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New guidance for landlords as furlough scheme ends

During uncertain times, it can be hard for landlords and property investors to keep up with the latest rules. Newly updated guidance for landlords looks at property management, viewings and other aspects affecting rental properties right now.

At the end of this week, the government’s furlough scheme for employees comes to an end. A new job support scheme (JSS) will replace the old system from 1st November to support those hit by coronavirus. Alongside the JSS, self-employed people will also be able to claim money from the government.

In the private rented sector, many landlords, property investors and tenants will be affected by the changes. This could be through wage reductions for workers, or missed rent payments from tenants impacting property owners.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has refreshed its coronavirus guidance for landlords. The guides consist of a comprehensive set of advice and up-to-date information on the current situation. They cover a number of topics, and are a useful resource for property owners as well as tenants.

How to manage property through the pandemic

The NRLA advices landlords on how to carry out marketing and property viewings in England. Some of this will depend on what tier the property is in under the new local lockdown system.

The advice includes offering virtual viewings where possible in the first instance. Physical viewings should be by appointment only, and no viewings should take place if a tenant or prospective tenant has symptoms or is self-isolating. Tenants should also follow social distancing rules at all times.

In terms of property inspections and visits, they should still be possible right now.

The NRLA says: “Landlords are still under a legal obligation to keep their property in repair and ensure inspections of the property are performed but this must be balanced against the risk of the infection or spread of the virus.”

Right to Rent checks have also changed temporarily. Normally the landlord (or agent) must meet prospective tenants face to face, but this is not currently the case. See the government’s guidance for more details.

The guides also cover things like gas safety certificates, electrical safety checks and EPCs. It is still vital that rental property owners ensure their rental homes are safe and fully compliant.

HMOs: a more tricky concept

Over recent years, houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) have risen in popularity, both as an investment option and for tenants. These are homes where two are more people from separate households live and share facilities.

In current times, they come with their own set of nuances for property management. Generally, each room in an HMO has its own tenancy contract, so people move in and out independent of each other. They may also involve larger numbers of people who are unrelated living together.

NRLA says: “Tenants should follow the government advice. Landlords may wish to consider emailing copies of government advice, as well as having soap and/or sanitiser sent to the property.”

“Tenants should be encouraged to inform housemates if they are self-isolating or have become ill as the whole household will need to self-isolate.”

The NRLA’s guidance is intended to complement existing government advice. You can find this here.

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