the impact of the outbreak on your operations.

You should notify the Regulator of any significant disruption to service levels. The Regulator will monitor the impact of Coronavirus-Covid-19 on social landlords and will report any significant impact to the Scottish Government. This will also apply if this will impact on your capacity to meet the timescales for the submission of data returns to the Regulator. 

Q: What services should we prioritise if the impact of the outbreak is such that we do not have the capacity to deliver all services?

A: It will be important for each landlord to make these decisions having regard to their own situation, the characteristics of their tenants and service users and local circumstances. You should take a risk-based approach as the situation develops, and should keep the position under constant review. Clearly, actions and services which relate to the health and safety of their tenants will be of primary importance. You should consider how you will advise tenants and service users about any changes in services.

You should notify the Regulator if you have to suspend the delivery of services. The Regulator will monitor the impact of Coronavirus-Covid-19 on social landlords and will report any significant impact to the Scottish Government.

Q: What should we do if our governing body cannot meet because of advice to avoid such gatherings or because we cannot achieve a quorum because members are unwell with Coronavirus Covid-19?

A: You may want to consider holding meetings remotely using teleconferencing or videoconferencing. You may want to consider temporarily amending your standing orders and delegated authorities to provide appropriate arrangements to make essential decisions in the situation where your governing body cannot meet or cannot achieve a quorum. You should get appropriate legal advice to help you achieve this.

Ensure that you maintain a clear record of the use of such delegated powers to allow your governing body to monitor and evaluate the use of such powers and the decision that are being made.

Q: What should we do if we have a planned engagement with the Regulator, but think we are having to divert resources to manage the impact of Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak? 

A: The Regulator  notified landlords on the 18th of March that it is postponing all but the most critical regulatory engagements to allow landlords and the Regulator to focus on the most serious existing risks or those that emerge from the current pandemic.

The Regulator recognises the importance of social landlords responding effectively to manage and mitigate the impact of the outbreak on their operations and to safeguard the interests of their tenants, people who are homeless and other service users.  It appreciates that this may mean that landlords may have to prioritise that work over other more routine activity. 

Q: How will the Regulator react if our performance shows a deterioration as a consequence of the impact of the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak? 

The Regulator notified landlords on 18th March that they are moving their focus to monitoring the impact of Coronavirus on social landlords. It is postponing all but the most critical regulatory engagements to allow landlords and the Regulator to focus on the most serious existing risks or those that emerge from the current pandemic.

The Regulator has said that it will take account of the impact of Coronavirus Covid-19 reported by a landlord when it assesses the landlord’s performance in the annual risk assessment. This is why it is important that you maintain a record of the impact of the outbreak on your delivery of services, and that you notify the Regulator of any significant service disruption or financial impact as a consequence of Coronavirus Covid-19.

Q: Given the vulnerable nature of some HAs providing care homes, homecare and related support services, what is the guidance regarding contingency plans that would support services if faced with a situation where the necessary staffing requirements cannot be fulfilled in order to provide safe and sufficient care. e.g. nursing care, personal care and feeding / fluid intake assistance?

A: Public health guidance for social care settings was published last week.

Locally, local business continuity plans and service prioritisation arrangements to establish how to move your resources accordingly are being reviewed. Further practical guidance for use in different social care settings, including guidance for the social care workforce will be issued in the coming days to support local arrangements.

Q: Are there contingency arrangements should local authorities or other providers not be in a position to provide Support and Domiciliary Care services?

A: Local business continuity plans and service prioritisation arrangements to establish how to move your resources accordingly are being reviewed. Further practical guidance for use in different social care settings, including guidance for the social care workforce will be issued in the coming days to support local arrangements.  

Contact

Email: tpadminsupport@gov.scot