The housing market in England is set to reopen today following a tweak to the law which relaxed the non-essential travel rule. We have produced a guide to explain what this means for the letting market and will update this as more information becomes clear.
Viewings and home moves
The government says house moves can now go ahead, removal companies have been issued with safety guidance including being told to wear masks and gloves.
Estate agents, surveyors and conveyancers can return to work today, letting agents can also take up work again. The market is being asked to continue to rely upon technology and carry out remote viewings wherever possible, full guidance is not yet clear but a request to use common sense. If you must carry out a face to face viewing then;
Check that the residents have not been isolating, displaying symptoms, tested positive or been in contact with anyone testing positive
Check there are no vulnerable or at risk occupiers - if there are do not offer a face to face viewing
Ask the occupiers to open all internal doors and vacate the property for the duration of the viewing
Wear protective clothing - masks and gloves and ask the attending viewer to do the same
Request that the viewers only attend individually and do not touch any surfaces
Open the entrance door and then step back to allow entry
Following completion of the viewing clean down all handles and surfaces
Only allow one person entry at a time
All parties to wear protective clothing - face masks and gloves
Open all internal doors and entrance/exit points before the viewing
Request that the viewer does not touch any surfaces during the viewing
Allow entry by stepping back and keeping a 2 meter distance
Clean down all surfaces and door handles following the viewing
What if my tenant won’t allow viewings?
Your tenant has a right to refuse access as a part of their agreement and if they are not comfortable with viewings then you will need to observe this.
Try offering digital viewings online, you can record a video or ask your tenant to record a video walk through of the property to use for any interested parties. Once the property is empty arrange a through clean and then carry out in person viewings using the vacant property guidance above.
Check Outs & Maintenance
These can go ahead, the tenant should make sure they have completed their move out, ask them to collect their own meter readings and then arrange a time to handover the keys. Any parties that come into contact with each other should wear gloves and masks.
Once the property is empty you can attend and complete your check out inventory inspection. Record everything as you normally would and provide a copy of this report to the tenant as soon as is reasonably possible for their comments and review. You can then handle the deposit release and any negotiations required.
Most landlords carry out minor works themselves between tenancies but if you need work completed by professionals and contractors this can be done on empty properties. Each contractor will have their own procedures in place.
Energy Performance Certificates - EPC’s
Most assessors continued to carry these out on empty properties and in the coming few days we expect that they will resume full operational services and complete these on those properties with tenants in situ.
This is a relief for those landlords that still need to deal with renewal of their expired energy performance certificates and any requirement to meet the minimum standard under MEES which apply from 1st April 2020 to all tenancies.
Inventories and Check Ins
Your inventory is one of the most important documents when it comes to establishing the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy. These should be completed when the property is empty and should detail not only a list of any included furniture but pictures of every room with a written report on the condition. A copy of this should be provided to any new tenant/s when completed and they can record any additional observations.
Check ins would normally include a key exchange, meter readings and documentation, check of physical identity documents and a walk through of the property together to highlight any concerns. A scaled down version of this is likely to be required presently.
Complete a remote right to rent check (ask the tenant to provide a selfie of them with their documents)
Carry out a walk through on your own and collect meter readings
Arrange a handover time with the tenant and check their ID at a safe distance, keep a copy of this by taking your own photo of both the document and the tenant holding the document
Remember to complete the ID check on all occupiers over 18 and not just the tenants
Hand over the keys and then send all documents digitally for them to review wherever possible
General maintenance and safety inspections
Safety inspections such as the gas safety certificate and electrical installation condition reports have continued wherever the tenants have allowed access. These must be completed and most contractors now have their own safety procedures in place which include wearing gloves, masks and attending individually plus cleaning down after them when they complete their checks.
If your tenant refuses access you need to record the attempts to arrange this and keep them on file. Remind your tenant that the safety of the appliances is a statutory obligation and wherever possible they should allow access. Gas safe guidance gives more detail.
Emergency maintenance is to be completed as normal and in line with the current distancing guidelines, routine maintenance can also be completed and contractors should attend individually wearing PPE. If the job is not urgent you may wish to hold off and can agree this with your tenant.
These are not yet fully operational but we expect that agents and clerks will begin to complete these in the coming weeks and months once an assessment is made of how well the other areas of letting business are able to be completed.
When they are completed it will be with restrictions and guidance. Wearing PPE and limiting the number of people in attendance.
Landlords have been using video calls with their tenants to complete these in the short term and this may continue. Inspections are often used to identify areas requiring attention which the tenant may not be aware of, keep in regular contact with tenants in the short term and ask them to check the obvious things;
Under sink waste pipes
Signs of leaks or damp
Drains and guttering
Reference checks and insurance
Reference checks can still take place as normal.
Rent guarantee and protection insurance is being offered on new tenancies where the reference checks have been reviewed by underwriters. In most cases this will mean understanding the current situation for tenants and their actual income not their contracted salaries.
As people return to work and the situation changes, rent guarantee insurance should begin to return to normal and maybe eventually allow mid term tenancy applications again which are currently on hold.
At MakeUrMove we partner with Homelet and offer a service which includes advertising, reference checks, rent protection and collection.
How will this help tenants?
Research suggests that a lot of tenants have placed moves on hold, with the loss of work and income some have asked to be released from their existing tenancies but replacements are hard to find.
The re-opening of the market will provide some relief to those which have been most affected by these changes and have had to freeze their plans.
MakeUrMove offer a range of services from advertising to fully managed all supported by real agents and efficient technology - check out our pricing for more details