Much of a letting agent’s work involves meeting different people and visiting homes on a day-to-day basis – and with the current events surrounding Coronavirus, it is more important than ever for agents to know their rights and safety responsibilities.
Last week, the Hamilton Fraser Academy held its first Legal Update & Compliance course of 2020, where letting agents gathered to learn more about lettings law and compliance with legislation.
The course highlighted the importance of carrying out property inspections and keeping comprehensive audit trails. Audit trails are a vital record of any interaction, communication or action taken with a client and are key in the event of a complaint or dispute.
Due to current restrictions surrounding Coronavirus, many people across the country are beginning to self-isolate within their homes, which can make certain parts of a landlord or letting agent’s job tricky – particularly inspections.
Landlords and agents should know that you can reserve the right to refuse to carry out a property inspection if you have a valid reason to do so, as long as you are able to show that you have made every reasonable attempt.
For example, in the event that you have scheduled to visit a property for a mandatory inspection, such as a gas safety inspection, and you are unable to access the property, you must be able to provide evidence that you had a legitimate reason for why you couldn’t. If the tenant doesn’t allow you access to the property, or you are unable to enter for safety reasons, your audit trail must detail this. The Guild of Letting and Management (GLM) reported that a letting agent recently visited a property where the tenant had just arrived back in the country after visiting an area affected by coronavirus, and as a result were now self-isolating. The agent had received no warning beforehand and was immediately welcomed into the home upon arrival.
In this situation, the agent would have been within their rights to refuse to enter the property as there was a safety risk present, however they were unable to do so because the tenant failed to make them aware of the risk beforehand.
This is why it is important establish clear lines of communication with the tenant, complete a safety checklist before the inspection, and keep an audit trail of all events. Your audit trail will show that you made a reasonable attempt to access the property, and that you had a legitimate reason to postpone the inspection. This evidence will protect you in the event of a dispute or any allegations of negligence.
Brand Ambassador for Hamilton Fraser and Founder of Landlord Action, Paul Shamplina, commented: ‘As the risk surrounding coronavirus continues to rise, it is more important than ever for letting agents and landlords to consider taking safety precautions before carrying out inspections.’
‘If you don’t already have a safety checklist, make sure that you prepare one and use it every time you plan to visit a property.’ For expert letting agent advice, make use of the new HF Assist helpline. Also visit, the Government’s guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.