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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Department advice to home movers and social tenants

The Department for Communities has issued a number of pieces of guidance relating to housing and the housing market during the COVID-19 crisis. These include

Home moving guidance

The advice focusses on maintaining health and safety following the Executive’s lifting of restrictions on home moving. While it is split into three main sections covering advice to the public, industry and social landlords, these points are underlined throughout:

  • Carry out as much of the process online as possible.
  • Maintain social distancing and, if possible, vacate your home while others are shown around.
  • Avoid touching surfaces when interacting with/or entering people’s homes.
  • Ensure proper cleaning before the visit of a non-resident.

The guidance includes detailed advice on how to safely conduct property viewings while the virus is still a concern, and makes it clear that the expectation of private landlords and tenants is that viewings will only happen in occupied dwellings where the existing tenant has issued notice to quit and is preparing to vacate the property. 

Guidance for social housing tenants and landlords

This guidance closely follows the layout of the guidance to private tenants and landlords, published in April 2020. It reiterates that no tenant should lose their home as a result of rent arrears accrued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and signposts tenants to sources of support to deal with affordability problems. 

The guidance includes a section setting out arrangements for allocations of properties during the crisis. This guidance was issued after restrictions on house moves were lifted and encourages people in receipt of an offer to contact the landlord urgently if they are likely to have difficulties taking up this offer within a reasonable timeframe. A landlord advice services note issued by NIHE to all social housing providers who participate in the common selection scheme had advised landlords to work with tenants to delay move-in dates if it is reasonable to do so, or if the property requires significant change of tenancy repairs which cannot yet be safely facilitated. However, offer letters now include a new condition which allows the landlord to rescind an offer of accommodation if the accommodation is ready to occupy and the applicant is asking for the offer to be held for an unreasonabe length of time. This is to balance the difficulties that individuals may have in moving at this time, with the ongoing pressure on waiting lists and limited supply of social housing. An offer should only be rescinded after advice from the landlord's policy or legal team and applicants who believe that an offer has unfairly been withdrawn should seek advice. 

Information on COVID-19 and housing in Northern Ireland

Housing Rights has published a free Professional Resource on COVID-19 and housing. This publication details the main housing issues which have arisen as a result of this crisis and advice to deal with such issues. It is available free of charge as a PDF download. 

Tagged In

Coronavirus, Social Tenancies

This article was written on 26 June 2020. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.