We plan to continuously add updates here about the Corona Pandemic and how agents can mange and survive it. Check back daily to see the latest. The most recent news will appear at the top of this thread to make it easy to find.
A new "Moving Home" guidance was released at 1012 this morning. It is updated to reflect the new tiers starting on the 2/12. It can be found here.
The landlord and tenant guidance and the possessions guidance have both been updated this lunch time in preparation for the new tiered structure of lock down coming in next week. Landlord and tenant guidance here, possession guidance here. Possession updated again at 1406!
On the 17 November the guidance about landlords and tenants and the possessions guidance have been updated. They explain that the first 14 day bailiff notices will be served from the 11 January making the first actual possessions from the 25th. This is two weeks later than previously thought. The possessions guidance can be found here. The landlord and tenant guidance can be found here.
The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction and Taking Control of Goods) (England) Regulations 2020 were laid yesterday and come into force today. They simply give a legal basis for the Lord Chancellor's request for bailiff (and High Court Enforcement Officers) not to take enforcement of court orders for possession during any period of lock down and over the Christmas period, 11 December to the 11 January. They will not apply to trespassers or claims wholly or partly on grounds 7 (where the property is unoccupied), 7A, 14, 14A or 17. Serious rent arrears is also excluded but this is nine months of arrears that must have accrued before 23 March. The full regs can be found here.
The moving home guidance has been revised this morning to reflect the national lock down. The revised guidance can be found here.
Guidance has also been issued on producing EPCs during the outbreak. The guidance was originally produced in April but was update 5 November to reflect the new lock down. It can be found here.
MHCLG has issued updated guidance overnight following the imposition of the new national restrictions. Updated guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities can be found here. The guidance emphasises that repairs, essential and non-essential maintenance and other visits can and should still go ahead subject to them being in line with public health advice. Where a landlord is prevented from carrying out their obligations local authorities are advised to take a pragmatic approach. Work on the property should not take place in all but the most extreme emergencies if someone has tested positive or is self-isolating.
Possession guidance here is updated to state that bailiffs have 'been asked' not to enforce evictions during the national restrictions and refers to the break on evictions between 11 Dec and 11 Jan. A press release here though identifies when evictions may still proceed including for example anti-social behaviour or where fraud induces the grant of a tenancy.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.4) Regulations 2020 were laid before Parliament today. They can be found here. They are made under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. As in March the basis is the you cannot leave your home without a reasonable excuse (regulation 5). Ignoring general reasons, such as to take exercise or to buy goods, reasons relevant to lettings include in 6(2)(g) a list of activities in relation to the sale or rental of a property. Regulation 4(a) allows for going to work where the work cannot reasonably be done from home. The ability for agents to continue transacting business does not mean fully open, it means opened with the previous restrictions of social distancing, visits only by appointment, record of visitors and all the other coronavirus precautions. Regulation 8 prohibits 2 people from different households meeting indoors, but regulation 11 in Part 3 allows meeting for the purpose of work or to move house, so a physical viewing, though to be minimised, can lawfully take place, as can a visit to the office. Regulation 14 is the last regulation in that part (gatherings) and requires "the manager" to carry out a risk assessment that would satisfy regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This would require risk assessments for both offices and viewings/visits taking place in homes. Penalties can escalate as high as £6,400 after multiple offences. The regulations expire after 28 days. The Schedule contains a list of premises that can remain open (part 3, but not specifically stating estate or letting agent), however they do not get listed in part 1 or 2 either so we have to reply on the previous comments. These regulations largely confirm what we had already understood to be the facts, but it is always good to see the legislation. Ignoring the legislation, it would be good practise for agents to minimise contact with staff in the office (work from home if possible, the law requires this) but avoid visits to property too where possible. Indeed there is an argument that visiting for a periodic visit is not "required for the rental" as it is about the management. After all, we all want the lock-down to work so that the restrictions can be removed.
In the words of the ABBA song, Here we go again! Another national lockdown was announced on Saturday night. As Parliament will have to vote on this measure we do not yet know the details until Parliament agrees. The announcement with some indication on what can be expected can be found here. They say it will be less severe with the plan to leave schools open. The Housing Minister says moving can continue, though it is hard to reconcile that with the "stay at home message" at the start of the above link. The devil is always in the detail and until we get the legislation it is impossible to be sure of anything. The announcement is of a four week lockdown, though in March they announced a three week lockdown that lasted three months! we will update when further details are released.
The Welsh Government have announced that from Friday 23/10 to Monday 9 November Wales will have a national "lockdown". As all non essential retail will be required to close lettings and estate agents offices will have to close. This is pretty clear for the actual sales and lettings but the ongoing management of existing properties will presumably have to continue (even if managed from home) to avoid a tenant being without heating and hot water for over two weeks. FAQs here https://gov.wales/coronavirus-circuit-break-frequently-asked-questions
The Welsh Government announced they were going to provide tenant rent loans to help the rent arrears situation. Details of the scheme have been announced and can be found at
The guidance is here https://gov.wales/apply-loan-help-pay-your-rent-arrears-due-coronavirus
The guidance on working in other people's homes has been updated. The revised guidance can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes
New legislation laid before the Welsh assembly today making changes to the rules for notices in Wales. This includes the anticipated change that 6 month notices do not cease at the end of September but continue till 31 March 2021. It also changes the rules around possession for anti-social behaviour by reverting ground 7A and 14 to the position that existed before the Coronavirus Act came into force. Notably, regardless of the level of rent arrears six months notice is required. Whilst this seems very serious, to mitigate it they have provided the rent loans. Full details can be found here https://www.legislation.gov.uk/wsi/2020/1044/contents/made
The Government have announced that from Thursday, 24/9 all retail workers will have to wear face masks. Currently shoppers have to wear masks but the staff don't. This is now set to change and it will affect most letting agents as they will fall into the definition of retail. Minister have confirmed their intention that agents should comply. This will make having more staff working from home attractive as they will not need to wear masks. We await sight of the actual legislation. The legislation is here https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1029/regulation/2/made
Chris Pincher MP has confirmed the bailiff "truce" will be from the 11 December till the 11 January.
The courts open today but with very different rules. make you sure don't commence or continue action without being sure you know and follow the new rules. The courts are not likely to be very sympathetic as all the restrictions are in place to protect tenants.
New guidance for people who are a contact of someone with a confirmed case of Coronavirus, including a legal obligation to self isolate from the 28 September 2020. The guidance can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-contacts-of-people-with-possible-or-confirmed-coronavirus-covid-19-infection-who-do-not-live-with-the-person (last updated 20/9/20)
Last week new guidance was put out for possession actions, it can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/understanding-the-possession-action-process-guidance-for-landlords-and-tenants/understanding-the-possession-action-process-a-guide-for-private-landlords-in-england-and-wales (last updated 17/9/20)
The justice department have release information about how the courts will work after they open on Monday. This is an update on the guidance mentioned two days ago. The new arrangements can be read about here https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Possession-Proceedings-Overall-Arrangements-Version-1.0-17.09.20.pdf They have also issued a range of notices and documents, including a sample reactivation notice. The reactivation notice is not a prescribed form so this one does not 'have' to be used, but it would make is easy. These documents can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reactivation-notice-for-property-possession
As predicted the Welsh Government have confirmed that the longer notices will apply till the end of March 2021, matching the length announced for England. The actual legislative details are not yet available.
Further details of how the courts will prioritise cases have also been released. Anti social behaviour will feature highly as will rent arrears of over 12 months' rent (or nine months' rent arrears if the rent amounts to over 25% of the landlord's total income) and domestic violence. As an added delay hearing will need to first have a ore trial "review". 21 days notice is required of this review date and then there must be a further 28 days before the actual hearing. Other rules apply too. The courts may open but this is far from business as usual.
There is also announced a "pre action protocol" produced by the NRLA about what landlords should do to manage arrears and avoid possession claims. This give 9 golden rules and lists five steps that should be taken before notice is issued. MHCLG and HMCTS will both provide further guidance documents in the coming days.
New court form N5B is now up on the web site again. This is not the previous one made available again as the previous one was dated 04/20 and this one is 08/20.
1412. The new limit on gatherings of 6 people do not apply to work so do not apply to offices.
1100. A new press release has been issued and can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-comprehensive-support-for-renters-this-winter
It promises "protection for tenants over the winter" and contains some interesting comments. As a press release it has to be read a little less accurately compared to legislation but still interesting. The first point is the interrelation between unlocking the courts and local lock-downs. It makes it clear local lock-down takes priority and not evictions will take place during lock-down(note evictions not court cases). It also explains evictions will not happen where there are restrictions on meeting in peoples homes. Considering there will be a restriction in all areas from Monday, limited to 6 people, how are they going to define what a restriction is?
Secondly, it says there will be no evictions over the weeks of Christmas, though "weeks" is not defined and both of these measures seem to be regardless of the reason. The paragraph explaining that they will now allow court cases for anti-social behaviour is interesting for the little comment at the end "The only exceptions to this are the most egregious cases, including where tenants have demonstrated anti-social behaviour or committed fraud, and the landlord rightly would like to re-let their property to another tenant." Note the link to landlords who want to re-let, not those wanting to leave the market. This may be a press release loose phrasing but interesting.
An examination of the new prescribed form regulations shows that the new prescribed from is the same as the version MHCLG issued on the 2/9/20. The new Prescribed From, which can be found here https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/924/contents/made
. It has been updated from what was issued Friday to remove the cross reference to the notes. The check is that in para 3 it should not have the bit that says “(see notes accompanying this form)”. This change also removes any doubt about which version of the notice to use as there is a new prescribed form.
A new form of prescribed section 21 notice was issued yesterday. This change is "official" in that they have actually issued a new prescribed from and suspended para 12(2) of the Coronavirus Regulations which made the previous amendments. This is exactly why we warned not to serve these notice at this time. We don't expect any major changes but will update.
Today MHCLG have uploaded a revised section 21 notice (yes revised since the one they issued Friday!) It is a small correction where they had left a cross reference to some notes that have been removed. For TFP tenancy agreement subscribers a revised version is on the web site for downloading.
The guidance on moving home has been updated to include information on wearing face coverings. It can be found here (Last Updated 29/09/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak?utm_source=51131f88-4c29-4928-b400-e18c2734a314&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=daily#history
For users of the TFP documents we have uploaded revised versions of the section 21 and section 8 notices this morning. Remember that what counts is the date of service so if a notice was posted Thursday or Friday it would need to have been the new notice so may need reserving. Just to repeat our advice at this uncertain time, we recommend you avoid serving notice and get the solicitor doing the court work to serve it as part of the process.
Revised technical guidance on notice serving is here.
Today legislation has been laid before Parliament amending notice periods for section 8 and section 21 notices. It can be found here https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/914/contents/made
. A press release can explaining it can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-has-changed-the-law-so-most-renters-have-a-6-month-notice-period
In simple terms the section 21 notice has been extended to 6 months and the section 8 notice has been altered so that different grounds have different notice periods. These are now anything from no notice (ground 14 anti social behaviour) to six months long.
A small revision to the practice direction on possession has been issed and can be found here http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/cpr-124-pd-update.pdf
It simply replaces the August court dates with the September ones. It does not change the 3 August date after which the reactivation notice was not needed.
The Welsh Government have issued updated guidance around the extension of the court suspension till 20 September. It happens through the same legislation as England. The updated guidance is here https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-landlords-and-managing-agents-in-the-private-rented-sector-html?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SocialSignIn
The Government have announced that notice periods will be extended to 6 months until 31 March 2021 in England. Again we are awaiting the details and we will update this page when we have them.
Looks like court possession dates have been pushed back to the 20 September. Not got the details yet but it is very much as we expected in some form.
We were made aware last Friday (14/8/20) that the N5B court application form for accelerated possession had "disappeared" from the internet. We initially thought this was purely administrative. We contacted MHCLG but have not yet seen any response and the form is still missing. The question has to be is this related to the "further measures" the Housing Minister referred to in his comments that we reported on the 27 July, below? Watch very closely in the next few days leading up to the courts reopening on Monday.
On 11 August the Welsh Government announced that from September 2020 they are introducing a scheme to help tenants pay any arrears dating back from 1 March 2020. Once the tenant has applied, and if successful, the loan will be paid directly to the landlord. The tenant will have up to 5 years to pay the 1% interest loan back to the provider. This will mean that landlords will not be able to evict the tenant for serious rent arrears.
On the 20 July Robert Jenrick, the Minster for Housing, Communities and Local Government replied to a question from Wera Hobhouse, an MP for Bath and said he hoped to make an announcement in the coming weeks to further help renters facing eviction. He said:
“For several weeks I have been in exactly those sorts of conversations with the Lord Chancellor who holds the relationship with the judiciary and with the Master of the Rolls.
“The Lord Chancellor has already set out some initiatives today and I’m hopeful that further announcements will be made shortly to provide exactly the kind of protection that she’s asking for.”
This supports our view that the practice direction changes announced last week are not the end of the matter, but rather the first step in a range of measures.
On the 10 July new regulations were laid in respect of working during Corona virus in Wales. They repealed the previous version of the regulations and basically rewrite the rules. They were amended again on the 27th July and importantly the rule about only doing viewings on accompanied properties has been removed allowing viewings in Wales of occupied or unoccupied properties. (updated 28/7/20)
With the introduction of the requirement to wear face coverings in "shops" as from today the question arises as to whether this applies to agents premises. The regulations, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020 can e found here https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/791/contents/made
. Whilst there is no definitive answer we believe it does apply as the guidance covers shops and "branches" and lists things like banks and post offices. See regulation 2 where shops are defined as "any building, room or other indoor establishment which is open to the public in whole or in part and is used wholly or mainly for the purposes of retail sale or hire of goods or services, but not including the premises listed in Part 2 of the Schedule". Agents are not listed in Schedule 2. Essentially we see the difference being a question of if in normal times you would expect people to walk in off the street (even if fee paying entry) whereas the office guidance is for locations where staff or the occasionally arranged visitor comes. Those working in shops are not required to wear face coverings but it is recommended. Offices where staff cannot be spread out sufficiently may already be wearing face coverings. This is not about the wearer "catching" something it is about the wearer wearing it to protect other people so clearly it would make sense for staff to wear face coverings to show they care about those who visit the premises.
Yesterday (23 July) new regulations were laid is Wales that say that any section 21 notice served from today (24 July) has to be at least six months long. A similar rule applies to section 8 notices unless possession is being sought on grounds 7A or 14, when it remains at 3 months. It does not affect notices already served and still only applies up to end of the "relevant period", currently 30 September 2020, but the Coronavirus Act allows for this time "relevant period" to be extended (the act covers a period of 2 years!).
Following on from the announcement on Friday about court hearings from the 23 August, yesterday the draft practice direction was published. Claims made before 3 August (and that don't yet have a final possession order in place) are immediately stayed and will need a "reactivation notice" before they recommence. The reactivation notice will have to be served for 42 days and be served after 23 August (an immediate 6 week delay). It must be accompanied by an up to date rent history of the last two years (or presumably since the beginning of the tenancy if less than 2 years) and information about the impact of Coronavirus on the tenant (for example if they were furloughed. lost their job, were vulnerable and shielding etc. This notice asks the court to proceed with the claim and a copy must be given to the court and the tenant. If the reactivation notice is not served by 29 Jan 2021 then the cases will be automatically stayed.
For claims made after 3 August 2020 the reactivation notice won't be necessary but will have temporary rules till 28 March 2021 (unless extended). These temporary rules, for example, remove the normal requirement to hear a case within 8 weeks. This allows a much longer potential delay till a hearing. Though the reactivation notice is not required the landlord will still be required to set out what he knows about the impact of Coronavirus on the tenant. This applies for section 8 claims and accelerated possession claims. As we have said before, during these times our advice is that landlords who have to go to court engage a competent solicitor to carry out the whole process.
On Friday evening new regulations were published that start the process of amending how courts will wok after 23 August. We don't yet have all the details but these will no doubt come out in the coming weeks. If you served notice or had a case running before the lock down you will have to serve a reactivation notice. The regs we do have can be found here https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/751/made
. Expect limited access to courts and more delays. Claimants will have to identify the impact of Coronavirus on their tenants. This is clearly an unusual situation and all landlords would be well advised to have a solicitor carry out the whole process, from serving notice to court action to ensure these new rules are followed.
Probably the most useful read is the explanatory memorandum. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/751/pdfs/uksiem_20200751_en.pdf
We have been made aware of this link to Coronavirus guidance in many different languages.
As we head to a time when the courts open the question of which section 21 notice to use will become important. First the MHCLG advice is that agents and landlords should avoid serving notice if possible. Although the courts will start hearing case from the 24 August, there is a working group looking at this and they may not hear all types of case. For example, they may not hear mandatory rent arrears or section 21 cases, to allow the judge discretion. Secondly, if you do have to serve notice we always say that the safest thing is to get the solicitor who will take it to court to serve the notice as then they will be happy with the notice and how it was served. As it is unclear if the Coronavirus Act actually changed the notice or simply changed how the notice should be read (the language in the legislation). Users of the TFP tenancy pack will have to decide whether they want to use the old, the new, or both, notices if they serve them themselves. Sadly interpretation of legislation is usually through court cases but with all court cases suspended there is no way of getting clarification till it is too late. Thirdly, with section 8 notices, we are now about two and a half months till the Coronavirus Act expires (assuming it is not extended). Therefore from the latter part of July onward it may be better to not serve section 8 for three months but to wait till the end of September and then just serve 14 days notice for rent arrears. Your choice but at least consider the best option. Obviously for section 21 notices this will only apply from the beginning of September.
We have uploaded some new coming out of lock down and Covid 19 documents to reflect some changes in the guidance (2 metre rule could be one plus, and other changes). The revised documents are R1-3 in the Coming out of lock down info and R2-5 in the Covid 1 documents.
From today house moves in Wales will gradually open up. It is not a complete unlocking, rather an easing. Purchases that were already arranged can go ahead. Viewings of unoccupied properties can take place and people can travel further than 5 miles in order to undertake move related activities. The guidance says initial viewing should be online and only really allows viewings and letting of empty properties. These are all permitted through changes brought in by the 6th amendment to the coronavirus legislation.
Updated guidance can be found here https://gov.wales/moving-home-during-coronavirus-pandemic
(last updated 13/08/20)
We have updated the Coming out of Lock down and COVID-19 documents packs. You will find Advice and guidance for a householder R1-2 and Advice and guidance for working in office R1-2 in the Coming out of Lock down folder.
In the COVID-19 folder, the updated files you will find are: COVID-19 Advice for agents R2-4, COVID-19 Email for tenants R2-4 and COVID-19 Information for landlords R2-4.
As we expected, the Government has extended the suspension of possession proceeding by two months. This means that there will be no court action for tenants living in private and social housing until after 23 August.
The Coronavirus Health Protection Legislation has been amended as from today by the amendment number 3 regulations. This completely rewrites regulation 6. Some of the guidance has also been updated. We are currently working through what has changed.
The Welsh Government have issued guidance about self isolating if you live in a shared house. Whilst strictly for Wales, many of the principles will apply to England too. It is an area we have raise with MHCLG that guidance is lacking for England. It contains some "interesting" advice including the very logical advice not to share toothbrushes!! (Last updated 29/09/20)
There is also guidance for those struggling to pay their rent. (Last Updated 29/08/20)
Yesterday there was updated guidance put out for working environments. It is difficult to find so we have a link below. It can also be found if you go to any guide and where is says updated 19 May then "See all updates". This link will take you to the 19 May update and the 5 steps that should be taken. (Last updated 01/10/20)
Today is the day the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England)
(Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 come into force. They change the lockdown rules in several ways but the important part for sales and lettings is sub para (L) that now reads:
l)to undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property—
(i)visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;
(ii)viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent;
(iii)preparing a residential property to move in;
(v)visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property;
From this it is clear the property business can A) reopen the offices, B) do what is necessary to sell or let properties. Agents have always been able to travel to properties but this now says that the prospective tenants and purchasers can also go.
It does, of course, raise some interesting points. An empty house may not present too many problems but what if the property is currently occupied? It is not uncommon that tenants do not want viewings before moving in a normal market and we can only assume this would be even more likely in the current climate. Then what about the situation where the current tenant is shielding? The Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 is not changed and under this legislation: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety." This is the start of section 3, section 2 imposes the same basic responsibility for employees. A member of staff does not even have to fall ill for the agency to have committed an offence, the fact there is a risk is sufficient to commit and offence. Restarting working will have to be done under social distancing rules with sufficient precautions in place to make sure all reasonable steps to avoid harm have been taken. The guidance says social distancing "must" be observed.
The guidance on moving home has also been updated and they make the point this is NOT a return to normality. They talk about "vacating your property whilst others are shown around" and highlight moves should be planned with the possibility for another lockdown or a delay caused by someone self isolating. The guidance makes it clear those self isolating or showing symptoms should not be viewing or moving (nor presumably having viewings done in their home). Practical advice includes leaving doors open, not having children on viewings if possible, limit the number of people on the viewing, no open house viewings, cleaning surfaces and door handles before and after a viewing. The latest information can be found here: (Last updated 29/08/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
Previous guidance said properties should not be put on the market but this new guidance changes that to say you can, with appropriate precautions, put a property on the market.
Slightly confusingly the guidance talks about washing your hands frequently as though during a viewing people are expected to to this and it even suggests paper towels be provided. Having strangers looking around a property can feel intrusive enough, asking them to wash their hands several times during a viewing may be more than many will accept. The guidance talks about the homeowner having to clean all the surfaces and door handles before and after viewings and as this logically would apply to the current tenant. One can see there is likely to be some resistance to allowing viewings till after the current tenant leaves.
The guidance says agent should have an appointment system for visiting the office, not a general open office. They and anyone on the viewing should wash their hands or use sanitiser immediately on entering a property.
Though the moving home guidance has been updated the specific guidance for landlords and tenants does not appear to have been updated as the edit date is still the 28 March.
Yes we are open for business but not in any normal sense of the words.
Yesterday in Parliament Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced and extension of the furlough scheme till October. Though the principle seems ot have been extended it appears the revised scheme may be slightly less generous with the employer possibly being asked to contribute towards the money the furloughed employee receives. It is also unclear about the transition between the current scheme and this revised proposal.
On the 11 May the guidance about working in other people's homes was released. It contains the following important point about PPE when working in someone else's home: When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.
This makes it pretty clear it is not a requirement to wear PPE just because you are in someone else's home. The full guidance on working in someone else's home can be found here (Last Updated 01/10/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes
The same comment is made about working in offices here: (Last updated 01/10/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres
and for shops here: (Last updated 01/10/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/shops-and-branches
Yesterdays guidance on loosening the lockdown does not make any specific references to estate or letting agency. In fact it simply restated the principle that was already in the legislation, work from home if you can and work from work if you have to but in a social distancing way. Other potential changes are further in the future. Guidance is promised about how businesses should operate with staff at work.
There was a Court of Appeal case on if the Practice Direction 51Z (stopping almost all property possession claims) was lawful. Judgement was handed down yesterday and the mortgage lender who brought the case lost on all grounds. This simply confirms that the current 90 day ban on court cases still stands and is enforceable.
Guidance for social landlords on when it is reasonable for people to move. (Last Updated 29/08/20)
On the 17 March the Welsh Government issued updated guidance for landlords and tenants. The revised guidance can be found here https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-tenants-in-the-private-rented-sector-html
The practice direction that prevents normal housing claims has been clarified that it does not include claims against trespassers and that it does not exclude injunction claims (like getting in to do a gas safety check) only possession. (Last updated 11/06/20)
Today is the first day for making a claim for the money spend paying furloughed workers. New guidance on this was issued on Friday and can be found at (Last updated 28/08/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
It have been suggested that if a property is empty and cannot be re-let due to Coronavirus restrictions then you should try claiming a Class G exemption. Class G includes:
Occupation prohibited by law.
- The property must be unoccupied and unfurnished.
- Occupation must be prohibited by law (including a closing order or demolition order) or kept unoccupied by reason of action taken under powers granted by or under any Act of Parliament with a view to prohibiting its occupation or to acquiring it such as a compulsory purchase order).
- The exemption does not apply to actions between individuals or companies under contract law such as restriction orders and does not apply if the property is occupied by squatters who choose to occupy even though prohibited by law.
As the coronavirus regulations make it against the law to let the property unless the move is "reasonably necessary" then it would seem to fit the criteria. I expect most councils will not have thought of this and being different there may be some push back but got to be worth trying.
Guidance has been produced for different business sectors and how they can work complaint with the social distancing requirements in the work place. It can be found here:(Last updated 01/10/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/social-distancing-in-the-workplace-during-coronavirus-covid-19-sector-guidance
It includes retail, construction and maintenance in peoples homes.
With a large dose of irony, MHLC have just put out an updated model tenancy agreement, just we we should not be setting up new tenancies unless "reasonably necessary"! They say it is updated for COVID-19 but it still refers to two months notice for section 21 (and rightly so or the landlord would have to give three months' notice even after the temporary rules are relaxed).
This confirms that the rent announcement by the Government is not a holiday but a deferred payments scheme. IE the tenant does have to pay the rent but can pay it later by agreement with the landlord (and possessions require three months notice and are delayed for three months so even if there is no actual agreement, there is little the landlord can do). (Last Updated 29/5/20) https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2020-03-18.HL2766.h&s=rent holiday#gHL2766.r0
However, importantly, the full rent is legally due.
Whilst on the subject, let us add a comment about rent deferment. It is important to understand three things about this. Firstly any rent deferred is not legally due so will not count towards a ground 8 rent arrears claim. This could delay the point at which the ground 8 trigger happens and therefore delay the possession action. Our advice is that you do not agree to defer but equally you assure the tenant that due to the current circumstances you will not be actively seeking possession for any rent arrears. you might add that "as long as you are convinced they are paying what they can" or other caveats. This better preserves you position. Secondly do not agree deferment without the agreement of landlord and any rent guarantee insurance company. Not getting agreement could invalidate rent guarantee insurance. Thirdly, it would be wise to get the agreement of the guarantor. This is because anything that increases the guarantor's liability could see them off the hook so make sure they agree as a precaution. (The increased risk might be argued to be from allowing thousands of pounds of rent arrears to accrue).
In no way related to Covid 19 but there has been a new N5B court application form issues. Something of an irony when the courts are closed for part 55 claims so you can't use it for three months! Massive warning, it has ballooned to 18 pages and wants copies of all the gas safety records and tenancy agreements the tenant has had. You might need 3 months furloughed to work out the new form. It is likely to increase the cost of possessions as there is a lot more preparation work to be done.
Guidance has been issued for landlords and managing agents of properties in Wales here (Last Updated 24/07/20) https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-landlords-and-managing-agents-private-rented-sector
Guidance has been issued for tenants of properties in Wales here https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-tenants-private-rented-sector
Guidance has been issued for local authorities enforcing housing standards (Last Updated 02/07/20) https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-local-authorities-enforcing-standards-rented-properties
Late Friday we spotted MHCLG has changed then notes document they produce to accompany the Form 6A section 21 notice. We don't usually track this document but notices the "last updated" date had changed for the page and this was what changed. The guidance can be found here (Last Updated 29/08/20) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/878101/Form_6a_Notes_revised_01_04_2020.pdf
New guidance was issued yesterday clarifying that estate agents and letting agents do qualify for business rate relief schemes. Previously they had been on a list of exemptions. Unlike the rates grants, which have a rateable value cap, this benefit is available regardless of rateable value. You will find letting agents listed on page 6 (Last Updated 19/05/20) of https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/877758/Expanded_Retail_Discount_Guidance_02.04.20.pdf
New guidance on EPCs and Coronavirus. As the Government don't think people should be moving then there should be no reason to commission an EPC. If the move is necessary the the EPC can be conducted following social distancing rules. They do say EPCs can be conducted where a property is vacant (only if the move is unavoidable) but should not take place where anyone is self-isolating, sick or shielding. The full guidance is here (Last updated 19/05/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-energy-performance-certificates?utm_source=28b60fef-9398-4f38-9b6a-519b343effa2&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate
House of Commons Briefing paper on support available during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Last Updated 20/09/20) https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8867/
Guidance for small business grant (Last updated 08/20) guidance https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/877286/small-business-grant-fund-and-retail-guidance-v3.pdf
Right to rent checks are modified during the Coronavirus outbreak. You have always been able to use a live video instead of face to face but they are allowing that you see copies of the documents, not the originals (not normally allowed). The full guidance can be read here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-landlord-right-to-rent-checks
Note, these checks are temporary and full checks will have to be undertaken when this temporary measure is reversed. As the guidance is that moves should only take place if they are absolutely necessary, there should not be many checks to do. They also reference the fact that some tenants may need a "follow up check" (end of 12 months of their right to rent) and these should be done retrospectively after the temporary changes brought in for COVID-19 have been lifted.
We have updated our COVID-19 documents. If you are a Tenancy Agreement, Management Forms, Support Pack subscriber or you have purchased the live or recorded COVID-19 webinar you will be able to download the updated documents from your account on this web site. The documents and recording can be purchased in the web site shop, follow the link at the top of this page. If you are not sure how to access your online account please ring the office on 01258 85 85 85.
1050 (Last updated 08/20)
I thought it might be useful to bring all the COVID-19
links together. So here the relevant ones are:
Guidance for landlords and tenants
Main Coronavirus page
Support for businesses (Last updated 01/10/20)
Guidance on claiming Universal Credit
Guidance to the courts on prioritising applications to adjourn (Last updated 19/3/20)
Technical guidance on possessions for landlord (this contains a few errors so be careful) (Last updated 08/20)
General guidance for landlords and tenants (Last updated 21/09/20)
Enforcement guidance for local authorities (Last updated 21/09/20)
Further guidance on repairs and property visits (Last updated 24/09/20)
Stay at home guidance (Last updated 22/09/20)
Guidance on cleaning the home to avoid contamination
useful for contractor visits for cleaning before and after (Last updated 15/07/20)
Guidance on shared accommodation and possible infection (Last updated 28/09/20)
Gas Safe Register advice (Last updated 30/09/20)
Guidance on moving home (Last updated 29/08/20)
Guidance on self isolation (Last updated 28/09/20)
Right to rent guidance (Last updated 30/3/20)
Guidance for small business grant guidance (Last updated 08/20) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/877286/small-business-grant-fund-and-retail-guidance-v3.pdf
House of Commons Briefing paper on support available during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Last updated 20/09/20)
Guidance on EPCs and Coronavirus. As the Government don't think people should be moving then there should be no reason to commission an EPC. If the move is necessary the the EPC can be conducted following social distancing rules. They do say EPCs can be conducted where a property is vacant (only if the move is unavoidable) but should not take place where anyone is self-isolating, sick or shielding. The full guidance is here. (Last updated 19/5/20)
Guidance clarifying that estate agents and letting agents do qualify for business rate relief (Last updated 02/04/20) schemes. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/877758/Expanded_Retail_Discount_Guidance_02.04.20.pdf
Guidance has been issued for landlords and managing agents of properties in Wales here (Last updated 24/07/20)
Guidance has been issued for tenants of properties in Wales here (Last updated 06/07/20) https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-tenants-in-the-private-rented-sector-html
Guidance has been issued for local authorities enforcing housing standards (Last updated 02/07/20)
MHCLG notes document to accompany the Form 6A section 21 notice. The guidance can be found here (Last updated 29/08/20)
Guidance has been produced for different business sectors and how they can work compliant with the social distancing requirements in the work place. (Last updated 01/10/20)
Welcome to week two of COVID-19 lockdown. Over the
weekend MHCLG put out another guide for landlords and
tenants. It can be found here (Last updated 08/20) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/876500/Consolidated_Landlord_and_Tenant_Guidance_COVID_and_the_PRS_v4.2.pdf
Usefully it makes it clear that tenants should expect to
pay their rent and to utilise support available to do that.
It say local authorities should adjust their enforcement
due to the limited ability of landlords to do works. It says
where safe and reasonable the tenant should allow
contractors access to inspect or remedy urgent health and
safety issues. They include a non exhaustive list including
roof leaking, boiler broken, no washing or toilet, fridge or
washing machine broken, security issues and equipment
relied on by a disabled person. This is really helpful and
the link could be emailed to tenants.
Reassuringly the guidance makes it clear that if the landlord
has taken all reasonable steps to comply they will not be
considered in breach (bottom of page 19). Keep a log of
all activities to prove reasonability.
The Welsh Government have issues their own COVID-19
lockdown advice. This can be found here (Last updated 25/08/20) https://gov.wales/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-landlords-and-managing-agents-in-the-private-rented-sector-html
Yesterday a new Practice Direction 51Z for the Civil
Procedure Rules (CPR) was issued. It suspends all Part
55 possession claims and enforcement. Part 55 is the
part landlords use for possession under section 8 and
section 21. This applies to enforcement (bailiffs) as
well as current and new court cases. There is a 90 day
suspension from the 27 March. Strangely Practice
Direction says it lasts till 30 October, one month after
the change to the section 21 notices, but presumably as
the suspension is 90 days from the 27 March the October
date is only relevant if they decide to extend the 90 days.
The world moves fast, if not backward! New movement
restriction legislation has been passed. It can be found
Of note is regulation 6 (2)(L) which explains the reasons people
are allowed out of the house including the "moving house
where reasonably necessary". This is not defined but is the
law (note this is law not advice).
Earlier in (2)(a) leaving the house for essential maintenance
and upkeep is allowed. and (f) allows trades people to travel
to jobs "where it is not possible" for that person to work
Schedule 2 lists business that must, by law, close. However
Letting agents are not listed but any responsible agent will
minimise any such office activity, especially if it involve staff
and public transport
Interesting these regulation were made at 1300, were laid
before Parliament at 1430 and became law at 1300 (before
On a lighter note, if you have not seen this it is genius
and worth sharing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KPbJ0-DxTc
Enjoy and have a safe weekend
The court service have suspended all housing possession
cases. This will include all cases where notice has already
been served, expired and a claim has already been lodged
with the court. Full details are here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-support-available-for-landlords-and-renters-reflecting-the-current-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
The government have issued clarified guidance about
maintenance workers effecting repairs. It can be found
here (Last updated 24/09/20) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance
Essentially it says the work is allowed if it is
a direct risk to the safety of the household. This will
obviously include doing the gas safety checks. They
should not do works if the household are self-isolating,
shielding or sick unless it is of an emergency nature
(gas leak for example). Shielding is where someone
with a vulnerability lives and is avoid all contact, for
example they are elderly with a chronic lung condition.
The engineer should not do any work if they are showing
any symptoms, however mild. Even if work is done, the
social distancing should be maintained with the residents
staying well away from the contractor and both parties
ensuring cleanliness of the site where the work is being
undertaken before and after the works.
Guidance was also issued about moving house. Essentially
the message is avoid moving if possible and only move
where it is essential. The full guidance can be found here (Last Updated 29/08/20)
If you do have to have a move then social distancing
rules should be maintained as far as possible.
In both of these cases this is very much the advice we have
been giving all week. Avoid where possible, Be careful and
keep your distance, Complete only if necessary, ABC!
Without going into the technicalities of why, the Coronavirus Act means that even though have to serve 3 months' notice under section 21, but the normal notice (now three months) still only remains valid for 6 months giving you one month less to take court action after expiry of the notice. A small trap for the unwary.
We have just uploaded the latest version COVID-19 documents to the account of subscribers to the Tenancy Agreement, Management Forms, the Support Pack or who attended Wednesday's paid for COVID-19 webinar. The changes are in the documents now call R2-1. There is a new "Agreement to Lease" Document for England that reflects the fact we may not be able to d the move in due to COVID-19 lockdown. We are working on a version for Wales as the Welsh version includes the specified information. We will upload it as soon as possible for clients in Wales. We have also edited the information to Landlords, specifically to ask them not to agree rent deferment without talking to us as it could jeopardise things like rent guarantee insurance. We have also updated the information for agents to explain the section 21 "non changes" explained below.
We have decided that we will use this space to tell you about updated documents too. Therefore, while we are in a state of rapid change (documents changing daily) we will not email out telling you documents have been updated but we will log them here.
We are getting a lot of calls about "new section 21 notices". As below there is no new notice and secondly the courts are not going to give you possession anyway! Please read the post below to explain why it is not a new notice.
0900 amended 1540
The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent last night. You can find the act here (Beware it is 358 pages so a long read!). Section 81 provides protection for residential tenancies though the implementation of Schedule 29.
Please read carefully paragraph 6 and 7 of Schedule 29. IT DOES NOT say that the prescribed forms have been changed. It says the forms are "to be read" as if the references are to three months. We stress this as MHCLG have produce revised versions of their forms 3 and 6A (more later) on the MHCLG web site that no longer match the versions in the legislation. Our advice is stick to the forms we provide as this is what the legislation says the form should say. To show what a mess has been made, they uploaded the revised form 6A into the Form 6. This was amended about 10 o'clock this morning. The new form also makes reference to commencement 27 March 2020 (tomorrow as I write this) when it is already in force! (should that be "farce"?) (This has also now been corrected).
The actual wording of the relevant paragraph for the section 21 notice (para 12(2), 11 is the section 8 notice for Wales as there is no prescribed form for section 21 in Wales) says:
(2)The Schedule to the Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England)
Regulations 2015 is to be read, in relation to notices given under section 21(1) or (4) of the Housing Act
1988 during the relevant period, as if in Form 6A (notice seeking possession of a property let on an
assured shorthold tenancy)—
(a)in the section headed “What to do if this notice is served on you”, in the second paragraph—
(i)for “two months’” there were substituted “three months’”, and
(ii)the words “if you pay rent quarterly, you must be given at least three months’ notice, or,” were omitted, and
(b)in paragraph 3, for “two months’” there were substituted “three months’”.
(Apologies for the formatting, copied and pasted). Note the 3 phrases in red text. 1)"is to be read" It does not say the regulations are changed, it says you read it in a certain way. 2) "As if in Form 6A" again is does not say it is change and indeed if it was changed you would not need to read it "as if" as it would be actually changed. 3) Remember we are "read this ", "as if" the 2 months were substituted for three months. Again not changing it but telling you how to read it. The reason is obvious and simple. this change is for 6 months till 30 September 2020. If they changed the prescribed form they would have to change it back again. This way they don't have to make any changes (now or later) and it is just read in a special way. It is unclear if this actually changes the notice or is just read in a different way. Users will have to make a decision as to whether to use the existing version of the MHCLG version, or even to serve both as a precaution.
Today the Government have made two relevant announcements.
Firstly, they have confirmed that the business rate relief announced for restaurants etc will apply to estate and letting agents for 2021. This is very welcome news.
The full article can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-estate-agents-lettings-agencies-and-bingo-halls-to-pay-no-business-rates-this-coming-financial-year.
Secondly, the Government have effectively confirmed the advice we have been giving on moving house. It should be avoided if possible and if it does need to take place it should be undertaken with the "social distancing" rules. This will require a little creativity but it is not beyond the wit of man to come up with ideas.