Covid-19 Update

COVID-19 Update - Version 4, Updated 31/03/2020

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

  • We understand that these are confusing and worrying times for landlords and tenants alike.  You may have heard that the Government has publicised a number of outline measures it plans to introduce to support both landlords and tenants during these challenging times.  This includes the introduction of emergency legislation through the Coronavirus Bill to delay the commencement of legal proceedings from 2 months to 3.  Landlords with mortgages will also be protected as the 3-month mortgage payment holiday will be extended to Buy to Let mortgages.

    We appreciate that this may be of little comfort to those landlords who rely on rental income to supplement their household income.  Tenants concerned about their ability to make rental payments in full and on time are encouraged to enter into a dialogue as soon as possible as clarity and understanding benefits both parties. At present tenants are required to make rental payments as usual.  If you have Rent & Legal Protection cover you should, as normal, engage with the provider as soon as possible if your tenant goes into arrears.

  • Yes, your property will remain advertised through our normal channels and whilst current legislation restricts viewings we will continue to register interest.

  • We are communicating with all fully-managed tenants asking that they continue to report essential maintenance as normal via the report a repair function on our websites. This also provides our tenants with information on what to do in an emergency should any situation arise. We will continue to provide essential maintenance with emergencies taking priority where our contractors are still able to safely enter the property. Should a tenant refuse access to a property as they are self-isolating or for any other reason, it is their right to do so and we cannot attempt to force entry to the property.

    For all other queries, a member of our team will be available to speak to by phone. In the interest of keeping our staff safe, we are operating a reduced workforce policy.

  • To minimise customer contact we have temporarily postponed interim property visits, however, if your tenants do have concerns they are able to continue to contact us by phone.

    Property Visits will resume once restrictions have been eased and it is safe to do so, any postponed visits will be rebooked as a priority.

  • Currently, we are unable to offer this service, however please register your interest with your local office and we arrange a market appraisal of your property as soon as we are able.

  • We understand that these are confusing and worrying times for landlords and tenants alike. You may have heard that the Government has publicised a number of outline measures it plans to introduce to support both landlords and tenants during these challenging times. These include an intention to introduce emergency legislation through the Coronavirus Bill to suspend new evictions and to delay commencement of legal proceedings from 2 months to 3. Landlords with mortgages will also be protected as the 3-month mortgage payment holiday will be extended to Buy to Let mortgages.

    We appreciate that this may be of little comfort to those landlords who rely on rental income to supplement their household. Tenants concerned about their ability to make rental payments in full and on time are encouraged to enter into a dialogue as soon as possible as clarity and understanding benefits both parties. At present tenants are required to make rental payments as usual. If you have Rent & Legal Protection cover you should, as normal, engage with the provider as soon as possible if your tenant goes into arrears.

  • Following the announcement on Monday 23rd March, the Government is seeking to stop the disease spreading between households. In view of that, it was announced that people will only be allowed to leave their home for very limited purposes.

    As the agent, we can advise that in normal circumstances a landlord may visit the tenant upon giving 24 hours written notice and can enter with the tenants consent. However, as we are not currently operating under normal circumstances we would recommend following the current government advice.

  • We understand that these are confusing and worrying times for landlords and tenants alike. You may have heard that the Government has publicised a number of outline measures it plans to introduce to support both landlords and tenants during these challenging times. This includes the introduction of emergency legislation through the Coronavirus Bill to delay commencement of legal proceedings from 2 months to 3. Landlords with mortgages will also be protected as the 3-month mortgage payment holiday will be extended to Buy to Let mortgages. 

    We appreciate that this may be of little comfort to those landlords who rely on rental income to supplement their household income. Tenants concerned about their ability to make rental payments in full and on time are encouraged to enter into a dialogue as soon as possible as clarity and understanding benefits both parties. At present tenants are required to make rental payments as usual.  If you have Rent & Legal Protection cover you should, as normal, engage with the provider as soon as possible if your tenant goes into arrears. 

  • Tenants concerned about their ability to make rental payments in full and on time are encouraged to enter into a dialogue as soon as possible as clarity and understanding benefits both parties. At the present time tenants are required to make rental payments as usual.  If you have Rent & Legal Protection cover you should, as normal, engage with the provider as soon as possible if your tenant goes into arrears to identify if the policy covers the current situation. 

  • At this stage, it is far too early to gauge how the ramifications of the pandemic might influence regulation, be that existing, under consideration or yet to be tabled.  We are mindful of well-publicised plans to abolish Section 21 as a way of ending tenancies that were in play long before the advent of the Coronavirus.  As to whether lessons learned over the weeks and months come to feed into this regulation we can but wait and see. 

  • The disruption of the Coronavirus and the impact to the UK's housing market is yet unknown and, as a business, we continue to monitor activity within the lettings housing sector to ensure that we keep our Landlords as fully informed as possible.

  • Current restrictions prohibit us from carrying out in-person viewings and are momentarily on hold.

  • As your agent, we will endeavour to keep you updated of any legislative change either via individual mailshots or our regular landlord newsletter. Next time you speak with your branch, please check you are registered to receive our communication.

    The latest government advise around COVID-19 can be obtained via www.gov.uk/coronavirus

  • We suggest that contact your insurance provider to check the terms of your policy.

  • During this time all in-person appointments are on hold. We can certainly arrange for a colleague to appraise you property remotely and talk you through the different service options available to you and your legal obligations. We can even start to advertise your property should you be able to provide certain details to us.

Tenant FAQs

  • We are working hard with our contractors to ensure we can keep carrying out essential maintenance for you, where it is both safe to do so and in-line with current government guidance.

    At this time, we ask that you only report repairs that are essential and do this by logging onto our website - choose 'rent' - 'report a repair'.You will also receive helpful guidance on what to do in an emergency.

    For all other queries, a member of our team will be available to speak to by calling the normal property management number. In the interest of keeping our staff safe, we are operating a reduced workforce policy.

  • Yes, you can. Please contact our branches via email or give us a call and we will discuss your requirements and arrange virtual viewings as soon as we can.

  • Yes, it will. Whilst working within the current government guidelines of social distancing and self-isolation, we will do everything to ensure that you can move into your property as soon as safely possible. Please email or call your local branch for any specific questions on local protocol.

  • Yes, you do still have to pay your rent.

    If you are directly, financially affected and are struggling to pay your rent, we strongly encourage you to contact us immediately to discuss the situation. We will liaise with your landlord and work together, to see if an affordable payment plan can be agreed.

    We also suggest looking to see if you are eligible to claim any benefits to help towards the rent during this difficult time.

  • At this time, we ask that you only report repairs that are essential and do this by logging onto our website - choose 'rent' - 'report a repair'. You will also receive helpful guidance on what to do in an emergency.

  • To ensure your safety and that of our contractor, you will receive a call from our contractor to arrange access with you directly. At this time you must make the contractor aware of any self-isolation or illness within the household.

    Keys cannot be collected from our branches during this time, however, if you do arrange to provide a key to the contractor directly, ensure that social distancing requirements are met, keys are transferred in a secured envelope and returning keys are sanitised.

  • At this time, we ask that you only report repairs that are essential and do this by logging onto our website - choose 'rent' - 'report a repair'. You will also receive helpful guidance on what to do in an emergency. If water is gushing, please also call your property management team.

  • We are working hard with our contractors to ensure we can keep carrying out essential maintenance for you, where it is both safe to do so and in-line with current government guidance.
    If you are self-isolating you must discuss this with the contractor prior to his arrival. It may be there is alternative action you can take to stem the emergency.

    TENANTS: What to do in an emergency?

    Firstly, continue to report your emergency repair through www.fixflo.com/how-to-report-a-repair to ensure this is logged to your Property Manager.

    Whilst out of hours emergencies are rare in occasional circumstances you may have to call out an emergency contractor outside of normal office hours (in-line with your tenancy agreement).

    NOTE: An emergency is an issue that may make the property unsafe for you or may cause the property damage - where it cannot wait until the next working day, therefore out of hour call outs must be for genuine emergencies only.

    If you are not aware of any service contracts and you have a need to call out an emergency contractor out of hours you may need to pay the invoice and provide a copy to your property manager the next working day. Regretfully we are unable to guarantee payment until full details have been established and discussed with your landlord.

    IMPORTANT: The contractor must only be instructed to carry out temporary job/sufficient work to alleviate the cause of the problem (i.e. stop a leak, but no works carried out to repair any surroundings) and this must be detailed on their invoice.

    If you smell smoke, gas or see a fire call 999 immediately.

    If you smell gas or think you may have a gas leak please call the National Grid straight away on 0800 111 999, www.nationlagrid.com.

    No Gas or Electricity / Electricity tripping off
    Firstly please check you have sufficient credit on the meter if this is a pre-payment meter.
    Secondly, check with your neighbours or provider to which you pay your gas and electricity bill as to whether this is an outage in your street or local area. If it is, take their advice on actions.
    Where the electricity is tripping off, please check the fuses in the appliance plugs and replace as necessary.

    Burst Pipes
    Turn off the water supply at the stopcock and use containers to try and catch the water. If the water is affecting the electricity, switch off the electricity supply at the mains.

    Leaking waste to bath and sink
    Emergency repairs to leaking waste pipes for baths and sinks are normally only carried out to stop the leak. If the leak can be caught with containers do this.

    Lack of heating/hot water
    A complete lack of heating and hot water is not an emergency but would be deemed urgent between October and May or where a young child or elderly person resides in the home on the tenancy agreement.

    Please ensure you check your water heating system as you may be able to rectify this, manufacturers instructions may often be gained via the internet.

    If this is an electrical boiler the fault will be visible and in many cases should you refer to a manual (easily sourced online if not in the property) as you may be able to rectify the issue yourself. If you have an electric immersion heater as an alternative means of supplying hot water, you will be expected to use this until repairs can be carried out as routine maintenance.

    If you have a gas boiler please ensure you have tried to reset the pilot light and re-pressurised the boiler – these are very common expected items and are tenant responsibilities. As with electrical boilers, refer to a manual for full instructions.

    Please also ensure you have checked any timers or thermostats throughout the property. Should it only be the heating that has failed then please check your radiators, if one of them is warm to touch at the bottom only this would indicate air in the system and the radiator will need bleeding in order to reinstate the heating. This is easily done using a radiator key which can be purchased for very little and most general stores and is a tenant responsibility.

    Loss of water supply
    If you experience total loss of water to your property check whether or not the water authority has turned off the supply in your area by either contacting a neighbour or the local water provider. Quite often the cold water tap in the kitchen is linked directly to the mains, so try this. If there is no supply from this tap, the supply may have been stopped and you should contact the emergency water authority number.

    Please refer to who you pay your water bill to.

    Fire or Theft
    If you experience a break-in or fire please contact the relevant local authority immediately. In the event of a robbery, you will need to ensure you receive and keep noted a crime reference number. Both you and your landlord will need this in order to make any necessary insurance claim.

    Lost Keys
    If your issue relates to you losing your keys please contact your local branch as they may hold a spare management key. If not, or if outside of normal office hours please contact a locksmith and report to your property manager that you have had the locks changed. It is important that you arrange to get a management key cut to hold at the local branch.

    If there is a repair issue with the lock meaning you are not able to enter/exit the property outside of office hours please contact a locksmith and ensure they provide a receipt confirming details of the cause of the issue and notes of the repair. You will need to keep a copy of the receipt to send through to our property management team when they are available and they will contact your landlord to discuss reimbursement.

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.

  • Our legal teams are now homeworking. Customers can contact their lawyer or legal assistant to discuss their situation by calling or emailing them – if they are not available immediately, we ask for your patience as they will endeavour to get back to you as quickly as they can. We should be honest with you, and say that the  priority  is imminent exchanges and completions and this may affect our usual  service levels

    We know already that some customers are no longer willing or able to continue in this time of uncertainty. If you do want us to continue to work on your case with no guarantee that you will be able to exchange or complete, will you please contact us to discuss what is possible for us to do.

    If we do not hear from you in the coming weeks, we will put your file into temporary abeyance. There will be no cost to you for anything that we have done so far.  We will easily be able to work on your case again as soon as things become clearer. 

    The health and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and communities are of utmost importance to us and whilst these are uncertain times, we wanted to reassure you that our focus and dedication remains to keep our customers moving.

Financial Services FAQs