EMPO’s trainer, Darrel Kwong shares his thoughts on COVID-19.
As always, the use of common sense is required, but I have a feeling a couple of you MAY experience such a problem as the virus spreads. I think some people may try and use it as an excuse.
Applicant/Tenant pulls out citing Coronavirus (self-isolation)
At the point of referencing, I would suggest no refund is applicable.
Beyond referencing, if no contract has been signed but a date to move in has been agreed, then still no refund required.
Contract signed but tenant has not moved in, monies paid, tenant wants to delay move in. Legally the tenancy starts as agreed. If they don’t physically move in, then that is an issue for the tenant rather than the landlord.
HMO Room Let (tenant advised to self-isolate)
This maybe more problematic, as the tenant would still need to use the common/shared facilities. If the other tenants refused to remain, would you have an obligation to re house? I would suggest NO. Would you have an obligation to stop charging rent for a period? Under the HMO management regs 2006, the landlord has an obligation to keep the common areas in safe and working order. How does that apply to cleaning or the threat of infection? I think the landlord would be responsible, so the tenant could refuse to pay rent and move out for a period if that was not undertaken.
HMO Joint Tenancy
For those who have ever experienced a visit from an Environmental Health Officer, you will be aware that they treat HMO Room Lets and HMO Joint tenancies the same, in relation to the common areas and the landlord’s responsibility. So, the above point summary may apply, but a little harder to work out, as the rent is joint and several i.e. how do you stop charging rent for some tenant and not others.
As a landlord, you have a duty of care to your tenants. So, if you are aware that a person has self-isolated because of the Coronavirus, then you need to make any contractor aware. If they refuse to attend, then especially around those safety checks which are time restricted i.e. gas safety you need to ensure that you have sufficient evidence of such a situation, so you can defend any claim in court, should the need arise.
Tenancy continues as the tenancy is vested in the tenant’s estate. The next of kin will inform you and normally end the tenancy by mutual consent (surrender).
No doubt, there are other situations which I have not covered.
Public Health England (PHE) has also released some posters which HMO landlords may find helpful to display in common areas of their properties, which are available to download below.