COVID-19: Your questions answered

You have lots of questions right now. We understand. The situation we’re facing in the UK is like no other, but at times like these it’s important to come together to help each other through what’s ahead.

With that in mind, we’ve created this page to keep you updated about everything we and the government are doing to help home movers through the next few weeks. Bear in mind that the information we’re getting is constantly changing, so keep checking back to find out the latest developments.

Currently all of our branches are still accessible via phone or email and so if you have a question that’s not answered here, or if you’re just after some reassurance, get in touch at any time between 9am-6pm. You can find your local branch details here.

If you can’t find the answer to your question, please get in touch with a member of our team.
Contact our Team

Advice for buyers and sellers

I presently have my house on the market following the end of the crisis, am I likely to get less for it?

Buyer activity during lockdown was surprisingly high online. Now the government restrictions have been lifted, allowing socially distanced physical viewings, we are expecting the pent up demand to start to filter through and a steady return to normality. We would therefore be very positive about selling your home for a similar price but always talk to your local branch manager to discuss any specific concerns you may have.

I hear prices are set to fall after the Coronavirus crisis. Should I withdraw and buy later?

Prior to the Corona Virus outbreak, the market was exceedingly busy, spurred on by the certainty provided by the Brexit vote and the general election. During lockdown, online activity remained reassuringly buoyant and now the government restrictions have been eased, allowing socially distanced viewings to take place, we are sure the market will regain it’s momentum very quickly. Combine this with record low interest rates and everything the government is doing to safeguard employment, we believe the housing market will rebound again with prices at the very least holding. We would suggesting that having found a home you are happy with, you keep this sale going.

My employment is uncertain due to being furloughed, so making big financial purchases is very risky. Should I withdraw and come back once things have settled down?

This is a very understandable concern. However, lots of people have been furloughed and will resume working with their companies when the restrictions are lifted. Our advice would be to continue with your purchase and/or sale, and to see how quickly you can get back to work. You have found a property that you really like, and in the euphoria that we believe will follow once restrictions are lifted, the market is likely to regain its momentum very quickly. If you withdraw too soon, it may take some time to find another home that you are happy with.

Are viewings still going ahead?

Yes they are. We would recommend you virtually view properties you are interested in via a virtual reality tour or a video walk round where available. These will give you a good feel for the property before committing to what might be limited slots available for physical viewings of particular properties. That said, all our staff are trained and have access to personal protective equipment to carry out contactless viewings by appointment so please contact your branch to make a booking.

Advice to Landlords

Will I still be protected by my rent protection product if my tenant doesn't pay you?

You will need to check with the provider of the cover as many products have been removed or revised since the start of the crisis. Our product will still cover you, but there have been some changes to the timing of payments and limitation to the maximum amount covered.

What can I do if my Tenant doesn't pay and I can't meet my mortgage payments as a result?

You can speak to your mortgage lender and request a mortgage holiday if needed. This may be more beneficial to helping your tenants through a difficult time as you could use the mortgage free period to give your tenants a payment plan to allow them to pay less rent for a short time, and then make up the difference for a few months after when things are getting back to normal.

Will tenancy renewals be actioned in the same way?

Yes, nothing changes here – perhaps now more than ever people are keen to have long term stability, so renewing tenancies is still a core part of our business.

I have previously served notice on my tenant but now I understand they are self-isolating?

It would be unreasonable to expect your tenant to vacate if they have stated they are self-isolating. We also believe the courts would not look favourably on any action to evict a tenant who is self-isolating. Our advice would be to work closely with the tenant through this difficult time to work out an agreement that suits both parties.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 26th March concerning the law relating to landlords serving notice. The notice periods for tenants serving notice remains unchanged. Until 20th September 2020, although this may extend, the notice period a landlord must give a tenant has increased to three (3) months; replacing the previous requirement of two (2) weeks and two (2) months respectively.

Courts are also currently not accepting claims for possession to give tenants more stability during the crisis. The initial 90 day period has now been extended by a further 2 months up to the 23rd August 2020.

What if my tenants can't pay their rent? Can I still serve notice to end tenancy?

It would be unreasonable to expect your tenant to vacate if they have stated they are self-isolating. We also believe the courts would not look favourably on any action to evict a tenant who is self-isolating. Our advice would be to work closely with the tenant through this difficult time to work out an agreement that suits both parties.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 26th March concerning the law relating to landlords serving notice. The notice periods for tenants serving notice remains unchanged. Until 20th September 2020, although this may extend, the notice period a landlord must give a tenant has increased to three (3) months; replacing the previous requirement of two (2) weeks and two (2) months respectively.

Courts are also currently not accepting claims for possession to give tenants more stability during the crisis. The initial 90 day period has now been extended by a further 2 months up to the 23rd August 2020.

  • Rent Protection – if you already have this in place then you should have any unpaid rent covered (depending on the policy wording).
  • Mortgage Payment Holiday – if you have a mortgage you may be able to ask the lender for a payment holiday if your tenants can’t pay. This won’t be open ended but may buy you and your tenants some breathing space until the crisis is over.
  • Offer A Rent Payment Holiday – if you don’t have a mortgage you can still offer the tenants some flexibility if they are in difficulty, providing your finances allow you to do so.

Can repair or maintenance work still take place?

Government guidelines have now been updated to allow maintenance work again – but any visits to an occupied property will need to be undertaken with the full agreement of the occupiers. When in the property social distancing measures must be observed, keeping 2 meters distance between the contractor and the occupier. If this is not possible appropriate PPE must be worn. It will not be possible to carry out maintenance work in a property where the occupiers are self-isolating or have coronavirus symptoms.

What happens if repair, maintenance work or a compliance certificate is needed and the tenants won’t allow access for the contractor?

The law remains the same, which means landlords are required to take the same steps to keep their properties safe and legally compliant. If access is refused you should keep a record of each time the tenants refuse access. You would be required to show evidence of this later if you were challenged about non-compliance and you should make more than one attempt. If you are in a situation where you can’t find a contractor to carry out work this should again be documented and you should contact as many contractors locally as possible. Work should be booked in for as soon as possible when restrictions have been lifted.

Will your property visits still take place over the next few months?

Government guidelines have now been updated to allow property visits again - but any visits to an occupied property will need to be undertaken with the full agreement of the occupiers. When in the property social distancing measures must be observed, keeping 2 meters distance between the property inspector and the occupier. If this is not possible appropriate PPE must be worn. It will not be possible to carry out property visits in a property where the occupiers are self-isolating or have coronavirus symptoms.

Advice to Tenants

Can I use the money from the tenancy deposit scheme to pay my rent?

No – your tenancy agreement will not allow this while the tenancy is running. The tenancy deposit is held primarily to protect the landlord against damage being caused to the property. That said, once the tenancy is over, providing there is no damage or other permitted deductions made from the deposit it could be used then against any remaining rent arrears.

Will you serve me with a section 21 if I can’t pay and if so how quickly will this happen?

This very much depends on the Landlord and their circumstances but we are finding that advising us of a problem at the earliest opportunity gives the best chance of a good outcome in terms of payment plans etc. Most Landlords don’t want to lose otherwise good tenants and serving notice is often the last resort and not the first thought. However it is an option. The landlord could serve either a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice depending on the situation, but in both cases they would need to give you a minimum of 3 months notice before an application could be made to court for a possession hearing.

Do you have an insurance policy in place if I miss a payment?

In some cases a Landlord may have cover in place to protect themselves, perhaps with an excess to pay. However, that doesn’t mean its ok to not pay as the insurance company will suffer the loss instead of the Landlord. Always talk to your Letting Agent, it’s in everyone’s interest to work together to get through this.

Do I still need to pay my rent?

The simple answer is yes. If you think you will struggle to pay your rent speak to your agent (our branch details can be found here ) or landlord as soon as possible. Your landlord may be able to arrange a Mortgage Payment Deferral - if so they may be ok with you not paying the full rent for a short time. Remember, a ‘payment deferral’ is not open ended and the rent will still need to be paid back in full for the time you have not made the payments. This means you will need to pay more each month to catch up again, speak to you landlord or agent to agree a payment plan that will work for everyone.

Are rent payment holidays being introduced by legislation?

Despite reports in the media suggesting this would be the case the Coronavirus 2020 Act did not introduce these measures. The government have introduced measures to protect tenants while the crisis lasts to stop evictions and to safeguard incomes, which should enable most tenants to keep paying their rent. That doesn’t mean your landlord can’t work with you (depending on their own circumstances) if you are in difficulty. If you are struggling to pay your rent the best thing to do is to speak to your agent or landlord asap to see what options you may have.

Are evictions being stopped?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 came into force on 26th March concerning the law relating to landlords serving notice. The notice periods for tenants serving notice remains unchanged. Until 20th September 2020, although this may extend, the notice period a landlord must give a tenant has increased to three (3) months; replacing the previous requirement of two (2) weeks and two (2) months respectively.

Courts are also currently not accepting claims for possession to give tenants more stability during the crisis. This was initially for a 90 day period and has now been extended by a further 2 months up to the 23rd August 2020. This doesn’t mean you can’t be evicted, just that proceedings can’t start until towards the end of August at the earliest depending on when notice is served on you.

What if I can’t move out of my property?

If you can’t move out of your property you will need to let your agent or landlord know ASAP. If you know when you will be able to move out, then everyone can work towards the new date. You will need to pay rent while you continue to stay in the property. If you don’t want to move at all, then speak to your agent or landlord as they may be able to arrange a new fixed term tenancy for you. This will give you much more security in these uncertain times.

Will repair or maintenance work still take place at my home during lockdown or if I'm self-isolating

If you are self-isolating or anyone in your household has coronavirus symptoms it won’t be possible for a contractor to enter your property. However, if this is not the case it should be possible for a contractor to visit to carry out work. They will need to ensure that it is safe for them to enter the property and when in the property it is important for everyone to observe social distancing by keeping 2 meters apart at all times. If possible, you should go outside while the contractor is in the property, or into another room.

I am due to move house in the next few weeks, will that still go ahead?

The safety of our customers and legal compliance are our number one priority". To enable a tenancy to start we are reliant on several third parties to be operational, from our referencing and inventory companies to electricians and gas engineers. Therefore, there may be circumstances that could mean a delay or, unfortunately, an un-proceedable situation. Our teams are doing everything in their power to ensure we can help you. You will need to ensure also that you are in a position to move and have made suitable arrangements to move your belongings while maintaining social distancing and adhering to other government guidance.

Financial advice

How does a Mortgage Payment Holiday work?

A Mortgage Holiday can still be arranged with your existing lender if you find yourself experiencing hardship due to a change in circumstances caused by the current crisis. This could be reduced pay experienced by the employed or self-employed or even furloughing.

If you take a holiday, then you will need to make up the payments, usually at the end of the mortgage and you will incur additional interest. It is not for free.

It will not affect your credit rating as long as you were up to date with payments when you entered the arrangement.

There is currently discussion about extending payment holidays for up to 12 months for those that require this level of additional support. More information to follow.

Our experts can help you with your specific lender or situation.

Can I still Protect My Income even now?

Yes, you can. An Income Protection Policy can provide a monthly income up to the amount that you would have earnt in your employment (minus the tax) if you were unable to work because of ill health.

This would include the Coronavirus or complications caused by it, as long as you were not displaying symptoms at application (However, if you have recently been exposed to someone in a high-risk environment or work in a high risk environment yourself you may need to answer some additional questions). If you needed to claim, after a deferred period (minimum 4 weeks) your policy would spring into life. In the current climate even if you were having to self-isolate because of a family member being ill, the deferred period would begin irrelevant of whether you were currently showing any symptoms. As soon the deferred period was up your replacement income would start.

You can arrange the protection to pay out for up to 1 or 2 years with a low-cost policy or anything up to retirement for a fully comprehensive one.

Speak to one of our advisers who can talk you through your options.

Can I Remortgage if I have been furloughed?

Most lenders would be happy to extend your mortgage by offering you a new rate by a Product Transfer even if you have moved onto furloughed income (The income received if your company stands you down under the Government’s 80% support for the employed) will be able to be used to support application.

This may be limited to the 80% figure (by some lenders) but if your employer plans to top it up then some other lenders will use it all. We would be happy to talk to you about Product Transfers or any other type of mortgage finance at a time to suit you. This can be done by phone or video call.

I have had an offer accepted on a house can my Mortgage Survey now go ahead?

You will be delighted to hear that physical valuations are now able to proceed once more, this means that if your property transaction was being delayed, then it should now be able to move forwards again (as long as the surveyor can safely gain access). There may however be a delay as there is a backlog of around 60,000 valuations in the UK that need to be completed. This is also meaning that new purchases and remortgages can now be considered even if they cannot be completed via desk top or automated valuations (which do not involve a physical property inspection).

If my sale completes can I still Move House?

As part of the recent changes to free up the hugely important property sector, not only have Surveyors now been asked to perform physical valuations, but Conveyancers have been asked to complete the legal work, Local Authorities the search enquiries and removal companies to facilitate your moving your possessions. Our Estate Agents and Mortgage Advisers (who have always been available to help you, throughout the Crisis) can help you project manage the whole experience and ensure that everything is looked after safely from start to finish.

Will the reduction in interest rates benefit me?

As I am sure you are aware, the Bank of England has reduced interest rates by 0.65% to a record low of 0.1% since the start of the Coronavirus emergency. However, this has only had a very limited effect on the price of new mortgages and remortgages.

Fixed rates have stayed largely the same because banks and buildings have been having their profit margins squeezed by all the support measures that they have had to put in place since the beginning of the crisis, so they do need to retain some profit to keep them going.

If you have a tracker product already then you will have benefitted, but many lenders have withdrawn new tracker products from the market as the Bank of England rate moved lower, to protect their margins. There are still one of two out there however, if you know where to look.

Speak to one of our experts to find out more.

What is Forbearance (when used in relation to the finance)?

It is an agreement between a lender and borrower to temporarily suspend debt payments. This is particularly prevalent at the current time in relation to the Coronavirus crisis, where lenders have offered borrowers a period of Forbearance (Payment Holiday) to help them through difficult financial circumstances. In more normal times this can still be arranged as a reduced payment or suspension following job loss or temporary illness.