As the Scottish Housing Market is set to re-open, guidance has been issued by the Scottish Government to ensure that this process is as safe as possible. Whilst the requirement to maintain social distancing, regular hand washing, and the recommendation to wear a mask are still in effect, the following practical advice for the Social Rented Sector has been set out:
Before arranging any viewings, the RSL must determine if any members of the household are either shielding, or displaying symptoms of COVID-19 before organising any viewings. If any of the parties involved in the viewing process begin to show symptoms of COVID-19, the viewing should be rearranged. It is also important to note that where a tenant is shielding, they cannot be compelled to permit viewings of their property by the landlord.
Viewings are encouraged to take place online, with physical viewings only to be undertaken where there is no alternative. Physical viewings of properties must be organised with an appointment based system to ensure proper social distancing and cleaning measures can be implemented for each viewing.
Open Houses, whilst common in the rental market, are not permitted under the new guidance. Viewings must be planned in advance.
Guidance should be put in place by individual RSLs for viewing properties. Prospective tenants should view properties without an agent of the RSL as far as possible, with a full of understanding of the RSLs internal processes of how the viewing should work. If it is not possible for the prospective tenant to view the property without an agent of the RSL, then social distancing should be maintained at all times.
If the property is to be inspected prior to a tenant moving out, the tenant must be advised in advance. The tenant is not obliged to allow entry to the landlord unless it is an emergency.
Any works that are required should be undertaken in the time period between the previous tenant moving out, and the new tenant moving in.
If this isn’t possible, an appropriate time must be organised with the current tenant, with social distancing being adopted at all times. Where possible, the tenant should stay in another room throughout the duration of any works.
In terms of statutory Gas inspections, the Health and Safety Executive have produced separate guidance for landlords to ensure they are compliant. The advice can be found here. Broadly speaking, where a tenant is shielding or in self-isolation, provided that the landlord can show they have taken steps to comply with regulations, they will not be in breach. Electrical and fuel safety inspections should wait until Phase 3 of the route map is in effect, unless there is concern about individual properties.
Basic actions such as opening internal doors and windows in advance, cleaning down any relevant surfaces, and limiting the time spent in the company of any other party can help to prevent the spread of the virus.
Once a tenant agreement is signed, it must be borne in that there should be an element of flexibility required by all parties in the event that COVID-19 symptoms are displayed. Moving in/out dates will have to be adapted where there is a risk of transmission, and governmental guidance on self-isolation will have to be taken into account when amending any move in dates.
The Scottish Government guidance on house moves can be found here.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our Property Team if you have any queries.