Lockdown Lifted for Lettings Industry

Any activities related to the sale or letting of property in England will be allowed from Wednesday, 13th May, as long as other coronavirus guidance is followed. To help all parties remain safe, the Government is asking landlords to perform as much of the lettings process online as possible.

The key development is that the list of ‘reasonable excuses’ to leave home now includes:

  • viewings
  • preparing properties to be moved into
  • moving home
  • any activity required for renting or selling a property

This means that landlords and tenants can once again be confident they are acting properly when letting or finding properties to rent, so long as safety guidance is followed. 

Get your property on the market quickly.

Use Online Services, Landlords Told

The Government has insisted that landlords carry out as much of the lettings process online as possible, while also following the usual social distancing measures to combat coronavirus. 

“The process of finding and moving into a new home will need to be different given those involved in the process will have to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible,” the guidance reads. 

“This will include doing more of the process online, such as virtual initial viewings; vacating your current property whilst other people are shown around; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.”

OpenRent has always supported video tours and online viewings. We have also added a Video Tour search filter, so you can let tenants know in advance that you are able to show them the property via video before they commit to coming to a viewing in person. That gives you a huge advantage when attracting tenants while the coronavirus threat level is still high. 

It’s Time to Advertise Your Property

Property search activity has remained high throughout the lockdown, and now demand will increase further. If you need to find a tenant, now is a great time to get back on the market. 

Advertise your property now.

How to Conduct a Viewing Safely

You can save time and minimise risk by recording a video tour of your property and sharing it with interested tenants. You could use WhatsApp, iMessage or YouTube to share the video, or simply add it to your OpenRent advert. 

If you continue to a physical viewing, only members of the same household should attend. You shouldn’t run ‘open house’ type events where many people view at once. It’s best to conduct viewings in void properties rather than to view with existing tenants inside. Of course, do not offer to drive tenants to the property. 

During the viewing, avoid touching surfaces. You could open all the internal doors before the tenant arrives. It’s best to vacate the property while the tenants are viewing. You could wait outside if possible. Encourage your tenants to bring their own hand sanitiser and use it before and after entering the property. 

Further Questions and Guidance

Can I conduct viewings in a property with its current tenants present?

Not without their permission. These amendments lift lockdown restrictions on leaving home to perform activities connected with letting property, but the usual rules around a tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the property still apply, and so gaining access to a property without the tenant’s consent remains severely restricted. 

You should not attempt to attend a property or conduct a viewing if you know any of the tenants are symptomatic, self-isolating, vulnerable, or are shielding others who they care for. Any visits to a property must be made in accordance with government guidelines on working in other people’s homes and social distancing.

Can I attend a property to take photos, perform an inventory, etc.? 

Keeping in mind the above answer, yes. Previously only house moves which were strictly necessary and could not be avoided were permitted. Now, all lettings activity is being encouraged to continue as usual where possible and safe. Here is our guide on how to perform an inventory during lockdown. If the property is vacant, then this makes attending for these jobs much safer.

Have evictions gone back to normal? 

No. Evictions proceedings are still suspended and eviction notices are still at the increased minimum period of three months. In other words, our lockdown eviction guide is still accurate.

Can I have tradespeople attend the property to perform work needed to let the property (e.g. gas safety or EPCs)? 

Yes. Throughout lockdown the advice has been to make all attempts to have this work performed and to remain compliant with all rented sector regulations. Where possible, necessary work should be performed in a void between two tenancies in a vacant property. If this is not possible, then work should be done in a way that minimises contact between workers and residents. Find out more about how to arrange checks and repairs during lockdown in our guide.

Do I need to perform the right to rent check on new tenants?

The amendments have not changed the right to rent situation since our last post. To recap, tenants can submit a scanned copy or photo of the documents via email or using an app, such as WhatsApp. The document copy must then be inspected while on a video call with the tenant. The tenant must hold up their original document to the camera while it is checked against the digital copy.  The landlord must then record the date that the check has been made and mark it as “an adjusted check has been undertaken on [date] due to COVID-19”. The same documents can be used as during normal times. 

Notable Replies

  1. Rhyce says:

    Does this involve Morgages?

  2. Sam says:

    To some extent - what is it you are thinking of precisely?

  3. Rhyce says:

    Buying a property - just need a new mortgage

  4. I have concerns about this, especially in relation to HMO’s. For example, a fully tenanted HMO as we went into lockdown could be considered a ‘family’, for want of a better expression. However moving anyone into an HMO since lockdown, and including today seems risky to me. We have to all remember we have a duty of care that is taken very seriously, especially by the courts.
    So, you move a new tenant in and he gives the existing tenants covid - the results of that could be really bad as we all know. So whos going to take that risk?
    Its OK saying that ‘its up to the tenants to take their own precautions’ but the only way they can isolate is not to use kitchens, living and washing areas.

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