More information about COVID-19 in relation to council housing
Please see below a letter to all social housing residents from Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP, Minister of State for Housing:
To all social housing residents in England (pdf 283kb)
Unsafe housing conditions
The private sector housing team remains open to respond to complaints from tenants of serious hazards such as dangerous electrics, defective fire doors and alarms, broken down heating within rental properties.
Please ensure you have made every effort to contact your landlord or managing agent to resolve issues and be able to demonstrate their refusal to rectify matters prior to contacting this department.
Protection for Renters
Guidance is available for landlords and tenants in the private and social rented sectors to explain the possession action process in the county courts in England and Wales.
The guidance reflects new national restrictions in England from 5 November 2020.
GOV.UK - Understanding the possession action process: guidance for landlords and tenants (external website)
If, having informed your landlord about this, you have further concerns about an eviction being carried out at this time please contact this department.
Private sector landlords
Advice on the enforcement of housing standards in rental properties and licensing of houses in multiple occupation for residential landlords
The government's response to the coronavirus pandemic has imposed restrictions that are relevant for landlords in the private rented sector. Landlords, managing agents and contractors should minimise access to their properties. If access is permitted this should be only to meet legal standards to ensure tenant safety and welfare whilst observing social distancing measures.
Find out more on GOV.UK (external website)
Council officers will still be responding to complaints concerning disrepair and poor management and licensing standards in the private rented sector. However, officers will adapt working practices to minimise visits and contact and may rely on photographs from example tenants in cases. Landlords will be contacted on the basis of these reports and officers will be understanding in terms of the timescales allowing for resolution. It is hoped that by far the majority of cases can be dealt with informally based on common sense agreements.
Consideration of suspension or variation of any Improvement Notices currently served will be given to allow additional time for landlords to comply but this may not be appropriate in all cases. Officers will consider the seriousness of the hazard, the vulnerability of the occupier and confidence that the landlord can demonstrate that appropriate attempts to remedy any hazards being undertaken within an agreed or confirmed additional time frame.
If you are aware of a repair which needs doing but the tenant is unable to permit access due to self-isolation, ask them to document this in a text or an email. Work should not be carried out in properties where the tenant is self isolating or shielding (tenants who are more vulnerable to the infection due to their medical condition) unless there is a serious and direct threat to tenant safety. Urgent matters which we would not consider appropriate to delay would include, water supply problems, sanitation, security, fire safety, electrical safety, gas safety, heating and hot water faults.
Housing in Multiple Occupation
In terms of licensing of Housing in Multiple Occupation - new and renewal applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis with time extensions granted as necessary to take account of difficulties in providing relevant documentation. Further guidance for landlords and tenants is available below:
GOV.UK - Coronavirus renting guidance (external website)
The Health and Safety Executives approach to Landlord’s Gas safety checks can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website but please find a summary below.
We appreciate that social housing landlords may be experiencing challenges in getting gas safety checks completed at this time, for example due to tenants isolating or a shortage of available engineers. However, landlords are still required to take reasonable steps to carry out annual gas safety checks etc.
Suspension of all gas safety checks is not permissible as it will unnecessarily put tenants at increased risk, particularly as people are spending all/most of their time at home.
Each property should be considered on a case-by-case basis, completing safety checks where tenants permit access and gas engineers are available. If you are unable to secure the services of your usual engineers, you must make reasonable attempts to obtain alternative services.
Where you cannot and resource has to be prioritised you can do so, taking into account factors such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- the age and type of appliances
- previous maintenance/work carried out
- breakdown history
- the presence of carbon monoxide CO alarms
- whether the tenant is considered vulnerable for reasons other than risk from coronavirus (COVID-19).