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Published On: April 5, 2020 | Blog | 0 comments

Does the COVID-19 shutdown mean that I cannot get repairs done?

No.  To sum up government advice:

Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live – it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are kept in good repair and free from hazards.

This article is dealt with by answering the following questions:

Is the Government OK with building work continuing and repairs getting done to my home?

Can tradespeople or surveyors leave home and travel to work?

Can tradespeople and surveyors work in other people’s homes?

Can tradespeople work with others?

Can I work in a public place with others?

Can I buy materials, hire of plant and access stored goods?

Can I fix a problem myself?

What practical problems are there in getting repairs or building work done?

Are landlords or developers justified in refusing repair work?

What can I do to get repairs done?  Will the court order urgent repairs?


Is the Government OK with building work continuing and repairs getting done to my home?

Yes.  On 31 March 2020, the  Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy wrote to the UK Construction sector saying

 In these challenging times, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working tirelessly within the construction industry.   …constructing the infrastructure that society needs to function or ensuring that people have safe and healthy homes to live in, you are delivering for our Nation through this difficult time.   My heartfelt and personal thanks for everything that each and every one of you is doing to support our joint national effort.

I don’t think it can be clearer than that.  A copy of the letter is here.

Can tradespeople or surveyors leave home and travel to work?

The law specifically says that people who need to travel for work and where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work from home, can go to work.  That obviously covers trades people and surveyors whose work has to be done at site – i.e. not at your home.

Some might argue that the work has be urgent or essential for there to be a “need” to travel for work.  That is NOT supported by the legislation or formal government guidance.

The legislation only requires certain businesses, generally which lead to gatherings of people (i.e. leisure centres, restaurants, non-food shops etc) from closing.  Indeed the legislation specifically allows homeware, building supplies and hardware stores to be open.  The government guidance states:

With the exception of the organisations covered above in the section on closing certain businesses and venues, the government has not required any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.

There is therefore no need for the work to be “essential” to be allowed out to work.  There are only 3 restriction on travel for work reasons – (1) that it is not reasonably possible to work from home, (2) that you are not showing coronavirus symptoms and (3) neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating.

Can tradespeople and surveyors work in other people’s homes?

Working in someone’s home is not covered by the restrictions on public gatherings.  These only apply to “public places” which will not include someone’s home.

Government guidance states:

Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.

This covers all work.  Not just essential or emergency work.   Crucially it is important “to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.”.  The guidance is here (updated 29/3/2020) and here (Updated 27 March 2020)

This can be addressed by for example working in a room alone, keeping apart etc.

If the householder has the virus or is isolating (due to someone in the household having had the virus) then:

No work should be carried out…unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so.

In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

Of course, no work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

The government has endorsed the Construction Leadership Council Site Operating Procedures which are available here

Can tradespeople work with others?

As set out in answers to questions above it is quite clear that trades people can work with others, but subject to maintaining the 2-meter distance rule.   This rule is not enshrined in law but it is clear health and safety guidance and so should not be breached.

The Site Operating Procedures says:

Avoiding Close Working

There will be situations where it is not possible or safe for workers to distance themselves from each other by 2 metres.

General Principles

  1. Non-essential physical work that requires close contact between workers should not be carried out
  2. Work requiring skin to skin contact should not be carried out
  3. Plan all other work to minimise contact between workers

The 2-meter rule will frequently be met by managing the project, site, workflow and reducing the personnel on site.  The 2-meter rule can be managed on site by working in separate rooms or keeping distance in the same rooms.

Certain task require multiple works.  Carrying heavy objects, fixing certain items into position etc.  If the 2-meter distance can be maintained this will be acceptable – but if not then the work cannot be done – unless essential work which cannot be safely delayed due to a risk to safety.

Can I work in a public place with others?

The regulations prevent a gathering of more than 2 people in a public place, except where it is essential for work purposes.  Note that the gathering has to be essential for doing work – not that the work is essential.   This is subject to the 2-meter rule guidance.

It will be acceptable for someone to look after a lorry and someone to come and collect materials from it.  Or someone to operate a crane to unload a lorry and 2 people to manage the load subject to maintaining the 2-meter distance.  But not to just have a chat!

Can I buy materials, hire of plant and access stored goods?

Regulation 5 provides that a business not listed in Part 3 of Schedule 2, must stop offering goods for sale or for hire in a shop to in person customers.  Listed at paragraph 28 are homeware, building supplies and hardware stores.  This will cover both plant hire centres and builders merchants.  Also listed at paragraph 40 are storage and distribution facilities – so lockup stores can be accessible.

Can I fix a problem myself?

The regulations specifically allow an individual to leave home for supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household.   Clearly this includes fixing a problem necessary for the home –  e.g. fixing a leak etc.  It won’t cover going out to buy materials for home improvements.

What practical problems are there in getting repairs or building work done?

This article is focused on the legal restrictions and what can and cannot be done lawfully.

Practically getting tradespeople to do a job might be easier because some large construction projects have been shut down.  National builders merchant Travis Perkins is shut but others remain working – focused on delivery.  Of course some tradespeople and surveyors may not want to work due to the outbreak or have to shield themselves.

Regardless of whether the work can be done it’s unlikely you will get repairs done by your developer if you brought a new home.  Or your housing association or council if you rent.

Taylor Wimpey and Barratt’s have closed their sites and Persimmon said it would stop all but essential work.   Bovis has generally stopped work. Cairn Construction is still building, which built 2,200 homes last year, was among those to say it would keep its sites open.  Most Housing Associations and Councils are only doing essential emergency repairs to their housing stock.

Given that the government is currently OK with building work, and it’s clearly legal and lawful to do repairs, there seems to be no reason for a blanket ban on repairs.

Are landlords or developers justified in refusing repair work?

The government has issued Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for Landlords and Tenants

Residents are advised “In these unprecedented times we encourage tenants and landlords to take a pragmatic, common-sense approach to non-urgent issues which are affected by COVID-19 related restrictions.”.

Landlords (and by implication developers who owe similar obligations in respect of newly built homes) are told:

Where reasonable and safe for you, and in line with other Government guidance, you should make every effort to review and address issues brought to your attention by your tenants and keep records of your efforts.

The Regulator of Social Housing states the impact of the outbreak may mean there are repairs backlogs.  But it expects to be notified if “a material backlog of outstanding repairs and safety checks is building up”.  Clearly it does not support any blanket refusals to do work but is taking a practical view in relation to managing resources to actually do the work and health and safety risks to employees.  A copy of the letter is here (26 March 2020))

What can I do to get repairs done?  Will the court order urgent repairs?

The courts remain open for business.  Emergency business will be prioritised by the court.  Judges are likely to make urgent orders to make landlords and developers to undertake safe and health and safety type repairs – e.g. fix boilers and leaks etc.


Based on government guidelines to date, there is no reason why the construction industry cannot still be working.  Landlords and developers should be doing repairs.  Of course a pragmatic and reasonable approach is needed by all but that doesn’t justify no work.

Anthony Gold remain open for business.  We can advise you regarding repairs and remedial work required by your landlords or developer.

*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*

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