Category Archives: Latest News

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COVID-19: Information for contractors

Posted on March 23, 2020 in COVID-19, Latest News by orange pixel

Given the situation with COVID 19 Coronavirus, we have adopted a policy of asking our tenants questions concerning their health status in relation to Coronavirus before we attend any property and before we pass any job sheets or book appointments for you to attend.

Whether we make the appointment or you book the appointment directly we would suggest that you confirm the appointment on the day and at the same time check whether anything has changed in their health status since the appointment was first made. We do not want you to put yourself or your employees in a risk situation.

We would be obliged if you could confirm that you have put precautions and guidance in place to deal with repairs or planned works if someone in the property is self-isolating or is themselves a vulnerable person. We do not consider that in most cases you will not still be able to attend the property but it is about knowing what to expect and taking sensible precautions. We are aware that if you cannot do any works for several months there will be substantial financial impact for you.

If you become aware of any tenants refusing appointments due to recent travel, illness or self-isolation, please email me at hugh@whitesagency.com

If you or any of your employees are showing any of the symptoms or have decided to self-isolate, please advise me and also advise of any properties that you may have attended, on our behalf either just before or after showing symptoms. Additionally, if you or your employees are unable to attend, please advise of any alternative arrangements during your absence.

Stay healthy!

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COVID-19: Information for Landlords

Posted on March 23, 2020 in COVID-19, Landlords, Latest News by orange pixel

You will probably have heard that the government plan to suspend evictions during the current COVID-19 situation.

We realise this will cause many landlords concern, with the potential loss of income. Many of you will have a mortgage to pay. It was previously discussed that homeowners should get a three month holiday on mortgage payments if COVID-19 was causing hardship. This has now been confirmed to apply to buy to let landlords as well. It is not yet clear if this will be enforced in legislation, like the possession suspension, but time will tell. If it is a voluntary code then the court would be likely to refuse possession during such a recommended suspension.

It is important to stress that the rent and mortgage rules “suspend” payment but do not remove the obligation to pay. In other words the money will accrue as a debt.

With tenants, landlords may not be able to seek possession on the basis of rent defaults in the short term but once the moratorium on section 8 notices is lifted then presumably landlords will give the tenants time to pay but a failure to pay may result in section 8 notice seeking possession and/or a Money Claim Online for the arrears

We will continue to persuade your tenant to pay what they can to avoid storing up a bigger problem for later. If your tenant loses their work as a result of the current situation, we will encourage them to seek to apply for whatever benefits they are entitled to. This will again reduce any arrears accruing.

If a tenant is unable to work due to self-isolation or illness, and as a result are not being paid, then this is the scenario that the Government are trying to assist with. They have taken away the waiting days before sick pay can be paid and they have clarified that self-isolation qualifies as being sick. Of course self-isolation lasts only a fortnight (although there may be multiple periods of self-isolation if other family members show symptoms or are ill) after which they will presumably be able to return to work and start paying the ongoing rent again. We will endeavour to agree a payment plan to pay off any arrears. Some tenants may have a better sick pay regime than the statutory one and may remain on full pay for a period, reducing the reason for arrears.

If a tenant is ill then, of course, how long someone is ill or incapacitated will depend on age and whether or not there are any underlying health conditions.

Clearly this is a fast moving situation and things may yet change which may mean more people unable to work with further consequential problems. For example if the country ends up in full lockdown. The Government though may come up with further plans to deal with these issues.

We acknowledge this will be something of a risk for landlords. You should plan to cover as much of the mortgage payments as you can afford so that if there are rent arrears your debt to the mortgage lender is as small as possible.

At this stage many things are unclear and it may be that rent guarantee policies will cover the rent payments, even if they then seek the money back from the tenant. If you think you may have problems keeping completely up to date with mortgage payments we would encourage you to engage with the lender at the earliest opportunity.

As the situation develops the new rules may be applied. The government have said a suspension of court possession claims for three months but there is nothing to say that if the problems lasts longer than this that they may not extend the restriction. We would encourage you to plan for a prolonged restriction and be glad if it ends sooner.

We will obviously be staying in touch with your tenant and yourself during the situation.

Wishing you all the very best in these difficult times.

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COVID-19: Information for Tenants

Posted on March 23, 2020 in COVID-19, Latest News, Tenants by orange pixel

You may have heard about the “rent holiday” during the current situation. We would like to take this opportunity to explain what this means.

We have not seen the legislation with the details, but we know the direction of travel. The government recognise that some people who are ill, self-isolating or even lose their jobs as a result of the current problems may not be able to pay rent. Obviously, anyone who loses their job is encouraged to claim benefits at the earliest opportunity.

Rent will remain due, but landlords will not be able to start a court action for rent arrears during the three-month period. Therefore, as rent remains due, rent should be paid if possible.

As it remains due, even if you cannot afford all the rent due to reduced income, please ensure you pay what you can as it will reduce the amount of rent you have to catch up on when this rule is lifted in three months’ time. The proposal does not take away the responsibility for the rent, it simply gives a little more time to pay before court action is started.

It will help us if you stay engaged and let us know your circumstance so that we can interact with you in the most appropriate way.

In our business we meet with people on a daily basis, in the office, in homes and in the street. The issue of COVID 19 is in the forefront of our minds, we do not want to unnecessarily be exposed or expose our staff, tenants, landlords and customers to risk.

Part of our business means that we visit our managed properties several times a year. Whilst we will continue to do so we will only do so when are clear that the risks presented to tenants or to our own staff are kept to an absolute minimum. We will be introducing some changes to our procedure as below:

  • If you are due a visit from our staff you will ordinarily receive an email in advance which we ask you to respond to, this email will, from today, also ask you to answer some basic questions about your recent travels and your health.
  • In addition, we will now telephone you 24 hours prior to our visit to reiterate the questions asked in the first email.
  • If you or someone in the household is feeling unwell or is self-isolating, if you or someone in the household has recently travelled outside of the UK or has flown within the past 2 weeks, please let us know.
  • If any occupier is over 70 or have underlying health conditions or fall into any other vulnerable category then again please let us know.
  • If you are not going to be present during our visit then the risk is minimal and we will attend, if you are going to be present, we may choose to cancel the visit.

More information is available on the NHS website

Thank you for your understanding,

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Compulsory electrical safety inspections

Posted on January 16, 2020 in Landlords, Latest News by orange pixel

Compulsory electrical safety inspections set to be required in all private rental homes

Electrical safety checks will have to be carried out in all private rental properties in England, according to Regulations now laid in Parliament.

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 look set to become law from April 1 this year, initially applying to all new tenancies. Inspections are likely to be required of electrical installations from July 1.

By April 1, 2021, there would have to be electrical safety checks in all rental properties with existing tenancies.

Safety checks would then have to be done at five yearly intervals.

Copies of the report will have to be provided to prospective tenants on request, and given to new tenants before they move in.

The check-in report would also have to give the results of the inspection. Local councils can also request a copy of the report, which must be provided within seven days.

Any remedial work must be done within 28 days, or sooner if specified in the report.

Enforcement is by the local authority, which can order that work be done. Failure could result in a civil penalty of up to £30,000.

With a large number of mandatory electrical inspections on the horizon, concerns are being raised at how busy – and available – electricians will be.

David Cox, CEO of ARLA Propertymark, said: “We are supportive of this concept and believe it will create a level playing field for all agents and landlords as well as ensuring improved safety standards for tenants.

“Mandating electrical testing should have a limited impact on good professional landlords and agents in the market, many of whom already voluntarily undertake these inspections.

“We did raise concerns about the number of engineers available to undertake these reports by the April 2021 deadline but have received assurances from MHCLG about capacity in the supply chain.”

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PROPERTY MATTERS

Posted on September 19, 2019 in Latest News by orange pixel

Autumn 2019 – by Hugh White

The summer edition of Property Matters reflected on what may replace section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, a proposal by the Government. The consultation about the replacement for section 21 was promised before the summer, but was not published until 21 July. The decision to repeal section 21 has already been made.

The Foreword

The scope of the consultation makes it absolutely clear that this is not a consultation to explore whether section 21 should be repealed, but rather what changes should be made to Schedule 2 of the Housing Act1988. According to the consultation,Section 21 WILL go.

There would therefore have to be a reason to seek possession of a property. What new grounds might be required or what amendments to existing grounds should be considered? Additionally, it invitesviews on improvements to the processing of repossession orders through the courts.

The previous Secretary of State, in his foreword, said that the abolition of section 21 will be achieved by removing assured shorthold tenancies from the Housing Act 1988. It was not clear initially whether the assured shorthold tenancy would have additional possession grounds, not available to assured tenancies, but this does not now appear to be the case.All tenancies would then be the fully assured tenancy.

Download the full article here