The winter national lockdown – key points for housing associations

15 February 2021

Last updated: 15 February 2021

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement about a new national lockdown, we have been in touch with government officials to establish what this means for housing associations. Please read on for our initial analysis, and an outline of our next steps. If you have any immediate questions, please get in touch with us.

Main points for housing associations

The government has published guidance on the new lockdown, and we have been working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to clarify a number of points for the housing sector.

  • Moving home: Renters and homeowners will still be able to move, and removal firms and estate agents can still operate, but must follow coronavirus safety guidance.
  • Construction: Construction sites can and should continue, but must follow coronavirus safety guidance.
  • Repairs and maintenance: Tradespeople will be able to enter homes, but must follow coronavirus safety guidance. This applies to both routine as well as emergency repairs and maintenance work.
  • Gas safety inspections: Gas safety inspections are expected to go ahead. We appreciate that your organisation may face difficulties with access as residents may feel unsafe with inspectors in their home and will discuss this with MHCLG and the regulator.
  • Offices: Staff may only leave their home for work if they cannot reasonably work from home.
  • Critical workers:  Unlike the previous lockdown, schools are now closed. Critical workers can access schools or educational settings – although the current guidance does not explicitly reference housing association staff, our interpretation is that some roles housing associations provide fall under a number of the categories listed in the guidance, as was the case in the first lockdown in March. We are urging the government to clarify this position.
  • Providing services for residents: The government has now updated its landlord and tenant guidance. Landlords can take steps to carry out repairs, maintenance and safety work, including routine and essential inspections and repairs, as well as any planned internal works to the property under the current national lockdown. Any work must be undertaken in line with public health advice and the relevant coronavirus legislation. 

Evictions ban

The government has confirmed an extension to the ban on balliff evictions for another six weeks until 31 March 2021 - with measures kept under review in line with latest public health advice. The guidance on possession proceedings has been updated to reflect the current position and provides a useful overview of the whole process of evictions. Exemptions remain in place for the most serious circumstances that cause the greatest strain on landlords as well as other residents and neighbours, such as illegal occupations, anti-social behaviours and arrears of six months' rent or more.

The government has also expanded its guidance on possession proceedings for social landlords. Landlords are required to give six-month notice periods to tenants before starting possession proceedings except in the most serious circumstances, meaning that most renters now served notice can stay in their homes until at least August 2021, with time to find alternative support or accommodation.

Specific points for supported housing

  • Shielding: People who are clinically vulnerable to coronavirus are being asked to shield once more. Further information is available in the government’s shielding guidelines, which were updated on 7 January to include information about priority for vaccination and accessing care and support. We are reporting the implications of staff shielding to MHCLG.
  • Visitors: As in tier 4, visits to care homes can only take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed. Residents cannot meet people indoors on a visit out (for example, to visit their relatives in the family home). There is separate guidance for those in supported living.
  • Restaurants in extra care schemes: as in Tiers 3 and 4, restaurants are able to remain open where ‘it is reasonably necessary to do so for the purpose of safeguarding the mental or physical health’ of residents. These rules are set out in the regulations on service closures in Tiers 3 and 4.
  • Homelessness: MHCLG have now announced that local authorities will be instructed again to accommodate rough sleepers and help them register with a GP so they may be contacted about vaccination.

Vaccines and testing

We are continuing our work to ensure that the government’s testing and vaccination programme prioritises all forms of supported housing, for both residents and staff, and to clarify how these will be delivered in practice.

Our next steps

We will continue meeting with government officials to discuss the national lockdown and its impact on our sector. As further information becomes available, we will update our website to share new information and government guidance. This will include any changes to the landlord and tenant guidance.