EMBRACING THE WORKING FROM HOME REVOLUTION
Published 9 June 2023
A new report shows that workers in the UK spend less time in the office than in any other developed nation – and that working from home revolution is having a lasting effect on how rental properties are used by tenants, writes Catherine Hunt.
A new survey published last week showed that just a third of UK workers spend at least four days in the office, less than workers in any of the other 16 countries included in the study.
This trend, accelerated hugely by the Covid pandemic, means that landlords are needing to rethink their attitudes towards their residential properties also being workplaces. Blanket bans on working from home no longer cut it; landlords are having to accept that the world has changed, and adapt accordingly.
This is not a trivial issue. Traditional landlord insurance policies, not to mention legacy planning law, did not foresee the huge rise in tenants spending their days at the kitchen table with their laptop.
The new report highlights how important it is that tenancy agreements are explicit about what type of home-working is permitted, and what is not. Few would argue with an employed tenant spending the occasional day at home writing a report, whilst it would be entirely reasonable to prohibit home working which, for example, resulted in a constant flow of clients or deliveries at what is still a residential property.
Almost all tenancy agreements will prohibit a business being registered at, or trading from, a rented residential property. Some properties – especially in apartment blocks – may have covenants which prohibit sign-written commercial vehicles from being parked in residents’ spaces. Certainly tenants should not undertake any type of work at home which will cause nuisance or disturbance to neighbours, or potential damage to the property itself.
However, landlords need to be pragmatic, because the working from home revolution is here to stay. That means that tenants are much more likely to be seeking properties which have the space for them to sit with a laptop, and for their home to have a quality Wi-Fi connection which will enable the inevitable Zoom and Teams meetings to take place smoothly.
Another thing to think about is that tenants working from home are likely to need to heat their homes during the day, and will therefore be more attracted to properties which are energy-efficient. There is already a focus on EPCs due to forthcoming legislation, but the need to have somewhere warm to sit and work during the winter will throw a renewed focus on the subject, even before the stricter regulations come into force.
It is no good landlords burying their heads in the sand and hoping that the working from home trend will fizzle out; it is here to stay. Adapting tenancy agreements, ensuring their homes offer tenants the space to bring their office home, and adopting a pragmatic approach, are vital.
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