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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Houses in multiple occupation information and advice

Information for landlords

As well as a responsibility for yourself and any family, you also have a duty of care to your tenants as a houses in multiple occupation (HMO) landlord.

As a landlord, it is important for you to make your own decisions and arrangements related to your own situation, the characteristics of your tenants and service users and local circumstances. You should take a risk-based approach as the situation develops and you should monitor the situation closely. Any actions and services that relate to the health and safety of your tenants should be your top priority.

Buildings are a hub for spreading disease. If you are a landlord or managing agent running a HMO or bedsit, you should clean more often than usual and use disinfectant cleaning products. For more information on cleaning see GOV.UK: COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings

Tenants should advise you if they have any symptoms and the whole household will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

As a landlord or agent you should take steps to limit the possibility of transmission and help make tenants feel safer:

  • You should make arrangements for the cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces like front-door handles, as well as common rooms and laundry rooms. You could also have hand-sanitizer located around the property
  • Ventilate shared kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas as much as possible
  • Consider the use of a rota system for using all shared facilities
  • All residents in the house need to clean the bathroom and kitchen after each use by wiping surfaces they have come in contact with
  • Post the Public Health England self-isolation poster in common areas of your HMOs
  • Make sure tenants have sufficient WiFi and that the service can support additional usage
  • Familiarise yourself with the Public Health England guidance on decontaminating your HMOs should tenants become sick with COVID-19
  • If you need to cancel cleaning services due to a tenant self-isolating, supply tenants with additional cleaning materials
  • Make sure your tenants have comfortable work stations in their rooms if they are working from home
  • Make sure that there are adequate arrangements in place for waste collection with either the Council's waste collection service or by a specialist clinical waste contractor
  • Tenants have been advised on how to treat and store suspect waste from persons in the house showing symptoms - waste should be double bagged and stored for 72hrs and not in a communal area
  • If storage for at least 72 hours is not appropriate, then either you or the tenant who is displaying symptoms should arrange for this to be collected as a Category B infectious waste, either by the Council if they currently collect your waste or otherwise by a specialist clinical waste contractor
  • You will be supplied with orange clinical waste bags to place the bags into so the waste can be sent for appropriate treatment
  • Make sure that all statutory legislation is applied as much as it can be

Keep in mind that your residents will be looking to you for advice on what to do, especially in extreme circumstances like quarantine. One of the best things you can do is stay calm, be prepared, and help educate your tenants.

If you are unable to deliver a particular service, such as a gas service and safety check or undertake an emergency repair, because of staff shortages, you can suspend the Right to Repair in circumstances which you / your contractor has no control over and makes it impossible to do the repair within the maximum time set out. You must advise your tenants if you are suspending Right to Repair.

If you have any queries please contact developmentservices@southtyneside.gov.uk.

Information for tenants

You must take extra care if your house in multiple occupation (HMO) has shared facilities. 

If you live in shared accommodation or you share facilities, please follow the current Public Health England guidance.

If you are having to leave your accommodation, you should find alternative accommodation or contact the Housing Solutions Service on 0300 123 6633 or email connect2@southtynesidehomes.org.uk.

Guidance on communal areas and shared facilities

Communal areas and shared facilities can carry lots of germs.

To reduced the immediate threat of coronavirus and to make sure you stay healthy and well, please consider the guidance below.

You must let the property manager and anyone else living within the same accommodation know if you have symptoms as you will all need to self-isolate for 14 days. For more information and advice see GOV.UK: Stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection

Landlords do not have to provide alternative accommodation for tenants if others in the property contract the virus.

To maintain health and safety, you should clean more often and use disinfectant cleaning products. For further information see GOV.UK: COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings

Sharing a bathroom

  • Set up a rota if you can
  • If someone you are living with has the virus, make sure they use the bathroom last for washing
  • Use your own towels
  • Clean the bathroom thoroughly before leaving

Toilets

  • Thoroughly clean the toilet after use
  • Wash the hand basin after use
  • Do not share towels

Sharing a kitchen

  • Set up a rota system for using the kitchen
  • Any self-isolated person should:
    • wear a face mask
    • use the kitchen after everyone else
    • take their food back to their room
  • The best way to wash up is with a dishwasher
  • Tablewear and kitchen utensils should not be shared without being thoroughly cleaned first
  • Where possible keep food in your rooms. If the food needs to be chilled or frozen, make sure that each person's item is clearly identifiable as being theirs

Doing laundry

  • Wash items in line with the manufacturer's instructions
  • Use the warmest water setting and dry items completely 
  • Dirty laundry that has been in contact with an unwell person can still be washed with other people's items
  • Do not shake dirty laundry. This will help to minimise the possibility of dispersing the virus through the air.
  • Clean and disinfect anything used for transporting laundry with your usual products, in line with the government's cleaning advice

Getting rid of waste

Waste (including disposable cloths and tissues) from anyone living in the house who are / have been showing symptoms recently should:

  • put it in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full
  • place it in a second bin bag and tied

This can then be put it with the normal waste after at least 72 hours.

If storage for at least 72 hours is not appropriate, arrange for collection as a Category B infectious waste, either by your local council or by a specialist clinical waste contractor. They will give orange clinical waste bags to put your bags into so the waste can be sent for appropriate treatment.

Rooms and lounges

  • Do not let people into your rooms and keep a safe distance from other people in your building when moving around the house
  • Do not allow visitors into the building without the permission of the landlord or property manager
  • Please do not hang around or congregate in the hallways, front of building, lounges or kitchens - you must keep a safe distance from people at all times

Please remember the current advice from the government is:

  • If you have any symptoms you must self-isolate for 7 days. This means staying away from everyone
  • Symptoms include a new persistent cough and high temperature
  • Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital unless you are asked to by a health care professional
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often - do this for at least 20 seconds

Advice for landlords and tenants

What restrictions are in place?

The Government's advice is to only leave your house for:

  • shopping for essentials
  • exercise once daily
  • travelling to and from work when work cannot be completed from home
  • to care for a vulnerable person
  • for a medical reason

Due to the current pandemic, we are working at limited capacity and it may take us longer to respond to your complaint.. We are still dealing with any health and safety risks or complaints and encourage you to take photographs of the complaint so that we can contact the landlord to take appropriate action.

What about HMO properties?

The government has advised that if anyone living alone shows symptoms of Coronavirus they should self-isolate for 7 days. If you are not sure if you have symptoms see NHS: Check if you have coronavirus symptoms.

For guidance on isolating as a household see GOV.UK: COVID-19: guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.

There is also additional guidance for those tenants who may be shielding. You may need to allocate separate bathroom and limited to access to kitchen, see GOV.UK: COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable.

If you are a landlord you should advise your tenants by email or text if a tenant is showing symptoms of COVID-19. All tenants of your HMO will need to social distance and avoid entering other tenants flats.

You should provide hand sanitizer and soap if a member of an HMO household is self-isolating to limit the risk of transmission. For advice see the government's cleaning advice.  

Financial information/assistance - unable to pay your rent or not receiving rent?

Information for landlords 

The Government has put a number of measures in place to help people financially including landlords. Lenders will make sure support is available where needed.

If you have a Buy to Let mortgage you will be protected by a 3 month mortgage payment holiday.

Information for tenants

If you are a Council tenant please see South Tyneside Homes: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you are in any other social housing please contact your housing provider directly for further assistance. 

If you are in private rented accommodation and are struggling to pay the rent please contact your landlord in the first instance. If you are worried about not being able to pay the rent and need further specialist advice providers such as Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service will be able to help.

There are a number of financial support options the Council has set up to help residents if they are experiencing financial difficulty. For more information see crisis support

For more detailed guidance for landlords and tenants see GOV.UK: COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities.

Further details of financial support for people affected is available at GOV.UK: COVID-19 Support for businesses.

What are the current rules regarding evictions? 

The Government has taken measures to make sure that people who are renting in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home. All ongoing housing possession action is currently suspended.

As of 26 March 2020, landlords will have to give all renters 3 months' notice if they intend to seek possession - this means the landlord cannot apply to start the court process until after this period. This extended buffer period will apply in law until 30 September 2020 and both the end point, and the 3 month notice period can be extended if needed. 

For more information see GOV.UK: Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters

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