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 this period. Bear in mind that the information we're getting is constantly changing, so keep checking back to find out the latest developments.
All of our branches are open and 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
Since the first lockdown ended, we have seen an incredibly busy housing market, which has been reflected in the local and national press. New properties coming onto the market and sales are dramatically higher than we saw during the same period last year, which leads us to be very positive about selling your home for a similar (if not better) price. However, we would always recommend you talk to your local branch manager to discuss any specific concerns you have.
Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the market was exceedingly busy, spurred on by the certainty provided by the Brexit vote and the General Election. During the first lockdown, online activity remained reassuringly buoyant and now the government have allowed estate agents to stay open, allowing socially distanced viewings to take place. We are sure the market will maintain its momentum. Combine this with record low interest rates, the Stamp Duty Holiday and everything the government is doing to safeguard employment, we believe the housing market will remain healthy with prices at the very least holding. We would suggesting that having found a home you are happy with, you keep this sale going.
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.
Yes they are. We would recommend you virtually view properties you are interested in via a Virtual Reality Tour or Video Walk Round, we have these available on around 75% of our properties. These give you a really good feel for the property before committing to what might be limited slots for physical viewings. Customers registered with us are able to take advantage of our Pre-View service where a video tour (where available) is automatically emailed to you, up to 72 hours before the property is uploaded onto the portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. Pre-View is restricted to 5 physical viewing slots so we would recommend you contact the office right away if you are interested in viewing in order to not miss out. It is also worth mentioning that our staff are trained and have access to personal protective equipment to carry out contactless viewings by appointment.
All Lettings, Mortgage Matters Direct and Mortgage Administration Units will be working remotely. Despite this, our high quality level of service will still remain. Please though, be mindful that remote working does pose its challenges, and so please be patient.
As a result of the challenges currently involved, please do be organised, as the process may take a little longer than normal. The stamp duty holiday has resulted in a significant increase in sales activity and as a result of this there are some inevitable delays with the house buying process.
As a consequence, the average time a sale takes to complete has significantly increased, so bear this in mind when planning your move, especially if you intended to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday that ends on 31 March 2021.
The wearing of face masks (not visors) is mandatory at all appointments and the obligatory two metre social distancing to be strictly adhered to at all viewings, valuations and any other home visits.
If you are planning a visit to our offices, it’s best to make arrangements first and please wear a face mask when doing so. Our offices are open (in line with up to date guidelines) but the front door will be locked. Please knock and a member of our team will attend to you.
Advice to Landlords
You will need to check with the provider of the cover as many products have been removed or revised since the start of the pandemic. Our product will still cover you and although there were some early changes to limit the cover we are really pleased to say that many of these restrictions are being lifted. Our Rent Protect Pro now covers for up to 15 months, which is market leading in the current climate. If you do not have rent protection in place currently and would like to know more please let us know and we can let you know the details.
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. Please be aware that that the deadline for applying for a repayment holiday is currently 31st March 2021
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.
Yes, during the pandemic they have changed a couple of times to give tenants greater protection from eviction. Currently when serving a section 21 notice (to end a tenancy without a specific reason) a Landlord is required to give 6 months notice. If using a Section 8 notice, when the tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy agreement, there are different notice periods depending on the grounds you are using to serve notice, these range from none, in the case of domestic abuse, to 2 weeks for severe rent arrears up to 6 months for more minor reasons. Notice periods are due to be reassessed on the 31st March 2021.
Yes, it is possible to serve notice to end a tenancy when the tenants are not paying the rent, but the notice periods have changed and in most cases are 6 months now, unless the arrears are classed as severe (over 6 months rent), in which case you only need to give 2 weeks notice. However, serving notice and getting a court date are two very different things at the moment. Courts are currently facing a huge backlog in cases from when they were shut, so getting a case heard is taking a lot longer than it used to.
Our advice is to work closely with the tenant through this difficult time, where possible, and to work out an agreement that suits both parties
- 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 is due to come to an end on the 31st March 2021 but if you get in before that it 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.
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.
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.
During a lockdown routine property visits are not possible, but we will get these booked back in as soon as it is possible to do so. When we can begin booking routine visits they will need to be conducted in a socially distanced way with appropriate PPE being worn. It will not be possible to carry out routine visits in properties where the occupiers are self isolating or have Corona Virus symptoms or where they refuse us access.
Advice to Tenants
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.
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 a possibility. The landlord could serve either a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice depending on the situation. A Section 21 notice currently requires 6 months notice to be given, and a Section 8 notice, if you are in rent arrears or have otherwise broken the terms of the tenancy agreement would require 2 weeks or 6 months depending on the severity of the arrears situation.
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.
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.
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.
The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020 and landlords will now be able to progress their possession claim through the courts. Courts will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.
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.
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.
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.
If you've not yet taken out a payment holiday on your mortgage, you can ask for a payment holiday of up to six months.
If you've already agreed a payment holiday of less than six months, this can be extended up to a maximum of six months.
If you've already agreed a payment holiday of six months, you will not be able to get another extension.
If you're still struggling to pay after your payment holiday, you should contact your provider as soon as possible. There will still be options available even if you can't take out another payment holiday
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.