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Government coronavirus advice for housing providers

A list of government advice for housing providers regarding the coronavirus outbreak. 

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.@insidehousing has complied a list of government advice given to housing providers regarding coronavirus #ukhousing

Government advice for housing providers on dealing with coronavirus includes guidance for care providers, homelessness shelters and benefit claimants #ukhousing

This guide was updated daily by Inside Housing during the coronavirus lockdown through to early July when many of the restrictions were lifted. We are preserving it here as a reference, but it will no longer be updated. Please check relevant government websites (available through the links below) for the most up-to-date advice.

Social landlords

General duties

The government has published guidance for private and social landlords covering possession proceedings, rent arrears and property access during the crisis, as well as some associated issues.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL GUIDANCE

On 18 May, housing minister Christopher Pincher sent a letter to all social landlords telling them to resume carrying out planned maintenance work on properties, alongside work on voids to ensure they can be re-let. Read the letter here.

The government has also published guidance on how to work safely in other people’s homes during the pandemic, which can be found here (updated on 24 June).

Local authorities have also been issued with new guidance covering the enforcement of standards in the rented sector during the pandemic. Councils have been told to take a pragmatic approach and assess all issues in line with the risk. In particular, on gas and electrical checks they have been reminded that where landlords have taken all reasonable steps to carry out checks they are not in breach of the law.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL GUIDANCE

Further guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities about renting during the pandemic is available here.

The Welsh government has provided guidance specifically for social landlords, which can be found here. It includes advice on what to do if a tenant has a confirmed case of coronavirus and advice around entering properties (updated on 31 March).

The Scottish government has issued coronavirus-related frequently asked questions for social landlords, which can be found here. It advises landlords on how and when to carry out repairs, as well as what to do if there is a significant disruption to service delivery.

The guidance on shielding for people with specific health conditions is available here (updated on 23 June).

Possession and evictions

From 27 March, the courts have suspended all ongoing housing possession action for an initial period of 90 days. This means new cases, as well as those already in the system, cannot result in an eviction. Technical guidance on evictions is available here. Further guidance on seeking possession is available below.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL GUIDANCE

Legislation extending the notice period for possessions from two months to three was passed in March, while the courts also suspended all eviction hearings for at least 90 days.

That legislation will now remain in effect until “at least September”, the government said in a press release. The full details can be found here.

This measure will not apply to tenants in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, the Scottish government has published its own Coronavirus Bill, which extends the eviction notice period for evictions to six months, depending on the grounds used. The Scottish Coronavirus Bill can be found here and Inside Housing’s explainer can be found here.

Northern Ireland’s government announced on 16 April that it intends to introduce legislation to extend the eviction notice period in the private rented sector to three months, while courts are not currently registering evictions cases. Social landlords in the region have pledged not to evict anyone for arrears during the crisis – details are available here.

Allocations and lettings

This guidance contains advice on how local authorities and housing associations should approach allocations, lettings and transfers during the pandemic.

It states that landlords will need to alter practices to take account of social distancing advice, and that residents with COVID-19 symptoms or those self-isolating and shielding should not be moved if possible.

Note that previous guidance advising social landlords to pause non-essential allocations published on 27 April was declared out of date and withdrawn on 13 May.

The government has confirmed that the new guidance means non-essential allocations may resume.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL GUIDANCE

Non-government guidance

The National Housing Federation (NHF) has published information on what housing associations have been doing in response to the outbreak and what the priorities are. Included in the briefing note is the NHF’s key ask from government. The full publication can be found here (published on 24 March). The NHF has also set out the sector’s three main commitments here.

The NHF has also created an advice page, which covers areas such as PPE, supported housing and safety checks. It can be found here.

The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations has published a coronavirus FAQs page aimed at housing association tenants, workers and sector partners, which can be found here.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations regularly publishes briefings on a variety of coronavirus-related issues, which can be found here.

Community Housing Cymru has a list of coronavirus resources for Welsh housing associations, which can be found here.


Residential care and supported living

Residential care

This guidance is for care homes, local health protection teams, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and registered providers of accommodation for people who need personal or nursing care. It sets out how to admit and care for residents safely and how to protect care home staff. This now includes the government’s ‘COVID-19: action plan for adult social care’, which outlines plans for increasing PPE for staff, ramping up testing and allowing people to see dying relatives.

Click here to read the full guidance

Click here to read the full government action plan

Public Health England has updated its guidance on how to work safely in care homes here (updated 15 June).

Public Health England has also produced guidance on how to manage staff and exposed patients in health and social care settings, which can be found here.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates the care sector, wrote to providers on 16 March, available here, announcing a halt to routine inspections and a shift towards more remote measures.

It has since published updated guidance which includes a special COVID-19 framework for providers of health and social care. Information on the framework can be found here. The CQC’s adult social care advice is here and advice for other providers is here.

On 19 May, the CQC published analysis of pressures in the sector. Find the analysis here.

Additional advice for care providers is available from the Social Care Institute for Excellence website here.


Supported living

Guidance aimed at providers of care and support delivered in an individual’s home was withdrawn on 13 May.

The page now states that further guidance for the sector is under development.

Advice on how to work safely in domiciliary care, including the use of PPE, is below.

Last updated on 15 June

Click here to read the full guidance


The Scottish government has provided guidance for the management of clients accessing care at home, housing support and sheltered housing, which can be accessed here (published on 26 March).

The Welsh government’s guidance for social or community care and residential settings can be found here. It includes information on how to provide care to individuals who are self-isolating (published on 17 March).

Northern Ireland’s government has now published guidance for its domiciliary care providers, which can be found here. It includes information about planning and preparation for the outbreak, supply of PPE equipment and advice for care workers concerned about the disease (published on 17 March).


Testing

Anyone in the UK with coronavirus symptoms can now be tested. Essential workers, including most council workers, and their households can access priority testing. Details on how to get tested are available here (last updated 26 June).

More information for council workers is available here (last updated 1 May).


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Fire safety

The National Fire Chiefs Council has published updated guidance on the provision of ‘waking watches’, which is available here.

The government has also confirmed that workers providing a waking watch can be considered key workers. It has also said that the remediation of buildings with fire safety defects is considered “critical” and can continue during the lockdown.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick set out further details on remediation of dangerous cladding during the COVID-19 outbreak in a letter, published here (on 2 April).

A page summarising useful links providing information on building safety during the pandemic has been published by the government and is available via the link below.

Last updated on 19 May

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL GUIDANCE


Gas safety

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidance for landlords on how to carry out gas safety checks. HSE reiterates that landlords have a legal duty to carry out checks as not doing so will put tenants at risk.

It gives examples of “reasonable steps” that they must take to show they have done all they can to gain access to a property to carry out checks.

Last updated on 15 June

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL GUIDANCE


Health and safety

The Health and Safety Executive, the body that regulates health and safety across industries, has a webpage dedicated to advice around various aspects of health and safety. This includes advice around keeping safe on construction sites, as well as guidance on other things such as lift maintenance and safety checks.

Click here to visit the webpage


Construction

Throughout the pandemic the government has said that construction sites in England can remain open as long as social distancing measures are adhered to.

On 13 May, housing secretary Robert Jenrick said that construction sites can now remain open longer. In residential sites, hours can be extended to 9pm and can be extended further in non-residential areas. Read the announcement here.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published industry guidance on safe working and the controlled shutdown of sites, which is available here. The advice has details around wearing PPE, travelling to work and reconfiguring seating. It also omits the rule around a 15-minute limit of face-to-face meetings (last updated 19 May).

There is also guidance from the CLC on what clients and contractors should do if there sites have been shut down, which can be found here.

The Site Operating Procedures guidance has now been updated by the CLC to reflect the latest government advice following the easing of lockdown measures in England from Saturday 4 July. The ‘one metre plus’ social distancing guideline requires workers to stay two metres apart or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable.

A section on construction and other outdoor work is included in government guidance published in the wake of the announcement that those who cannot work from home should return to work. It includes information on who should go to work, social distancing, cleaning and PPE. Read the guidance here (updated on 24 June).

In Scotland, non-essential construction have begun the process of reopening. The Scottish government has now moved construction into step three of its six-step plan and will see “soft starts” with contractors now able to slowly build up workforces to optimum capacity while physical distancing remains in force. More details can be found here (last updated on 22 June).


Building regulations

The government has provided guidance for building control bodies in England on applying building regulations during the outbreak. The guidance covers new or temporary healthcare buildings, social distancing measures and remediation work.

Last updated on 22 April


Buying and selling homes

On 12 May, housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced a plan to reopen the housing market following a moratorium imposed in late March. The plan includes allowing estate agents to open offices and show homes and to conduct viewings, while removal companies can also reopen with immediate effect.

Last updated on 13 May

Click here to read the full plan

More detailed guidance for different organisations working in the housing market is available below. It sets out information for agents, surveyors, conveyancers, developers and others. It also includes advice on how the Right to Buy should be approached during the pandemic. Information for users of the government’s Help to Buy: Equity Loan during the coronavirus crisis is available here (published on 1 May).

Click here to read the full guidance

The above guidance only applies to England. The Scottish government has said the housing market will reopen on 29 June. More information can be found in the country’s recovery roadmap.

Guidance on moving home in any tenure in Scotland has now been published and can be found here.

On 19 June, Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford announced the gradual reopening of the housing market by permitting viewings to take place in empty homes and moves to take place when a sale had been agreed but not completed. The announcement can be found here.

Ministers in Northern Ireland eased restrictions on the region’s housing market on 15 June. Guidance for people moving home is available here.


Development

Homes England said it has acquired 19 sites in the past financial year worth £180m, which has the capacity for 5,000 new homes. The body said this is part of a long-term view strategy to develop a strong pipeline to support the recovery of the housebuilding sector.

Updates from Homes England can be found here.

On 22 June, the government announced it was extending planning permission deadlines for sites with consent that have an expiry date between the start of lockdown and the end of this year. The new expiry date for these sites will be 1 April 2021. More information can be found here.


Complaints handling

The Housing Ombudsman has issued guidance for landlords on complaints handling during the coronavirus pandemic, including arrangements for information requests and implementing its orders. The latest update was published on 8 April and has detailed advice on how to handle complaints about repairs but also social distancing complaints about neighbours.

Click here to read the full guidance


Claiming benefits

This guidance is from the Department for Work and Pensions and it covers the entire UK. It includes advice on how to claim benefits during the outbreak, both if you are an existing claimant or if you need to submit a new claim. People claiming benefits no longer have to attend the job centre in person for the next three months.

Guidance is also given with regards to statutory sick pay, from both an employee and an employer perspective.

Click here to read the full guidance

The government also released a letter to landlords outlining how to help tenants claim Universal Credit on 1 April. The advice page can be found here. It includes specific advice for landlords in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as advice around job centre appointments and how to use landlord portals.

Recovery of benefit overpayments has been suspended.


Tenants and residents

Homelessness charity Shelter has published free advice for tenants and residents on its website here. Equivalent advice for Scotland is available here, and here for Wales.

A range of advice, including on rent payments, is available on the Citizens Advice website here.

Government advice to tenants was published on 28 March.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL GUIDANCE


Employers and businesses

On 10 May, Boris Johnson gave a speech in which he said that people who cannot work from home should be expected to attend work from this week, specifically referencing “those in construction or manufacturing”. The government has since published guidance for employers outlining how those returning to work can work safely. It includes sections for construction and office workers.

Published on 11 May

Click here to read the full guidance

The government opened up its Job Retention Scheme for employers in late March, which saw workers furloughed and receive 80% of their salary while off work. Details on how an employer can apply and how the system works can be found below.

The government updated the scheme on 29 May, announcing that it would wind the scheme down to 60% of wages by October. Find the updated plan for the scheme here.

Click here to get more information of the Job Retention Scheme

Welsh government guidance for businesses and employers can be found here, including information on furloughing.

The Scottish government has published general advice for non-healthcare businesses, which can be found here (published on 18 June).

The National Housing Federation has published guidance here for housing associations looking to access the government’s Job Retention Scheme.


Advice for people with disabilities

The government confirmed on 25 March that disability benefit reviews and reassessments have been suspended for three months amid the coronavirus crisis.

Click here to read the full guidance

Homelessness and rough sleeping services

Homelessness minister Luke Hall wrote to council leaders on 27 March (letter here) setting out the government’s strategy for rough sleepers during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the actions it expects local authorities to take. Councils were told to adopt the Everyone In’ approach to provide shelter for everyone on the streets, including space for them to self-isolate, to help reduce transmission of the disease.

The government is now asking councils to set out next-step support plans for individuals placed in temporary accommodation as part of this process, with the stated ambition to move as many as possible into permanent homes.

The government has since announced £105m to provide interim housing for rough sleepers who were taken off the streets during the pandemic.

Mr Hall also wrote to local authority chief executives on 24 June, updating them on how to accommodate rough sleepers from the European Economic Area (EEA).

The government has suspended legislation allowing councils to accommodate and support a “specific group” of rough sleeping EEA nationals for up to 12 weeks. Read the letter here.

Last updated on 25 June

Public Health England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have replaced previously issued guidance for rough sleeper hostels and day centres with a holding statement.

“Public Health England will be issuing updated guidance for those working with people who are experiencing rough sleeping and living in hostel environments as soon as possible,” the statement reads.

Click here to read the full guidance

Last updated on 25 March

The government has also now published guidance for commissioners and providers of services for people who use drugs and alcohol. It includes advice on continuing drug and alcohol treatment while maintaining social distancing (updated 29 May).

Click here to read full guidance

The Welsh government has published guidance to homelessness services here (last updated on 7 May). It has also issued guidance for councils, available here, about its expectation that they develop rapid rehousing plans for rough sleepers placed in emergency accommodation during the pandemic (published 4 June).

The Northern Irish government has published its guidance for homelessness services here (last updated on 26 June).

The Local Government Association also has an advice page for councils around homelessness and rough sleeping, which can be found here.


Domestic abuse safe accommodation

This guidance is for providers of accommodation for domestic abuse survivors and their families. It includes information on what to do if a resident becomes unwell within shared accommodation and advice on how to manage staffing levels. Also included are links to information about how to manage mental health (published on 23 March).

Click here to read the full guidance

CIH Scotland has also published guidance to landlords on how to try and protect the people who may be at risk of domestic violence in the home throughout the pandemic which can be found here.


Asylum seekers

The government confirmed in a letter sent by Home Office minister Chris Philp to the British Red Cross on 27 March that it would not evict asylum seekers for three months.

However, unlike for standard rented housing, the government has decided against an extension to the moratorium, and Inside Housing reported on 23 June that the Home Office had begun the process of evicting residents. More information is available here.


Charities

The government has announced it will hand out more than £750m to charities to help them survive the crisis.

A total of £360m of that will come from government departments and be channelled towards charities that provide crucial services to help the country through the pandemic, such as domestic abuse shelters and hospices.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government confirmed it has received £6m from the fund to distribute to homelessness charities.

A full list of the charities which have received funding can be found here.

Click here to read the full government announcement


Regulation

The English Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has asked not be sent anything by post because of limited access to its offices. Instead, it should be contacted by phone or email. If a document needs to be sent to the organisation in hard copy, providers should phone their usual contact and discuss possible arrangements.

The RSH has also said it will pause its programme of in-depth assessments (IDAs) of registered providers.

No new IDAs will be started for the time being, and for IDAs that are already under way the RSH will be in contact with providers to defer or complete it online.

Providers are still being expected to report potential compliance issues, although the RSH has said it will take account of the impact of coronavirus.

In a letter sent to all registered providers on 26 March, the regulator said that it was making a number of changes to the way it operated and its contact with providers. This includes delaying the requirement for the submission of the Forecast Financial Return from providers until later in the year, and surveying providers on how they are delivering emergency repairs and maintaining care and support services.

It has also set out how it will monitor the financial positions of providers, which includes potentially getting monthly updates from providers on operational performance.

On 8 April, the RSH issued an update setting out further changes to its approach during the pandemic. These include changes to the regulatory judgement schedule, a relaxation of accounts reporting deadlines and clarification on value for money reporting requirements.

The regulator has set up a survey to identify where risks are emerging in areas, such as emergency repairs and gas and fire safety checks.

On 1 May, the RSH sent a letter to registered providers owning fewer than 1,000 homes urging them to get in touch if facing difficulties arising from the pandemic. The letter is available here.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL GUIDANCE

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL LETTER TO PROVIDERS

The Scottish regulator has also now written to social landlords outlining its approach, which includes information around extending the deadline for annual returns and monitoring the impact of the virus on social landlords. The letter from 31 March can be found here.

The Scottish Housing Regulator is also now asking for landlords to prepare short monthly returns assessing performance to keep it updated on the impact of COVID-19 on landlords, more details can be found here.

The Welsh government has published advice for social landlords with regards to regulation, which can be found here. Regulatory engagements have been suspended for the time being.


Local government

The government regularly updates its advice page for councils and local government staff. This includes guidance on procurement, planning and building safety, homelessness and social care. This also now includes new guidance on coronavirus testing and support for care workers.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE GUIDANCE

A number of local government leaders have pledged to continue building safety work during the coronavirus outbreak. Find the pledge and list of signatories here.


This list will be updated by Inside Housing by 10am every day. Important developments will be covered in news stories on www.insidehousing.co.uk and in our daily email newsletter. Sign up to receive our morning email here.

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