Coronavirus - Minimising the risk to health

Last updated18 February 2021 - campaigning update

Introduction

To control the spread of coronavirus, on 4 January 2021 the Government announced the start of a new national lockdown in England. This new lockdown is more restrictive than the second national lockdown but less restrictive than the original one. 

People should not meet others to socialise outside their support bubble and people should once again stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse for leaving the house such as exercise or going to work where that work cannot be done at home.

This guidance has been updated with the latest guidance in mind. As further updates to the Government's guidance are planned you should check back on this page regularly as the situation may change rapidly.

What is the NRLA campaigning for during coronavirus

The NRLA is calling for the Government to support the private rented sector through:

  1. Interest free, government guaranteed hardship loans for tenants. Providing tenants with a means to pay off COVID-related arrears will sustain tenancies and remove any risk of eviction as furlough is removed. These should be paid directly to landlords and should cover all arrears accumulated since the start of the pandemic. A similar scheme has already been introduced in Wales.
  2. Tenant hardship grants through local authorities. Where the tenant is in receipt of benefits, we are calling for arrears to be covered through ring-fenced funding for councils.

  3. Keeping LHA at 30th percentile at the minimum – and ideally raise it to cover median market rents – to help ensure tenancies can be sustained.

  4. Suspending the Shared Accommodation Rate for under 35s for 12 months. Currently, those who are single and rely on benefits can only claim for the cost of a room in a shared property. A 12 month suspension would support those who face unemployment due to the impact of the pandemic to sustain existing tenancies and allow house moves where need be.

We have made a joint statement with 10 other organisations - The Big Issue Ride Out Recession Alliance, Crisis, Citizens Advice, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Money Advice Trust, The Mortgage Works, Nationwide Building Society, Propertymark, StepChange Debt Charity and Shelter - calling for the Chancellor to provide direct funding to support landlords and tenants to address arrears.

We also continue to call for possession and court reform.

Stay at home

The government is currently advising everyone to stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave the house.

Reasonable excuses include:

  • exercise
  • leaving home for work if it cannot be done at home
  • shopping for basic necessities
  • meeting your support bubble

Otherwise, everyone should stay at home and avoid contact with others.

Hands. Face. Space

Many people who are infected with coronavirus display no symptoms. To reduce the risk of spreading the virus unwittingly, everyone is advised to:

  • wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds (Hands)
  • wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, or where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet (Face)
  • stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place like wearing a mask (Space)

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are 

  • a high temperature
  • a new cough where you keep on coughing – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more episodes of coughing in a day
  • losing or there being a change to your sense of smell or taste

What should I do if I develop these symptoms or notice them in a tenant?

If you live alone and have developed symptoms then you should immediately self-isolate and then arrange for a test to see if you have coronavirus. Guidance for those living alone is to isolate for up to ten days from the point of noticing symptoms in the event of a positive test result. In the event of a negative test result you can stop self-isolating after the negative test result.

For people who live with others, or have formed a support bubble, the advice is for all members of the household and the support bubble to self-isolate for ten days from the point the first person showed symptoms. If anyone does develop symptoms towards the end of this period they should still isolate for ten days from the point of showing symptoms.

If any ill person in the household or bubble has not had any signs of improvement and have not already sought medical advice, they should contact NHS 111 online. If your home has no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

The cough may persist for several weeks in some people, despite the coronavirus infection having cleared. A persistent cough alone does not mean someone must continue to self-isolate for more than 7 days.

What is the advice for tenants who are self-isolating, particularly in shared properties?

It's important that anyone self-isolating follows the Government's advice, to minimise the risk of infecting others. This is particularly important in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) where individuals share amenities.

It’s also important that tenants in shared properties let the property manager and their fellow tenants know if they have symptoms, as the Government advises that the whole household should now self-isolate for 10 days if they do not develop symptoms, or until the symptoms of coronavirus are gone.

What is the advice for tenants with greater risk factors?

Those who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable have their own specific guidance to follow. As the national lockdown begins again, the Government has confirmed they will also be contacting the clinically extremely vulnerable directly to inform them to begin shielding once more.

For landlords who do have clinically extremely vulnerable tenants, they should be sensitive to the restrictions on having visitors in the property. A sensible approach would be to minimise visits to the property unless absolutely necessary. Where a visit is necessary, speak to the tenant ahead of time to discuss ways to minimise the risk of coronavirus while working in the home.

On 5 November the Chancellor also announced that 32 million pounds will be made availabe to local authorities to provide assistance for this group. If your tenant is struggling to arrange for food or other assistance during this period you should advise them to contact their local authority for assistance.

How should I plan for managing my properties if I need to self-isolate?

If you have identified that you need to self-isolate, it’s important to avoid exposing your tenants to risk. It’s also important to plan as there is a high likelihood that you may need to self-isolate in future, whether due to symptoms of the virus or needing to follow social distancing measures.

You should put in place alternative arrangements for the management of their properties and ensure tenants are aware of these.  This may involve contact by telephone, email or text only and an agent or friend temporarily taking on the management responsibility.

If I do interact with my tenants during this time what should I be doing?

You should consider whether it is necessary to interact with your tenant during this period. While you can visit the property, and you repairs should be dealt with promptly, it is preferable not to visit the property where possible. Consider communicating via phone, text, email or video chat tools such as Skype or Zoom.

If it is absolutely essential, and you and they are not symptomatic then you should practice social distancing during any visits and follow the guidance on working in people's homes safely.

You and any contractors should also ensure you are following the Government's guidance on handwashing while visiting the property.

What should I do if my tenants are not showing symptoms?

While tenants are responsible for their own health, you may wish to signpost tenants to official advice by email and advise tenants to keep up to date with the latest advice where necessary.

The NHS advice includes guidance on simple hygiene measures which everyone can practice to minimise transmission of the virus.

What steps should tradespeople take to minimise health risks?

Tradespeople are allowed to continue working in properties provided they follow the guidance on working safely in other people's homes. While in the property they should be following practices such as regular hand washing between visits, social distancing and avoiding touching their face to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.

What steps should I take to minimise health risks in my HMO properties?

Tenants should follow the Government advice.  Landlords may wish to consider emailing copies of government advice, as well as having soap and/or sanitiser sent to the property.

Tenants should be encouraged to inform housemates if they are self-isolating or have become ill as the whole household will need to self-isolate.

The Government has issued guidance on decontamination in non-clinical settings which HMO landlords may want to familiarise themselves with.

Should a deep clean be necessary, the landlord should bear the cost. Cleaning of properties between tenancies should be thorough.