Social landlords may be surprised to learn that “landlords should be able to carry out routine as well as essential repairs for most households”.

This was what the Minister for Housing said in a letter sent to social housing residents this week. The letter was sent to “update residents on the steps the Government is taking to reopen society” and support residents and their families to “move on with their lives”. It contains links to government guidance on a wide range of initiatives connected with Covid-19 (this e-briefing comments only those aspects of the letter that are relevant to repairs).

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many social landlords have had to limit repairs to emergency repairs and compliance work, such as gas servicing and fire equipment testing. Some social landlords have also been able to undertake external maintenance.

A letter sent directly to their residents by the Government saying that social landlords will now be carrying out routine repairs may, therefore, come as a surprise. Although the letter recognises that the backlog of repairs that built up during lockdown may cause landlords to be slower than usual in responding to new, non-essential repairs, the encouragement to report all repairs means that social landlords should now prepare for an influx of routine repairs requests.

However, while the Government’s letter indicates a move to recommence carrying out non-urgent repairs, this is still far from “business as usual”. The letter confirms that only repairs to remedy a “direct risk” should be carried out where households are self-isolating or containing an individual who is shielding. Repairs will invariably take longer to complete due to tradespersons having to comply with social distancing and hygiene guidance. This will increase repairs costs for landlords and/or their contractors.

Delays in repairs being completed will inevitably result in more complaints and referrals to solicitors looking to bring claims against landlords for tenant compensation. The increased expectations created by the letter are unlikely to be helpful in managing this process.

For more information

For advice on repairing obligations, please contact Baljit Basra.
For advice on health and safety issues, please contact Tim Coolican.
For advice on repairs and maintenance contracts, please contact Andrew Millross.