What does the easing of the lockdown mean for providers of social housing? John Murray explains.
Last week, the Government wrote to all residents of social housing in relation to repairs, shaping tenants' expectations going forward as we continue to navigate the Covid-19 outbreak.
On 10 May 2020, the Government announced that restrictions across England are to gradually ease over the next few months. Those who are unable to work from home are now encouraged to return to work and following this, is the expectation that maintenance and repair works are to resume across social properties.
The letter states that, although social housing providers have had to prioritise emergency repairs since lockdown began, tenants should now expect routine repairs to recommence. Although the likelihood of delays resulting from the inevitable backlog of repairs was acknowledged, tenants are being actively encouraged to contact their landlord should they believe that a repair needs addressing. Housing providers should therefore ensure that, where possible, work forces are replenished to pre-Covid capacity in order to deal with the demand that is likely to ensue.
Housing providers should note, however, that it is not yet business as usual. The letter states a number of measures to which landlords and its contractors must adhere, particularly regarding internal works:
- Operatives wishing to enter a property must inform tenants of their arrival in advance;
- Operative must maintain a safe distance; and
- Operatives must follow all necessary hygiene procedures.
Further, it was stated that “no work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk. In such a case, prior arrangements should be made to avoid any face to face contact, for example when answering the door. The operative should be up to date with the latest guidance on how to work safely.” This guidance can be found here.
In light of the above, housing providers should look to the above guidance to implement their own policy dealing with the changes to working practices. It would also seem prudent to provide a copy of any such policy to tenants in order to maintain communication and transparency.
The matter of gas safety checks was also addressed in the letter. The statutory obligation assumed by landlords to carry out safety checks was highlighted stating that every effort should be made to comply. In the event that individuals or households are self-isolating, housing providers should look to arrange safety checks to take place after the period of isolation has ended. Further, when dealing with households containing a tenant who has been advised to ‘shield’, landlords must take into account the type and age of an appliance. They must also consider how much time has passed since the last inspection and, on this basis, balance the risk posed to tenants in the event that an inspection is postponed. If it becomes apparent that a safety check is imperative, measures must be taken to limit all face-to-face contact.
A copy of the full letter can be found here.