Landlord obligations to their tenants 3 Mar 2020

With the Prime Minister confirming that the spread of coronavirus in the UK is likely but people should at present carry on as usual, should landlords consider whether they have any obligations to their tenant?

Landlords and diseases – coronavirus?

As a landlord of premises, you may need to consider whether you have any obligations towards your tenants. There are express provisions which deal with, for example, legionella to protect a tenant but none dealing with viruses such as coronavirus. Legionella is, however, a disease which grows in waterborne systems which the landlord has control over. Coronavirus is different in that it is hard to see how a landlord has or can control it in his property.

Landlords and COSHH

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 contains provisions to control the risk from viruses (“COSHH”). A key aspect of COSHH is control and whether there is an ability to effect change in the premises. Whether a landlord has any obligations will depend on the level of control they have over the premises they have let which in turn will depend on the terms of the lease it has granted and the physical characteristics of the premises. So for example if a landlord has granted a lease of an entire building and does not provide any services to the tenant then it is unlikely to have any obligations under COSHH, If, however, he has let a number of floors in a building to different lessees who share services such as air conditioning which the landlord maintains then it is likely the landlord has some responsibility. In respect of residential premises, if a landlord has let a number of rooms to a number of tenants to whom the landlord also provides cleaning services, then the landlord is likely to have some responsibility under COSHH. There needs to be an element of providing services above and beyond the provision of rental premises.

If a landlord is caught by COSHH, then it should take steps to undertake a risk assessment and take any appropriate preventative measures. This may involve undertaking more frequent cleaning or putting up information notices. If a specific person has been identified as having coronavirus in the premises then advice will need to be taken from Public Health England.

It should also be noted that landlords who are also employers of say, concierge staff, will   also have duties to their staff in relation to risks posed by infectious diseases. In such circumstances, the guidance provided by Public Health England should be followed.

Blog post written by Shilpa Mathuradas, head of Property Litigation

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