Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Housing conditions
This page summarises the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on advice relating to housing conditions.
There have been no changes made to the legislation relating to repairs for either the private or social rented sector. All statutory repairing duties continue to apply.
However, in both sectors the general rule is that repairs must be carried out within a ‘reasonable’ period of time. Advisers should ensure clients are aware that what is considered to be ‘reasonable’ in the current situation has not been tested and will in any case depend on the nature of the repair.
Private rented sector
There is specific advice for private landlords on repairs and access for safety checks in the Scottish Government Guidance to Landlords and Letting Agents.
RSL and local authorities
The Scottish Government has issued guidance for social landlords.
The Health and Safety Executive advise that 'Landlords should not suspend all gas safety checks at this time as it will unnecessarily put tenants at increased risk, particularly as people are spending most, and in some cases all, of their time at home. Each property should be considered on a case-by-case basis, completing safety checks where tenants permit access and gas engineers are available.' Where it is not possible to carry out a gas safety check, the landlord will need to evidence that they took reasonable steps to do so. There is detailed guidance for all UK landlords on the HSE website Gas Safety checks.
Repairs - practical steps
Advisers should continue to advocate for clients and collate evidence. In all cases it will be important to establish whether the landlord ‘will not’ carry out the repair or whether they ‘are unable’ to carry out the repair because of circumstances out with their control. With both the sheriff court and tribunal being effectively closed this will mean there is likely to be some delay in terms of enforcement action. However, it may still be possible to initiate proceedings which will then be heard at a later date. It will be important therefore to note all relevant information carefully.
Where an individual may be at risk if the repair is not carried out, both private and public sectors landlords can be reminded of their general duty of care in terms of the health and safety of any occupants and of their potential liability under s.3 Occupiers Liability (Scotland) Act 1960. If this does not resolve the matter, advisers should speak to a solicitor to discuss whether urgent enforcement action is possible.
In any cases where the repair puts anyone in the household at risk, but the landlord is unable or unwilling to make the property safe, advice should also be given on rights to make homeless application.
Flat dwellers and Common Property
People living in 'common property', for example flats, tenements and four in a block type homes may have particular issues in relation to managing shared or communal parts of their property.
All Under One Roof provide advice for owners of all types of common property. They have set up a webpage: Coronavirus guidance for flat dwellers. The page includes guidance for cleaning of communal areas, difficulties paying factors fees, and how to manage meetings with other occupiers whilst maintaining isolation and social distancing rules.
The government has launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to ensure customers don’t face any additional hardships in heating or lighting their home during the coronavirus outbreak. Customers with prepayment meters who are self-isolating or unable to leave their home can now speak to their supplier on the options. This may include:
someone being sent to top up the prepayment card or token
having funds added to meter credit
having a preloaded gas or electricity card sent in the post
Suppliers must take reasonable steps to avoid disconnecting an energy supply for debt during the COVID-19 period. It should always be a last resort and avoided wherever possible.
Suppliers must tell customers:
what customer service support is available, particularly if they are vulnerable
how customers will be supported if they can’t top up or could go off supply.
The contact numbers for the main energy suppliers are
BRITISH GAS 0333 202 9802
EDF 0333 200 5100
EON 0345 052 000
N POWER 0800 073 3000
SCOTTISH POWER 0800 027 0072
SSE 0345 026 2658
For more information see the Ofgem webpage: Coronavirus and your energy supply.
Last updated: 6 August 2021