We plan to add here updates about the COVID-19 and how agents can mange and survive it. Check back daily to see the latest. We will put the latest news at the top of this thread to make it easy to find.
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 though 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!!
There is also guidance for those struggling to pay their rent. (Last Updated 21/5/20)
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 29/5/20)
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: "Itshall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way asto ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in hisemployment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks totheir 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 21/5/20) 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 managingthe risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is notbeneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risksyou normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through socialdistancing, 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 29/5/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes
The same comment is made about working in offices here: (Last Updated 29/5/20) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres
and for shops here: (Last Updated 29/5/20) 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 13/5/20)
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 29/5/20)
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 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 29/5/20) 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 22/5/20) 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 14/4/20) 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 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 19/5/20) 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 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 29/5/20) https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8867/
Guidance for small business grant 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 01/6/20)
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 29/5/20)
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 01/6/20)
General guidance for landlords and tenants (Last updated 01/6/20)
Enforcement guidance for local authorities (Last updated 01/6/20)
Further guidance on repairs and property visits (Last updated 13/5/20)
Stay at home guidance (Last updated 30/3/20)
Guidance on cleaning the home to avoid contamination
useful for contractor visits for cleaning before and after (Last updated 15/5/20)
Guidance on shared accommodation and possible infection (Last updated 28/5/20)
Gas Safe Register advice (Last updated 2/6/20)
Guidance on moving home (Last updated 21/5/20)
Guidance on self isolation (Last updated 28/5/20)
Right to rent guidance (Last updated 30/3/20)
Guidance for small business grant guidance (Last updated 9/4/20) 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 29/5/20)
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 19/4/20)
Guidance clarifying that estate agents and letting agents do qualify for business rate relief (Last updated 2/4/20) 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 27/5/20)
Guidance has been issued for tenants of properties in Wales here (Last updated 21/5/20) 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 14/4/20)
MHCLG notes document to accompany the Form 6A section 21 notice. The guidance can be found here (Last updated 7/4/20)
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 29/05/20)
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 01/6/20) 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 27/5/20) 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 13/5/20) 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 21/5/20)
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.
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.