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Coronavirus – Plymouth City Council, Community Connections, Addendum to Housing Policies

Posted on April 8th, 2020

Covid 19 addendum to policies document; https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/COVID%2019%20Addendum%20-%20Housing%20Improvement%20and%20HMO.pdf

Information from PCC about housing during the coronavirus crisis; https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/coronaviruscovid19informationabouthousing

General information from PCC regarding local services, advice and support during the coronavirus crisis; https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/covid-19

Please read the addendum document and visit the links above to keep up to date on services and the private rented sector in Plymouth.

A few highlights from the document;

  • As part of a national effort to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak it is vital that local authorities, landlords and tenants work together to keep rented properties safe.
  • The Government is asking everyone to do all they can to help stop coronavirus spreading and has published advice on maintaining strict separation from others wherever possible during this unprecedented time.
  • During this time it may be harder for local authorities to carry out their usual work. Inspecting properties and taking enforcement action may be affected by issues around resources or tenants maintaining strict separation. Landlords may also find it harder to comply with their legal obligations for the same reasons.
  • We are looking to adopt the cancellation of all non-critical inspections. Our officers will continue to review all new complaints that come into the service, but will now prioritise only those that are deemed critical.
  • We will only look to take enforcement action that we determine is necessary, and this will be determined on a case by case basis. We have reviewed our existing policies to meet the changing circumstances caused by COVID-19 and latest government advice regarding the outbreak, and will continue to be mindful to ensure pragmatic, appropriate and risk based action is taken.
  • We have taken the decision to suspend all non-urgent proactive work where there is not a duty to carry this out, for example scheduled targeted action or inspections of licensable properties, and prioritising reactive work, e.g. complaints from tenants. A triage system will be used to ensure the most serious risks are prioritised and vulnerable tenants are protected. This will operate on a case by case basis. Following government guidance, any decision to continue or suspend proactive action will be made based on an assessment of risk and the most current government advice about the outbreak.
  • We continue to work closely with landlords and tenants to ensure standards in rented properties are maintained. We will be contacting landlords and using communications to emphasise the importance of keeping properties free from hazardous conditions, but also reassure them that a pragmatic, risk-based and common-sense approach will be used when enforcement decisions are taken.

Questions & Answers The following is not exhaustive and is not meant to be legal advice.


Q. What about the legal duty local authorities have to take the appropriate
enforcement action if they consider that a category 1 hazard exists on any
residential premises?
A. We will:
Consider carefully what would be appropriate action during the current situation and review/update enforcement policies accordingly.
Prioritise resources to ensure vulnerable tenants and imminent risks to health are targeted

Property licensing
Q. What about the legal duty local authorities have to ensure that all applications for licences are determined within a reasonable time?
**In Plymouth we only operate the mandatory House in Multiple Occupation licensing scheme.**
We will:
Contact landlords who are waiting for licences to be determined to explain potential delays.
Take individual landlords’ circumstances into account where licence fee payments may have been delayed due to the current situation.
Prioritise high-risk licensable properties if this is necessary to protect vulnerable tenants and target imminent risks to health.
Continue to take a pragmatic and common-sense approach to enforcement action.

Scheduled inspections, e.g. gas, electricity

Q. What about the requirement for landlords to ensure certain installations are in place or safe, for example gas, fire alarms, emergency lighting?
A. We will:
Consider carefully if landlords can show evidence that they have been unable to carry out inspections or works, despite having taken reasonable steps, before carrying out any enforcement.
Government guidance advises that inspectors/maintenance workers can still visit blocks of flats and multi-occupied properties for essential or urgent work such as inspecting and testing fire alarm and emergency lighting systems.

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