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Background

Please note that as this situation is rapidly evolving. Please check GOV.UK for announcements.

Read the latest Public Health Wales guidance relating to COVID-19.
  
Further information can be found on:

This guidance document is designed to provide specific guidance for landlords and managing agents in the private rented sector across Wales.

This document will be updated regularly as further information, guidance and support is made available.

Stay at home

The latest advice is to stay at home, and only leave the house for essential reasons including to:

  • only go outside for food, exercise, health reasons or essential work
  • stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • wash your hands as soon as you get home

Anyone can spread the virus.

Full guidance on staying at home and away from others

Self-isolating

Alongside adhering to the most current public health guidance, it is important to consider contingency plans for supporting your tenants.

If you yourself have to self-isolate, then you will need to ensure that tenants are made aware of alternative arrangements to get in contact with you through email, telephone or by text message or, where this isn’t possible, through a family or friend.

If you have tenants who are older, or if you are aware of a tenant with an underlying health condition, we would recommend contacting them by phone, email or text message to establish how they are managing, whether they are affected, and whether they are self-isolating.

If a tenant requires hospitalisation for COVID-19, the property should be thoroughly cleaned in line with current guidance.

Visiting properties

Landlords’ repair obligations have not changed. Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live – and it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.

However, any non-urgent visits to properties should be postponed – this includes property viewings, cleaning services, non-urgent repairs and/or maintenance which do not present an urgent health and safety issue. Where urgent access is required to the property, if you have to visit a property and/or someone has to visit the property on your behalf, we recommend checking with the tenant to understand whether they are self-isolating and follow the medical advice provided.

Any requirement to change an agreed cleaning services process, such as communal areas in houses in multiple occupation, should be communicated to tenants, and alternative arrangements agreed, such as providing cleaning products to tenants to undertake this themselves, for the time being. If the rent includes cleaning, perhaps a small rent reduction could be granted for the period that tenants will not be receiving this service.

Tenants’ individual circumstances must be taken into consideration, especially where tenants may face physical barriers that prevent them from being able to clean shared spaces such as a disability or health condition – these should be managed sensitively.

Urgent health and safety issues are those which will affect your tenant’s ability to live safely and maintain their mental and physical health in the property. This could include (but is not limited to):

  • if there is a problem with the fabric of the building, for example the roof is leaking
  • if the boiler is broken, leaving your tenant without heating or hot water
  • if there is a plumbing issue, meaning your tenant does not have washing or toilet facilities
  • if the white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken which you are responsible for, meaning the tenant is unable to wash clothes or store food safely
  • if there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door
  • if equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair

Inspectors or maintenance workers can still visit blocks of flats and multi-occupied properties for essential or urgent work such as inspecting and testing fire alarm and emergency lighting systems where it is safe to do so. 

The current gas safety advice for assessors and landlords/agents during this pandemic is available on the Gas Safe Register website.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has provided a wealth of new information for landlords including a variety of scenarios which may help provide some clarity for those concerned for their well-being or the well-being of their customers. 

Domestic Private Rented Property in Wales are regulated by the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES).  An EPC rating of E or above is required on these properties in order to comply with the law.  From 1st April 2020, the UK Government introduced legislation which will extend to cover existing tenancies in England and Wales. Further information on the MEES requirements can be found on Rent Smart Wales.

The Welsh Government has issued guidance to local authorities emphasising that enforcement in the private rented sector should be focused on responding to emergency situations. We would not expect enforcement of EPC standards to be classed as an emergency at this current time.

During these unprecedented times we encourage landlords to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues which are affected by COVID-19 related restrictions. If you are not able to gain access to the property due to restrictions in place to tackle COVID-19, or are not able to engage a contractor to carry out the necessary work, we recommend you document your attempts to do so and all correspondence with your tenants.

Keeping an audit trail

It’s important that you keep an audit trail where you discuss any enforcement activity that has had to pause as a result of Covid-19. This will provide documented evidence that you have done whatever you can to comply with the law. For example, where the tenant is self-isolating so you are unable to visit the property, or you are unable to undertake work at the property because a tenant is self-isolating.

Examples of good practice

Telephone conversations

You could record the date and time of any telephone calls where you agree a decision and summarise a note of the conversation.

Text messaging

You could keep a record of all text messages sent and received and summarise a note of the conversation. You could also save a copy of the text messages to your computer.

Email

You could follow up any telephone calls with an email which states what you discussed and agreed and ask the recipient (be that a tenant or contractor) to reply to confirm that they are content with the summary you have provided. You could save a copy of these to your computer so that you have access to them in the event that your email account is inaccessible.

Letters

You could keep a copy of all letters that you send and any letters that you receive from your tenants. You could also note the date that they were sent, and send by a tracked postal method, so that you can confirm whether they were delivered or not.

Mental wellbeing whilst self-isolating

We understand that for some people self-isolation can be boring or frustrating. You may find your mood and feelings being affected and you may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping.

There are simple things you can do that may help, such as staying in touch with friends and relatives on the phone or by social media. It is also important to keep active and exercise, even if self-isolating within your home.

There are also resources you can use, including Every Mind Matters and Good Thinking. Some people who have self-isolated have found it useful to re-connect with a hobby or learn a new skill through an online course.

Supporting your tenants

We have produced guidance for tenants in the private rented sector. We have also produced guidance on financial support available to tenants. You should use this guidance to signpost your tenant/s to the appropriate help and support that may be available to them. Your tenants may be eligible to claim support through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), dependent on their individual circumstances. The way in which landlords can request a Direct Rent Payment (ADRP) has been simplified.

The UK Government’s Coronavirus Act 2020 provides additional protection to tenants by extending the period of eviction notices to three months. These measures have also come into force in Wales.

The provision will protect tenants in Wales from eviction for a reasonable and specified period of time, in recognition of the uncertainty arising from the coronavirus pandemic. These measures will delay when a landlord can start court proceedings to seek possession of a property, by requiring them to provide tenants with 3 months’ notice of their intention to possess. These changes will apply to secure, assured, assured shorthold, introductory and demoted tenancies and tenancies under the Rents Act 1977, thereby covering most tenants in the private and social rented sectors.

These measures have been designed as a temporary change, to provide tenants with additional support at this time. Accordingly, the provision proposes that the measures will be in place for 6 months, until the 30 September this year.

To enable the Welsh Ministers to continue to respond quickly, powers are included to extend by secondary legislation the notice period to up to six months and to extend the period of time for which it is applicable.

In addition, any landlord possession claims in the court system, or about to go into the system, will also be affected by a 90 day suspension of possession hearings and orders, effective from 27 March 2020. 

Where tenants have difficulty paying rent over this period, we ask that landlords do not issue a notice seeking possession, particularly given that the tenant may be sick or facing other hardship due to COVID-19.

It is important to remember that your tenant/s may be experiencing a reduced income as a direct result of self-isolation and UK government’s advice on the pandemic. If your tenant/s is/are struggling to pay the rent communicate with them and agree arrangements for them to repay any arrears incurred at the earliest opportunity.

The Minister for Housing and Local Government is clear that she expects landlords to pass on the benefit of any mortgage repayment holiday to tenants.

We are encouraged by the positive and proactive approach many landlords and managing agents are taking to support their tenants through this crisis. This has included landlords negotiating rental payment plans with tenants where their income has decreased as a result of the crisis, and affordable repayment plans where tenants have fallen into arrears. We would encourage you to continue to be supportive to your tenants and deliver maximum flexibility throughout this crisis, wherever possible to do so.

Additional support

The outbreak of Covid-19 can be especially worrying if you have difficulty paying your bills, rent or mortgage, if you are self-employed or if you have a business and are trying to stay afloat. Help and advice is available from many different organisations. Some of this help and support is new, set up to help you manage financially during the coronavirus outbreak, so it is worth checking out what might be available to you.

Whether you’re a landlord or letting agent, it’s important that you talk to your tenants at the earliest opportunity if, as a result of the current situation, you think they might have difficulty paying their rent or bills. There is a lot of support available for tenants and you should encourage them to access it, which in turn, should help them to pay their rent and bills. The Welsh Government has produced guidance for tenants, which outlines the financial support available.

Other help and guidance for businesses in Wales on GOV.WALES.

Financial support for individuals on GOV.WALES

Examples of financial support

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a payment to help with living costs and is paid monthly in arrears.

Job Seekers Allowance (JSA)

You might be eligible for New Style JSA to help you when you look for work.

Employment Support allowance (ESA)

People that are ill or self-isolating may be able to apply for Employment Support Allowance.

Statutory Sick Pay

People who are unable to work because of coronavirus, and are eligible, can receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of their illness.

Job retention scheme – Furlough

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme helps employers with a PAYE scheme cover staff costs.

Self-employed scheme

If you're self-employed and the coronavirus has affected you, the scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant.

Mortgage holiday

If you are experiencing financial difficulties meeting your mortgage or rental repayments because of COVID-19, you may be entitled to a mortgage or rental holiday for 3 months. This includes if you are a landlord whose tenants are experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19.

Council tax support

If you’re having financial difficulties you may be able to ask your council for help with your council tax payments.

Gas,electricity, water, broadband and mobile phones

If you’re having financial difficulties in meeting your bills, talk to your provider who may be able to help.

Business Rates Relief

This relief provides a year-long business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales. Local Authorities will be looking to automatically award the business rates holiday to all eligible parties as soon as possible, and they will receive a new bill will be sent out when the award has been made. The relief has been extended to include estate and letting agents.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

CBILS provides financial support to smaller businesses (SMEs) across the UK that are losing revenue, and seeing their cash-flow disrupted, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme enables smaller businesses to access finance more quickly during the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow.

Alternative payment arrangement

If your tenant is a Universal Credit claimant, you may be able to agree an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA). This means that you will receive the housing costs element of Universal Credit as a Managed Payment (MP) directly from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rather than from the tenant. There are certain conditions that apply.

Further help and advice

You may find it beneficial to discuss your financial situation in more detail and, or get further information, advice and support. Some useful links are listed below.

Empty properties and key workers

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 allows people to leave where they are living to move house but only where the move cannot be postponed.

Our stay-at-home regulations continue to be in force in Wales. We continue to ask people to stay at home to protect themselves and others from coronavirus. If people can postpone their moving date, they should do so.

If you have an empty property and you are looking to let it, you could contact your Local Authority to see whether it could be used to support homeless people who are currently in temporary accommodation or key workers who are seeking temporary accommodation in the area who are needing to isolate away from their family.
 

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