Covid-19 Update

COVID-19 Update - Version 5, Updated 02/04/2020

Following recent government restrictions on the housing market, we continue to review how we can best serve all our customers at this time. As the landscape changes and evolves almost daily, we will continue to post updates on our website, through our social profiles and directly to customers via email. Our local teams will also be in touch with customers most affected by any government changes to discuss all options to help keep you moving.

As the days pass and the restriction on movement becomes more challenging we urge you all to stay safe, follow government instructions and limit any unnecessary pressure on the NHS.
Keep sending us any questions or comments via email, alternatively please see our recently updated FAQs below:

FAQs

For added peace of mind, we thought we’d put together some FAQs which might help to answer your queries or concerns at this difficult time.

Seller FAQs

  • We are open for business and are only an email or phone call away. For the health and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and communities we will no longer operate a branch-based service but our teams are still ready to help you, whatever you need at this time.

  • This is one of the things that will not change significantly. We will make sure that your property appears on all of the property portals, Rightmove, Zoopla, and Prime Location. Your property will also appear on our Websites. Remember that 90% of people start their house search online and with more people at home this may well increase. We are still in contact by text, phone and email with our buyers and we still have new buyers registering with us. Whatever your requirements we will still tailor a marketing plan for you and your home.

  • We are still having daily conversations with buyers and we will complete remote viewings with customers and virtual tours where applicable. We will always ensure that your property is presented in the best possible way and give you feedback. We will be flexible to our customer's needs at this time.

  • We will progress your sale to exchange of contracts in the same way that we normally would. Our Countrywide Conveyancing Team are working as normal and you can still speak to your Lawyer or Legal Advisor and us. As conditions change we may need to adapt your Completion date to ensure that we are complying with current government guidance on Social Distancing.

  • We are experts at progressing sales and managing chains and we will still proceed with your sale, liaising with all the key parties. These are uncertain times and we will support all customers and keep you updated. In the unfortunate event that your sale does fall through, we will work with you on a plan for your property and your circumstances.

  • At present we are still seeing customers registering to buy houses with us and requesting viewings. With 90% of buyers house search starting online we would recommend keeping a digital presence during this period. We will of course work with you on a personal plan for your property.

Buyer FAQs

  • Yes, you can. Please talk to our Mortgage Team about how they can help you, they can conduct an appointment over the telephone and give you all the advice that you need on buying a home.

  • Please contact our teams who are only an email or phone call away, we will complete remote viewings with customers and virtual tours where possible and will be able to give you as much information as possible about the property that you are interested in.

  • We will manage your offer with the seller of the property in the same way that we normally would. We will always keep you updated by phone and email. 

  • The current government guidelines are only to travel for necessities, medical reasons, exercise and essential work. We will work with you to schedule your moving date when the time is appropriate and you have access to the services that you need.

  • We will progress your purchase in the same way that we normally would so there is no reason to put it on hold, we understand that these are uncertain times and we are here to support you, please contact your branch via email or phone so that we can help you.

Landlord FAQs

  • Yes – Rent remains payable. There is no automatic suspension of rental payments during the crisis.

  • We have advised tenants that if they are having trouble paying rent then they should discuss this with you as soon as possible. Where payments are made to us your tenant has been advised to contact their local branch.

  • Government has an expectation that landlords will, where reasonably possible, support tenants in difficulty. However, there is currently no legal obligation on you to support your tenant during the crisis. Tenants have been made aware that any support a landlord can offer will depend on their own personal circumstances.

  • This will understandably depend on the landlords personal circumstances but might include allowing their tenant to make reduced/ deferred payments by way of a payment plan. Where a plan is put in place the tenant will be expected to stick to it.

  • Yes in so far as it gives landlords and tenants mutual breathing space and flexibility in cases of genuine hardship. The buy-to-let mortgage holiday is not however an excuse for tenants not paying their rent.

  • Yes – If tenants are having difficulty paying rent and need further help this is available from their local authority, Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service.

  • No – For an initial 90 days from March 27th no tenant will be expected to move and no landlord can take possession. This 90 day period may be extended. We understand that new legislation in Scotland prevents eviction for a period of 6 months. Please refer to www.gov.scot for further information.

  • We suggest contacting your insurance provider for details of cover and any restrictions applied as a result of the crisis.

  • You are still required to repair the property. There is an expectation that landlords and tenants will be reasonable and sensible around any non-urgent maintenance.

  • Yes – The fastest and easiest way for tenants to report repairs is through our website. They will also receive helpful advice on what to do in an emergency. Like many employers, we are operating a reduced workforce in the interest of keeping our staff safe. However, both landlords and tenants can still contact their property manager on the usual number. When contacting one of our branches please use the branch email address available on our website.

  • Yes – Our property management centres work with an extensive bank of contractors. At the date of this update, most are working as normal and therefore able to undertake essential maintenance and safety inspections.

  • Where the property is managed by us, we are reminding tenants that renewal of the annual Gas Safety Record is an important part of keeping them safe in their home as it includes checks for carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless gas that can quickly kill, hence it often being referred to as the “Silent Killer”. Tenants allowing access for the inspection to take place as normal during the crisis is therefore very important. We are also reminding them to test any smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted at the property on a weekly basis.

  • With properties managed by us, keys cannot be collected from our branches during the crisis. To ensure tenant safety and that of the contractor, they will call them directly to arrange access. Tenants should advise them of any self-isolation or illness within the household. When providing access, social distancing protocols should are observed. If the tenant is transferring keys they should do so in a secure envelope ensuring they are sanitised before and after use.

  • Your tenant should where reasonable and safe, continue to allow access for repairs and safety inspections. If access is refused then efforts to undertake repairs and carry out safety inspections should be carefully documented and regularly followed up until the work has been completed.

  • Yes – It will remain advertised through the majority of our usual channels with options for prospective tenants to register interest.

  • Whilst we are unable to offer this service until restrictions on movement have been relaxed you can register interest via the branch email address available on our website.

  • Likely impact to the UK's housing market is as yet unknown. We continue to monitor activity within the lettings sector to and keep our clients as fully informed as possible.

  • Yes – Please refer to our website for updates as well as at www.gov.uk/coronavirus and www.gov.scot

Tenant FAQs

  • Yes – Rent remains payable. There is no automatic suspension of rental payments during the crisis.

  • If you are having trouble paying your rent it is important that you discuss this with your landlord as soon as possible. If you make payments to us then please contact your local branch.

  • Government has an expectation that landlords will, where reasonably possible, support tenants in difficulty. There is currently no legal obligation on landlords to support tenants during the crisis. Any support they can offer may well be dictated by their own personal circumstances.

  • This will depend on your landlords personal circumstances but might include allowing you to make reduced/ deferred payments by way of a payment plan. If this happens it is important that you don’t breach the terms of the plan.

  • Where we manage the property and collect rent we can speak with your landlord on your behalf. We are unable to agree payment terms on your landlord’s behalf. When contacting one of our branches please use the branch email address available on our website.

  • Yes – If you are having difficulties and need further help this is available from your local authority, Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service.

  • No – For an initial 90 days from March 27th no tenant will be expected to move and no landlord can take possession. This 90 day period maybe extended.

  • Your landlord is still required to repair the property. There is an expectation that landlords and tenants will be reasonable and sensible around any non-urgent maintenance.

  • You are still required to repair the property. There is an expectation that landlords and tenants will be reasonable and sensible around any non-urgent maintenance.

  • Yes – The fastest and easiest way to ensure that we are notified of a repair when we manage the property is by logging onto our website – choose “Rent” – “Report a Repair”. You will also receive helpful advice on what to do in an emergency. Like many employers, we are operating a reduced workforce in the interest of keeping our staff safe. However, you can still contact us on our usual property management number.

  • Renewal of the annual Gas Safety Record is an important part of keeping you safe in your home. It includes checks for carbon monoxide production. Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless gas that can quickly kill, hence it often being referred to as the “Silent Killer”. Allowing access for the inspection to take place is therefore very important (see below). Remember to test any smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted at the property on a weekly basis.

  • Keys cannot be collected from our branches during the crises. To ensure your safety and that of the contractor, they will call you directly to arrange access. Please advise them of any self-isolation or illness within the household. When providing access ensure that social distancing protocols are observed. If keys are transferred do so in a secure envelope ensuring they are sanitised before and after use.

  • Fire

    • If you smell smoke or see fire call 999 immediately.
    • If living in a development of flats ensure that you are familiar with building evacuation protocols in the event of a fire.

    Gas

    • If you smell gas or think there may be a leak, open windows and doors and leave the property immediately. Do not turn on lights or light a cigarette.
    • Call the National Grid straight away on 0800 111 999, nationlagrid.com.
    • If in doubt call 999 immediately.

    No Electricity/ Supply Tripping

    • Check there is sufficient credit on the meter if you have a pre-payment meter.
    • Check with your neighbours and/ or your energy provider to establish if there is a problem in your area.
    • If your electricity keeps tripping (going off) turn off/ unplug appliances gradually turning them back on until the supply trips. This should highlight the problem device.
    • If the problem persists report the problem to us where we manage the property.

    Burst Pips

    • Turn off the water supply at the stopcock.
    • Use containers to try and catch the water.
    • If the water is close to electricity supplies or appliances immediately switch off the electricity supply at the mains.

    Loss of Water Supply

    • Check if your neighbours have the same problem
    • Check if the water authority serving your area has turned off the supply.
    • Contact the supplier if the problem persists.

    Lack of heating/ hot water

    • The majority of problems can usually be rectified with reference to the manufacturer’s instructions. Copy instruction manuals are readily available online.
    • Check that thermostats and timers haven’t inadvertently been adjusted.
    • With gas boilers try re-setting the pilot and re-pressurising the system with reference to the instruction manual.
    • If you have a hot water cylinder check to see if it has an immersion heater that you can use until the boiler is repaired.
    • If the problem persists report the problem to us where we manage the property.

Conveyancing FAQs

  • We are aware of all imminent completions, and we will have been in touch with you to discuss your options. We are still exchanging and completing cases, and minimising the risks by completing on the same day as we exchange. We will discuss these risks with you. If you think your case is nearly ready to exchange and complete, please keep in regular contact with your property lawyer, as we will be working for you.   Please keep your personal and removal arrangements under constant review. 

  • We are quite used to dealing with simultaneous exchanges and completions but it does require the co-operation of all parties involved in the transaction and there are risks.

    • It will be necessary for you to make all the practical arrangements in advance of the proposed completion date, some of which could incur costs in advance even though until contracts have been exchanged, you cannot be certain that the transaction will actually take place. 
    • All parties involved, particularly in a chain of transactions, will have to make the same preparations and if anyone of them cannot make those arrangements in time, or their own circumstances change, the arrangement may collapse at the last minute.
    • If a proposed simultaneous exchange of contracts and completion is not successfully achieved, then all the preparations would have to be repeated in time for an alternative date and you would inevitably incur additional costs (e.g. removals cancellation fee, interest payable on your new mortgage funds ordered in advance, etc.).
  • Although we cannot make decisions for you, we will let you know the possible options and the risks of those options. Then you can consider what would be best for you and the chain of transactions in which you may be involved.  These are extraordinary times, but we are here to support you in your move in any way we can.   

  • Once you have exchanged contracts, you are contractually bound to complete your sale or purchase on the agreed completion date.  If you are unable to do so, whatever the reason, you will be in breach of contract. This has always been the case, irrespective of the Coronavirus implications. 

    The implications of this can range from payment of interest under the contract for late completion, loss of the 10% deposit paid on a purchase or refund of the deposit paid on a sale, and other reasonable costs that flow from the breach of contract.  In a long chain, this could include significant costs being passed on to the defaulting party, or having to chain break and find temporary accommodation to enable a sale to go through to avoid a breach of contract. 

    We are contacting our customers who have already exchanged with a completion date beyond 31st March to discuss their options. If you have not been contacted and you think, you can no longer complete, contact your Property Lawyer.

  • In common with other Law firms, we are operating at a reduced capacity and remotely. You can contact us by e-mail, and the auto-response will direct you to respond to a mailbox which will be monitored. We do ask for your patience as we try to manage the unique challenges posed by Coronavirus in the best interests of everyone. Our priority right now is imminent exchanges and completions. This will inevitably affect our usual service levels for cases that have no realistic possibility of completing during the lockdown period. We are also aware that mortgage lenders are drastically reducing their ability to service requests, and an increasing number of Law firms have told us of temporary closure or reduced staffing levels, all of which will have an impact on how much we are able to do.
    During these are uncertain times, we wanted to reassure you that the health and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and communities remain the utmost importance to us. This is just a temporary pause, and we look forward to resuming our normal service as quickly as we can.

Financial Services FAQs