A series of posts giving advice and guidance to private residential landlords during this coronavirus emergency period.
4. Property viewings
Most people will want to view a property before they decide to rent it out. How are landlords and agents to deal with this during the lockdown?
In most cases where you would expect to be doing viewings, tenants will be staying put following government advice. So situations, where you will be looking to re-let a property, should be few and far between.
What are the rules?
As we all should know by now, we should only leave our home during the lockdown for the following:
- shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
- one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
- any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
This list does not include viewings for properties to rent.
How can viewings be done, therefore?
Viewings while tenants are in occupation
First – you should not be doing any viewings while the existing tenants are still living in the property.
If you are a tenant reading this, if your landlord suggests bringing prospective tenants round to view your property – perhaps when you are out doing exercise, you should refuse.
Even if social distancing is observed, bringing someone who is not a household member into a home should only be done in extreme circumstances – for example, to carry out an important repair or maybe to do the gas safety inspection.
Remember that anyone can be infected and not know it, and the virus can remain active on surfaces for 3 days or more.
If landlords try to enter a property or insist on holding viewings with prospective tenants, the existing tenants can if necessary, contact the police.
Viewings after tenants have vacated
The rules do not prohibit people from leaving home for their work and this work does not have to be essential or critical work – just so long as it is impossible to do from home.
So there is nothing to prevent a landlord or agent visiting a property after tenants have vacated (although ideally not immediately, to allow time for the virus on surfaces to die down) for the purpose of preparing it for re-letting (including cleaning it thoroughly) and showing it to prospective tenants.
As bringing new people into the property risks introducing infection, you should try to carry out viewings remotely, maybe by filming the property or by showing the property to prospective tenants using facetime or a similar service.
Remember though that under the consumer regulations, you should not misrepresent a property by doing this otherwise you could be liable for penalties.
Actual viewings of a property should only be done where tenants are serious about renting, for example if they have paid a holding deposit. Social distancing must be observed at all times.
HMO Properties / shared houses
HMO properties where tenants share living accommodation are particularly problematic as you risk introducing the virus and infecting the other tenants.
It will be safest not to re-let rooms in shared properties until the emergency is over unless maybe all parties consent to the risk.
Landlords who suffer financial loss as a result of this may be eligible for government support.