Government advice on the Coronavirus is changing each day and we’ll be keeping this post up to date with the latest information as it plays out.

We’ll be covering everything you need to know about the Coronavirus, what you can do to minimise its impact on your life and the lives of your tenants and who you need to contact for more information or help.

Contents

1 Symptoms of COVID-19

2 What to do if a tenant, or tenants, show symptoms

3 What to do if you show symptoms

4 What to do if a tenant is facing financial issues

5 What to do if you’re facing financial issues

6 Staying compliant

7 Help you can give your tenants

8 Insurance policies

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms of COVID-19 you should look out for as a landlord include:

  • A dry, continuous cough
  • A high temperature
  • Aches, pains and tiredness
  • Shortness of breath (severe cases)

There is thought to be a two to 10-day period before carriers of COVID-19 show symptoms, although this can be as long as 24 days

However, it is possible that some people become infected with the virus but don’t display any symptoms or feel unwell.

What to do if a tenant, or tenants, show symptoms

As an HMO landlord, you should already be advising your tenants to keep up-to-date with government guidance on dealing with COVID-19.

If one of your tenants shows symptoms of COVID-19, either a continuous dry cough or high temperature, you should advise the whole household to self-isolate for 14 days as per Public Heath England (PHE) advice.

Self-isolation means:

  • Staying at home
  • Not visiting public places, including workplaces or schools
  • Avoiding public transport

As a landlord, you should offer to help get supplies of food and other items to your tenants, but you shouldn’t enter the property unless absolutely necessary.

If any of your tenants show symptoms that don’t improve after their isolation period, or they experience shortness of breath or other more serious symptoms, they should contact NHS 111’s online service.

They should only call 111 If they’re unable to access the service online

What to do if you show symptoms

If you show any symptoms of COVID-19, you should follow PHE advice and self-isolate for seven days, or, if you live with others, the whole household should isolate themselves for 14 days.

You should contact your tenants either by email, message or phone call to let them know you are self-isolating and provide advice on who they should contact in the event of an emergency.

What to do if a tenant is facing financial issues

Your tenants may experience a period of financial hardship as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out in the coming weeks and months.

This could mean they are unable to pay rent, perhaps due to losing their job or being off sick.

The government has already confirmed that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be claimed by all those who are eligible and self-isolating, even if they are showing no symptoms.

You should also advise your tenants that they can obtain a sick note via NHS 111 and they should not go to see their GP.

Landlords should be sympathetic to each tenant’s individual financial circumstances and you should try to find a way forward together.

Consider a payment plan that could offer your tenant some much-needed respite.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed three-month mortgage payment holidays would be offered to homeowners facing financial issues and this measure was extended to landlords in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government briefing on March 18.

*UPDATE*

Mortgage payment holidays have now been extended for a further three months, with the deadline for applications now set at October 31.

The Prime Minister also confirmed the government would introduce emergency legislation to halt evictions from private rental accommodation for at least three months.

The Chancellor's second round of reactive economic measures were announced on March 20, meanwhile, with the government pledging to pay 80% of the wages of those employees not working, up to £2,500 per month, through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

*UPDATE*

The scheme has now been extended until October, while furloughed workers are able to return to work part-time if needed from August with the their employers covering a percentage of their salary alongside the government subsidy.

Mr Sunak confirmed, also, that around £1billion would earmarked for renters through housing benefit and universal credit that would cover at least 30% of market rents.

What to do if you're facing financial issues

You could be facing financial difficulties as a landlord, either because your tenants are facing the same and this has filtered down to your property business, or if you have experienced changes to your work income due to Coronavirus.

If so, you should speak to your mortgage lender about a buy-to-let mortgage holiday as outlined by the Prime Minister on March 18 – as outlined above, payment holidays have now been extended for a further three months.

If you are a business owner, you should also speak to HMRC about your tax liabilities and the Time To Pay scheme.

Staying compliant

If your HMO property is due to have any compliance checks or work carried out, you should delay this if any of your tenants are self-isolating.

This could include:

  • An inventory report
  • A Gas Safety Certificate update
  • An Energy Performance Certificate update
  • An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)

If you do need to delay any of these legal requirements, inform your tenants that they will be delayed because of a self-isolation period but take steps to re-book checks as soon as possible.

You should also inform your local authority of the situation.

*UPDATE*

With the lifting of government restrictions now in progress throughout June, you may be able to have checks or work carried out at your HMO property.

Check with your local authority, who will be able to advise on what work is able to be carried out and what social distancing procedures you will need to put in place.

Help you can give your tenants

As well as a responsibility for yourself and any family, you also have a duty of care to your tenants as an HMO landlord.

As well as the advice outlined in this piece and keeping lines of communication open with the people living in your HMOs, there are other things you can do to ensure your tenants are well looked after during the Coronavirus outbreak:

  • Post the PHE self-isolation poster in common areas of your HMOs
  • Familiarise yourself with PHE guidance on decontaminating your HMOs should tenants become sick with COVID-19
  • Request that any cleaning service you provide is extra thorough with cleaning your HMOs
  • Should you need to cancel cleaning services due to a tenant, or tenants, self-isolating, supply tenants with additional cleaning materials
  • Ensure your tenants have comfortable work stations in their rooms if they’re working from home.
  • Make sure they have sufficient WiFi and that the service can support additional usage

Insurance policies

HMO landlords should speak directly to their insurers about their policies in light of the Coronavirus outbreak.