Can my landlord force me to let in potential buyers during lockdown?

Q My landlord has put my flat up for sale and he says that once the sale has gone through, I’ll have a month to move out. The new Covid lockdown allows estate agents to carry on viewings but how can that be safe as we have all been instructed to stay indoors? Where am I supposed to go during viewings? Why is this being allowed? What are my rights?

A You don’t have to go anywhere during viewings as you don’t have to let anyone into your home if you don’t want to and that includes estate agents, prospective buyers and even your landlord. And assuming that you have a fixed-term assured shorthold tenancy (which almost all private renters do), you have a right to remain in the property until the end of the fixed term even if the house is sold before that date. According to – the largest tenant support community in the UK – the person who buys the property has to accept you as a sitting tenant at least until the fixed term is over.

Under the provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020, since 29 August 2020 (and until 31 March 2021) landlords who want a tenant to move out (provided the reason is not rent arrears or anti-social behaviour among other misdemeanours) must give six months’ notice of their intention to repossess the property to their tenant. (For landlord notices issued between 26 March and 28 August 2020, the minimum notice period was three months.) Once the six months is up, the landlord who issued the notice can go to court to get an eviction order. If your landlord tries to get you to leave without following the correct procedure, I suggest you take advice on your rights from your council’s tenancy relations officer or from Citizens Advice.

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Back to the safety (or otherwise) of viewings. As I said earlier, you don’t have to agree to viewings if you don’t want to and you could be doing the estate agent a favour in helping him or her follow government safety guidance.

This says: “Agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically inspect properties which they have a strong interest in.” Tenants and/or sellers are encouraged to vacate the property while viewings take place, to open all internal doors beforehand and “ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing” – as well as the usual face masks, handwashing and physical distancing. As to where you are supposed to go during viewings (assuming you agree to them taking place), you could take a walk in the park as part of your permitted exercise regime.

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