Sidd Mahajan London, offers guidelines on how to sail through the Coronavirus storm and keep your HMO business intact
As an HMO landlord, you should already be advising your tenants to keep up-to-date with government guidance on dealing with COVID-19. The essence of the government’s public health measures to combat the virus is to limit the number of contacts between members of the community. Throughout the period of controls being in place, as an HMO landlord you will need to ensure:
- You and persons working for you only visit your property if there is a serious health and safety concern which needs to be addressed. During the visit all persons present must maintain a distance of 2m between themselves to limit the possibility of transmission.
- Avoid gatherings of more than two people from separate households (for example do not accompany your handyman should a repair be necessary at the apartment)
- Carry out “Right to Rent” checks by requesting tenants to submit electronic copies of their documents or video call the prospective tenant and ask them to hold the documents up to the camera so you can check them. Record this as an adjusted check due to COVID-19 and record the date.
- Avoid physical viewings with prospective new tenants. Try to use video calls instead to limit contact. Only make videos for advertising purposes once your property becomes vacant.
- If a move becomes unavoidable, tenancy check in & out should only be performed with no more than two people present and social distancing guidance will need to be followed (i.e. maintain a distance of 2m at all times).
- Sidd Mahajan London suggests. “Ventilate kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas that are shared as much as possible and all residents in the home, need to clean the bathroom, kitchen after each use by wiping surfaces you have come in contact with.”
- Check with your tenant to see if they have been requested to shield as they belong to a high risk group who are at a greater risk from the virus. Persons belonging to these high risk groups have been advised strongly by the (National Health Service) NHS to limit social contacts and careful thought will be required as to the necessity for anyone to visit the property. Several Councils are working with volunteers who can assist with things including food and medical supplies, a check in service for isolated members of the community and linking in with other key services.
- Landlords and building managers should take steps to limit the possibility of transmission and make their tenants feel safer. They should be cleaning and disinfecting high-traffic surfaces like front-door handles and elevator buttons, as well as common rooms and laundry rooms. They can also station hand-sanitizer around the building, which could be particularly useful with supplies running low in stores.
- As well as a responsibility for yourself and any family, you also have a duty of care to your tenants as an HMO landlord. Your tenants may experience a period of financial hardship as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out in the coming weeks and months. This could mean they are unable to pay rent, perhaps due to losing their job or being off sick. Landlords should be sympathetic to each tenant’s individual financial circumstances and you should try to find a way forward together.
Sidd Mahajan, London says, “Consider a payment plan that could offer your tenant some much-needed respite. Don’t forget, while you are fulfilling responsibilities for your family and loved ones, you also have a duty of care to your tenants as an HMO landlord.”