Renter’s fears over virus self-isolation in ‘unsafe’ shared accommodation
PUBLISHED: 10:57 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:58 25 March 2020
A teenager living in a shared house has shared his fears over renters’ inability to effectively self-isolate from coronavirus in ‘unsafe’ accommodation.
Callum Brown, who lives in Upwell, said he is having to self-isolate as he is at a higher risk of developing a severe case of the virus due to a previous injury.
And the 18-year-old chef said he is forced to only leave his bedroom late at night to avoid contact with his flatmate - and has been wearing his motorcycle gloves to enter the building.
He said: “I share a flat with someone at the moment and we have to be so careful because we share a bathroom and kitchen so I have to keep at a distance.
“I have been self-isolating for the past week and I’m pretty much staying in my room. I go down to the kitchen and bathroom as late as possible.
“He can work from home but goes out to the shops - I don’t know if he’s carrying it or not.”
Mr Brown has backed calls for a new “duty of care” for the landlords of homes of multiple occupancies (HMOs), and said cleaning supplies should be provided to tenants.
“Landlords should be looking at their properties and checking on tenants.
“If I was in the place I was in a couple of months ago I’d be so unsafe,” he said.
“They should be providing cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment for places like this.
“It’s a block of flats. If I went out I have to walk through the main door and out of the flats.
“I don’t know when the walls and door handles were last cleaned?
“I wear my motorbike gloves to walk in and out.”
It comes as the Local Government Association (LGA) has urged the government to support councils in their work as the “fourth emergency service”.
A briefing on the government’s Emergency Coronavirus Bill, which is making its way through Parliament in the coming days, called for:
• A new duty of care for HMO landlords to ensure tenants can self-isolate,
• Powers to levy a significant fine to landlords who are non-compliant,
• And giving local councils the power to revoke HMO licences for breaching duties.
Details are yet to be finalised but it’s understood that calls for a duty of care could include:
• Requirements to provide tenants with information from Public Health England,
•Allowing necessary decontamination and cleaning to take place,
• And suspending all non-essential repairs and viewings where someone is self-isolating or shielding from the coronavirus outbreak.
Ian Hudspeth, from the LGA, said: “Local authorities are acting as a fourth emergency service and prioritising the most vulnerable. This is essential work in the nation’s interest.”
Mr Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, added: “Councils are stepping up to play their role in supporting the national effort to tackle the coronavirus.
“Acting as a fourth emergency service, local government is prioritising the most vulnerable to ensure they have the support they need.
“This is essential work in the nation’s interests. Councils will step-up, but this emergency will stretch them and their teams to the maximum as it will all public services.
“Additional powers should be added to the legislation to further support councils in their efforts to tackle this emergency.”
But a spokeswoman from the Eastern Landlords Association (ELA) said: “Suspension of non-essential repairs and viewings are sensible and responsible guidelines under the current unprecedented circumstances.
“The ELA will send out all emergency government directives to our members to keep themselves and their tenants safe.”
And she added: “Anecdotally, many students are leaving HMOs to return home, and many will not return, especially from overseas.
“The ELA would also like to see more help offered for landlords. Expenses on maintaining property go far beyond paying a mortgage.
“Many of our members have already been approached by tenants for rent holidays but many depend on the rental income for many reasons and not all have a mortgage, therefore, a mortgage holiday is of little assistance.
“Scrapping the five-week wait for Universal Credit would also ease the situation.”
• Are you self-isolating in shared accommodation due to the coronavirus outbreak? Email reporter Jessica.Frank-Keyes@archant.co.uk