What processes can I adapt regarding Housing Disrepair?
As we all adjust and adapt in line with the Government’s guidance throughout this uncertain time, we must consider how we can revise current processes and implement new ones to maintain effective and compliant ways of working. We have identified several key issues that all housing providers should consider.
Housing providers will continue to receive new disrepair claims. Throughout the disruption caused by coronavirus, landlords will still be expected to respond to these claims and comply with the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Conditions Claims whilst doing so. We address the issue of disclosure in particular below.
Letters of claim will continue to be sent by post to your Registered Office, and the deadlines will run from the date of deemed service. Ensure you have systems to enable you to scan correspondence and forward it to the responsible officer who will handle the claim so deadlines are met.
Under the Protocol, the deadline for disclosure is 20 working days from deemed service of a letter of claim (2 working days after it is sent). So, for example, a letter dated 2 March 2020 would be deemed served on 4 March 2020 and disclosure would therefore be due by 1 April 2020. All housing providers must continue to comply with the Protocol and so landlords should begin preparing now.
Failure to meet deadlines often result in the issuing of further applications to court by tenant’s solicitors which in turn will lead to unnecessary costs orders against landlords.
Therefore, all records, particularly relating to customer contact and repair logs, should be held electronically. If required, this will allow for such documentation to be redacted for GDPR purposes remotely and disclosed to the tenant’s solicitor simply and efficiently.
Remember it is possible to request an extension to all Protocol deadlines and it is inevitable in these unusual times, this will need to be utilised, and should not be refused. Request extensions to deadlines at the earliest opportunity to enable an achievable timescale. It would be a difficult lawyer that would not agree to such a request.
Where a lender requires a EWS1 as part of the mortgage requirements for a flat this will apply regardless of its tenure and will therefore apply to applicable RTB properties. It may also be required in order to obtain a valuation for the disposal notices and issues in obtaining it could cause problems in serving this within relevant deadlines required by legislation.
This would depend on the reason as to why the employee is refusing to come into work. An unauthorised absence is where an employee fails to attend work and they do not have a statutory or contractual right, or their employer’s permission, to do so. An employer will not be obliged to pay employees their normal pay for periods of unauthorised absence.
There are some absences which may be viewed as authorised which would entitle the employee to their full pay. For instance, employees who believe that they are in serious and imminent danger by coming to work would be entitled to stay at home and receive pay if their belief is deemed reasonable.
An employer should always try to discuss any unauthorised absences with an employee. They may then consider whether to take disciplinary action against the employee.
Individual contractors who are not operating via an intermediary (eg sole traders) do not need to be assessed under IR35. However, you will always have the risk with those individuals that there is no intermediary – therefore if their tax status is wrong, HMRC are very likely to consider that responsibility for this would fall on the hiring company in any event.
As above, employees must not leave their home unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’.
The Home Office has not stated when it will end these temporary measures, albeit it has stated that it will provide a warning. Where employers have carried out checks using the temporary measures, the Home Office has confirmed that it will require employers to carry out retrospective checks on any of the following:
- Employees who started working for you when the temporary measures were in place
- Employees who required a follow up check during the temporary measures (for example because their previous leave was coming to an end).
It is not explicit from the guidance but these retrospective checks must require you to have in your possession the physical ID in its original form. When carrying out the retrospective check, employers must record this using the following wording “the individual’s contract commenced on [insert date]. The prescribed right to work check was undertaken on [insert date] due to Covid-19.”
These further checks must be made within eight weeks of the temporary measures ending, and employers must keep records of both checks undertaken. Where the employer discovers that the employee does not have the right to work during the retrospective check they should stop employing them.