What landlords NEED to know on Coronavirus!

These are uncertain times and there’s a LOT of information, from lots of different sources. Trying to make head nor tail of it all is frustrating and extremely challenging.

So, to try to take some of that frustration away, we’re pulling all the relevant information together to help you answer some of the big questions that you, as a landlord, will have.

Given the fast changing and unpredictable nature of the situation, we’ll continue to keep you updated on what you need to know.

Here goes…

You will have very serious concerns over how you will continue to operate during this period of great uncertainty.

The Scottish government recognises that many businesses, including private landlords, will need support. You may be aware that both the UK and Scottish Governments have outlined plans for to deal with this (see below)

Find business support on gov.scot

 

A helpline (0300 303 0660) providing businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on COVID-19 is open Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 5.30pm.

Announcements regarding support available can be found at

Scottish Government and UK Government

It is important you encourage your tenants to contact you as soon as possible if they are in, or think they will be, in financial difficulty and unable to pay their rent.

Tenants affected by Coronavirus who are concerned about paying their rent can claim Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions which includes support for housing costs, if eligible. The UK Government has introduced some temporary changes to make this easier.

If a tenant is getting Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, but still can’t afford their housing costs, they may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). Further information on DHPs and how to apply is available here.

Further support is available for people on low incomes from the Scottish Welfare Fund in an emergency.  Information on how to apply can be accessed here.

You should use your best efforts to deliver the service, undertake the safety check or make the repair.  However, if you are unable to do so you should record this fact and that it’s related to the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. 

You should consider retrying as soon as is possible and appropriate, being mindful of advice on self-isolation, hygiene and distancing. Make sure that you record all attempts to gain access.

You will want to maintain good communication with tenants affected so they are clear on what action you are taking and the timescales for this.

You should use your best efforts to source an alternative provider – your, or your contractor’s, business continuity plan may have provision for this.  However, if you are unable to do so you should record this fact and that it’s related to the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. 

You should consider retrying as soon as is possible and appropriate, bearing in mind advice on self-isolation, hygiene and distancing. Make sure that you take note of all attempts to gain access.

You will want to maintain good communication with tenants affected so they are clear on what action you are taking and the timescales for this.

The Scottish Government has called on all landlords not to evict a tenant because they have suffered financial hardship due to coronavirus.

Eviction is a lengthy process and should always be a last resort. The best solution is for you to be flexible with tenants facing financial hardship and direct them to sources of financial support to help them pay their rent. (links above)

In her statement, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government announced the Scottish Government’s intention to take action to protect tenants in the private rented sector from eviction. The exact details of these changes are currently being considered.

It will be important for you to make these decisions considering your own situation, the characteristics of your tenants and local circumstances.  You should take a risk-based approach as the situation develops and should keep the position under constant review. 

Clearly, actions and services which relate to the health and safety of your tenants will be of primary importance.  You should consider how you will advise tenants and service users about any changes in services.

You should keep up to date with and consider the latest advice from Government, the NHS and the Chief Medical Officer.  The position is changing daily and therefore it is important to check that advice regularly.

Here’s some useful sources:

The Scottish Government’s advice can be found here.

Public health advice for your staff and tenants can be found here

For the latest advice and information from the UK Government go here.

Health Protection Scotland has published guidance, to support those working in non-healthcare settings give advice about COVID-19 to their staff, and users of their services. In particular, section 1.2 has information on how to prevent spread of infection in the workplace.

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