Almost a million landlords could be forced to pay compensation to tenants if they are unable to fix problems in their properties during lockdown.
Payments could easily add up to thousands of pounds and will come on top of legal fees and the cost of having to carry out emergency repairs.
This is due to the fact that landlords are now under stricter legal requirements than ever to ensure their homes are safe and healthy, as the Homes Act came into force in March.
It lays out clear requirements for landlords on how they should make their homes fit for habitation and gives tenants the power to take legal action against them if they fail to do so.
But property owners are struggling to find contractors to do the work, as many electricians and plumbers are unwilling to travel while the country is in lockdown. While courts may take this into consideration when awarding compensation, lawyers have warned that prosecutions will still take place.
Around three million people, including children, are currently self-isolating in homes considered to pose a serious risk to their health, according to charity Shelter. The vast majority of these properties are owned by private landlords.
Owners of properties considered by the court to be unfit for habitation may have to pay compensation to their tenant and/or pay for the necessary improvements. Mark Montaldo of law firm CEL Solicitors said that compensation was often 25pc of the rent charged while the property was in an unhealthy state, however in the most extreme cases buy-to-let owners could be forced to pay tenants £10,000 or more – plus the cost of repairs.
Yet they are likely to struggle to get problems fixed during the lockdown. A survey by the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA), a trade body, showed that 38pc of landlords are struggling to source maintenance contractors at the moment and just over a third are having difficulties undertaking work in their properties because either they or their tenants are self-isolating.