A day in the life of HF Assist – the Coronavirus

HF Assist, the Hamilton Fraser helpline for letting agents who need support with legal matters including landlord and tenant law, has received many enquiries from agents concerned about the effect of Coronavirus on their business.

One agent contacting us had a property where the gas safety check was due, and the tenants were also complaining about not being able to open a window to get fresh air into their bedroom. To make matters worse, the contractor who completed the last inspection had diarised when the next was due – but was phoning the agent and refusing to go.

Letting agents need to avoid situations where contact is made with someone who is self-isolating – so communication is key.  Make sure you ask yourself, your contractors, and your tenants:

  • Have you travelled overseas since the beginning of the year?
  • Have you been in contact with anyone who has tested positive or is in the process of being tested for the virus?

The tenants in question answered “no” to these questions but had gone into self-isolation as they believed they had symptoms themselves.

Gas appliances and flues must be checked for safety at intervals of no more than 12 months. Although not doing this is a criminal offence, it is a defence if agents can show that they “took all reasonable steps to prevent” not being able to complete an inspection. So our agent was advised to:

  • Keep records of any discussions with the self-isolating tenants (including notes of telephone conversations, and copies of emails or letters)
  • Arrange an inspection for as soon as the period of self-isolation is over
  • Confirm that the contractor did not need to put themselves at risk unnecessarily

As for the broken window, repairs need to be completed within a reasonable time of being notified by the tenant, or otherwise becoming aware, that the work is required.  The agent had a sympathetic conversation with the tenant, who confirmed that the window was not unsafe and did not affect the security of the property. Other means to ventilate the property were available.

The agent took the view that this was not a priority repair, made a record of the conversation and confirmed this in writing with the tenants. As above, an appointment was made to inspect the window and arrange any necessary repair after the period of self-isolation was over.

Ensuring that you have a clear line of communication with your tenants is vital at the best of times, but it is particularly crucial at the moment. The agent’s sympathetic approach and commitment to following up with the tenant at a later date ensured that nobody’s safety was compromised and that the tenant was happy with the outcome.

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Hamilton Fraser's new helpline for letting agents covering legal issues