Housing - coronavirus updates

Last updated: 1 June 2021

Bailiff-enforced evictions

The current pause on bailiff-enforced evictions, introduced as an emergency measure during lockdown, ended on 31 May 2021. From 1 June 2021, bailiffs need to provide at least two weeks’ notice of an eviction, which means bailiff-enforced evictions in non-serious cases will resume from 14 June 2021. Bailiffs have been asked not to carry out an eviction if anyone living in the property has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating. If you are threatened with eviction during this period, you should seek help. Please see our homelessness advice page.

Changes to Notice Periods for Tenants

Due to COVID-19, the Government had previously extended the length of notice period landlords had to give tenants to leave a property to 6 months. From 1 June 2021, notice periods that were 6 months will reduce to at least 4 months. Notice periods for the most serious cases for example, if your landlord’s claim relates to domestic violence, serious anti-social behaviour or very large rent arrears that present the most strain on landlords, the period will remain lower. For more information about this change please see GOV.UK. If you are served notice then you should seek help, please see our homelessness advice page.

Support to help pay your rent

It is important that you continue paying rent to your landlord as normal if you are able to do so. If you are facing difficulties paying your rent, you should talk to your landlord or letting agent as soon as possible as they may be able to help you by establishing an affordable repayment plan. There is information about financial support available and there is also more information about help with housing payments and council tax, and how to seek discretionary help.

New Court Mediation Process

As part of a housing possession case, cases will be listed by the court for review. This is before any substantive court hearing.

When tenants attend their review appointment, they will have access to free legal advice from the Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme (HPCDS).

If the duty solicitor believes that the case would benefit from mediation, they will recommend this to the tenant and landlord. If both parties agree, the case will be referred to the Society of Mediators. A mediator will then in get touch to arrange a suitable time for the mediation to take place.

If an agreement is reached during mediation, the case will not require a substantive hearing and the outcome will be confirmed to the court. If an agreement is not reached, then the substantive hearing will take place as planned.

The service is available to tenants and landlords in both the private and social rented sectors across courts in England and Wales.

Repairs

Changes to our service during national lockdown

The main change to our service at the moment is for properties that are currently occupied by a tenant. For these properties, even if no one is home during the appointment, we can only perform urgent and emergency repairs.

Apart from this change, most of our repairs and maintenance work is continuing during the current lockdown restrictions. In terms of housing repairs, work in communal areas of our properties can still take place, as well as work in unoccupied properties, except where we are unable to maintain safe, two metre social distancing. Please see the section below for how we are doing this safely and how you can help.

We know that each case is different so we suggest you report your housing repairs to us as normal. We can then let you know if we are unable to carry out the repair at the moment and make sure it is queued for the future instead. Once Government restrictions have changed and we can carry out the repair, we will contact you with an appointment date.

To request repairs, please report a repair online or if it's an emergency repair please phone us on 023 8083 3006.

If you have coronavirus symptoms and/or tested positive for coronavirus

If you have coronavirus symptoms and/or tested positive for coronavirus, we will only carry out emergency repairs. We can only do this if everyone in your household stays in another room while your repair is being carried out. Any other repairs that we are able to carry out during lockdown (see current restrictions above) will be scheduled for two weeks later.

If someone living in the property is clinically extremely vulnerable

For properties where one or more tenants are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, we are only doing emergency repairs. In these cases, the person doing the repair will wear a protective face mask as an extra precaution and will keep their visit as short as possible.

Staying safe when we visit your home to carry out repairs

There are actions both you and our staff can take to keep yourselves and each other safe when repairs are taking place in your home.

What you need to do

Please follow these safety measures when our repairs staff visit your home:

  • You should stay at least two metres (approximately three steps) away from the tradesperson. They will not be able to proceed with your repair if you are unable to maintain a two metre distance from them. If this is the case, your repair will be rescheduled until you are able to support this requirement.
  • You may be asked to stay in another room
  • Leave doors and windows open while the work is completed

This will ensure social distancing can be maintained, contact with door handles is minimised and there’s good ventilation in the property.

Our staff are working hard to get to everyone as quickly as possible, but some delays may be unavoidable. We appreciate your patience and kindly ask that you treat our staff respectfully while they are in your home.

What we will do

Everyone working in our repairs and maintenance service is also following safety measures to keep both you and them safe. They are following strict ways of working safely that include:

  • Social distancing of two metres. This means repairs staff will not need to wear a face covering while they undertake your repairs. Please can you support this requirement.
  • Wearing protective gloves
  • Wiping down surfaces they have touched

Property maintenance and improvements

Works are now back to normal. Tenants with works due are being contacted.

Community rooms in housing complexes

COVID-19 restrictions in Southampton mean that community rooms in housing complexes will be temporarily closed.

Staying up to date

We will continue to provide updates on the support we’re offering and how our services are being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Please keep checking this webpage and our social media channels for the latest information.

Tenants can also sign up to receive our weekly coronavirus bulletin and monthly Tenants’ Link newsletter.

If you have any comments or concerns please contact your Local Housing Office.

New court rules for possession

On 24 August 2020, after a five-month ban on evictions, courts planned to reopen. The ban was introduced by the Government to protect renters during the COVID-19 crisis. We will update this information soon.

If tenants are concerned they are going to be evicted then they need to contact Housing.Advice@Southampton.gov.uk for advice and assistance.

Landlords seeking possession of rented accommodation will need to be aware of strict new Civil Procedure Rules the Government has brought in. The main changes are that landlords will need to confirm whether they wish to make a claim or continue with an existing claim for possession. This can only be achieved by completing and issuing a ‘reactivation’ notice that must be sent to the court and to the tenant.

Landlords will be required to set out their claim to include any relevant information about their tenant’s circumstances and must include information on the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their tenant.

Landlords are advised to check Government websites or seek their own independent legal advice.

Fire safety improvement works

A range of fire safety improvements, including fitting sprinkler systems and installing new fire doors, have been completed in the majority of our high-rise residential blocks.

Although work was paused during lockdown, we’ve recently restarted the programme (excluding blocks in Thornhill for the time being).

Please email us if you have any immediate concerns or would like more information.

Homebid

Our choice-based lettings service, Homebid, is operating as normal.

However, to maintain social distancing, additional safety measures are in place during viewings and tenancy sign-ups.

If you have a query about your application please email Housing Allocations quoting your name, address and application number.

For homelessness advice, please email our team.

In an emergency only, please call our out-of-hours line on 023 8023 3344.

Mutual exchanges

Due the national lockdown, mutual exchanges have been suspended.

Support for vulnerable tenants

We are staying in close contact with tenants across the city who have an identified support need.

As the Government advice for over 70s and people with an underlying health condition is to self-isolate, we will be carrying out this support by phone wherever possible.

If you do require a home visit, we will be in touch with details as soon as possible. Please offer to help any elderly or vulnerable neighbour you are concerned about – perhaps by picking up some shopping or just checking they are okay. And, as per the Government guidelines, remember to keep a distance of two metres from other people at all times.

If you're a telecare user, the service will continue as normal and you should press/pull your alarm for advice and assistance in an emergency. Please only use this facility if you are unable to receive help from other sources, such as family members.

Junior Neighbourhood Wardens

Regrettably, all upcoming activities have been cancelled.

Junior Neighbourhood Wardens and their families will be contacted directly with details of future arrangements.

HMO Licensing

HMO inspections are now being undertaken where safe to do so. Applications can still be made using the online form but it may take longer than usual to process the application.

All submitted surveyor route applications are being processed and licences will be issued as soon as possible. If you wish to discuss your application or have any questions about HMO licensing please contact HMO@southampton.gov.uk

Renting guidance for tenants and landlords

Due to the current COVID-19 situation the Government has published renting guidance for tenants and landlords.

Complaints about privately rented properties

Complaints can still be logged using the online form, however we would urge you to try and resolve this directly with your landlord in the first instance. Home visits are being undertaken where a significant issue is identified and it is safe to do so.