The Government published their COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021 in September 2021 which has been followed up with a communication from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities in relation to tackling COVID-19.
It communicates the steps that landlords can take to tackle the virus.
A background summary:
- When someone with COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release particles (droplets and aerosols) containing the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Letting fresh air into indoor spaces can help remove air that contains particles and prevent the spread of coronavirus.
- In poorly ventilated rooms, the amount of virus in the air can build up, increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Your responsibilities as a landlord
As a landlord, the government is asking that you help to encourage behaviours around good ventilation with your tenants.
To support the health of your tenants, there are several things you should do to enable ventilations in and around your tenants' homes:
- Ensure all habitable rooms have functioning openable windows. This includes providing replacement keys where these have been misplaced/lost. These opening areas should ideally be at least 1/20th of the floor area.
- Ensure that all bathrooms/kitchens have either functioning openable windows and/or (preferably both) appropriate functioning extract ventilation.
- Consider installing positive pressure or constant run ventilation systems to ensure there is adequate background ventilation and to reduce the likelihood of condensation. These systems should operate effectively with filters replaced at appropriate intervals etc.
- Ensure that tenants have clear instructions and understand how to operate ventilation and heating systems. They should be advised on the best ways to achieve a healthy and economic balance of heating, ventilation and moisture production within the home.
- Ensure that problems with damp are fully investigated and addressed promptly.
The government have also requested that you prioritise as far a possible any planned or known works that might improve ventilation, such as repairing broken safety catches on windows for those concerned about security or a fall hazard.
Opening windows for an extended period of time may present certain issues for residents - including health issues. We would ask that you exercise your professional judgement in relations to this guidance, based on your tenants and the housing.
Heating of homes during winter months
Some tenants may be reticent to ventilate their homes during colder temperatures, especially in the current climate of rising fuel costs.
If your tenants are having difficulty heating their homes they may be able to claim financial and practical help.
More information can be found at Simple Energy Advice or by calling 0800 444 202.
If they are struggling to pay their energy bills, further advice is available from Ofgem.
Financial support for energy bills
Depending on the tenants' circumstances and other criteria, they may also be eligible for support with their energy bills:
- The Warm Home Discount supports low income and vulnerable households.
- The Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payment help vulnerable households with their winter energy costs.
If your tenants are in financial distress during this time, they should talk to their energy supplier, who will be able to discuss personal circumstances and consider options to help including reassessing, reducing or pausing payments.
Communicating the importance of good ventilation
- Letting fresh air into your home is important when you have visitors from outside your household in your home or when someone in your household has COVID-19.
- You can pass COVID-19 on to others if you have even mild or no symptoms at all.
How to ventilate your home:
- Opening windows and doors is the simplest way to improve ventilation.
- If you have people working in or visiting your home, let as much fresh air into your home as possible without getting uncomfortably cold while they are there, and for a short period before they arrive and after they have left.
- If someone in your home is self-isolating, open a window in the room and keep the door closed to reduce the spread of contaminated air to other parts of the household.
- If the person self-isolating needs access to shared spaces in the home, ensure that these are well ventilated.
- Ventilation can be increased by leaving extractor fans in bathrooms, toilets and kitchens running for longer than usual, with the door closed, after someone has been in the room.
- During the winter months it is crucial that ventilation such as trickle vents on windows are not blocked and that other ventilation is not switched off. These actions will have minimal implications for heating costs, but put you more at risk from COVID-19 transmission.
Mechanical ventilation in the home:
- If the property has a mechanical ventilation system, make sure this is working and maintained in line with manufacturers' instructions. Landlords should advise their tenants on how to check the system is working.
- If possible, set ventilation systems to bring fresh air in and not recirculate indoor air. Devices that only recirculate indoor air will not remove airborne virus from the home.
- If necessary, to ensure safety, we would advise that you latch windows. This will allow ventilation whilst reducing safety risks.
Ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
A summary of the key points:
- You have a responsibility as a landlord to ensure your tenant is able to ventilate the property effectively.
- Financial support is available for tenants who may require support with their energy bills.
- Good ventilation behaviours should be communicated with tenants to ensure efforts are maximised to reduce the spread of the virus.
The above is a summary for landlords and their tenants. Read the full: letter from the RT Hon Christopher Pincher MP, Minister of State for Housing.
Thank you for your support in spreading awareness on the importance of good ventilation practices to your tenants.