Apartment

 

 

Updated March 29th 2020

For the latest update on legislative, regulatory and advisories on the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact on landlords, please see our most recent news release at:

https://www.aspireresidential.co.uk/news/landlords/117-coronavirus-act-2020

 

 

Updated March 26th 2020

Gas Safe Register have now issued guidance to their members with regard to gas safety inspections. This guidance is based on advice received from the Health and Safety Executive. For further information please see here: 

https://www.aspireresidential.co.uk/news/our-news/114-gas-safety-inspections

 

The Government have also released the following advice on working in people's homes:

"Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.

Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild".

The above advice is being incorporated into our essential maintenance policy with immediate effect.

 

25th March 2020

Like everyone else, the team at Aspire Residential has been watching and monitoring the development and spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. As a responsible Company, we have implemented appropriate measures to help prevent the spread of the virus and safeguard the health of our clients, staff and the general public.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and our guidance below is valid as of today’s date. We will continue to publish further updates as we learn more and receive amended guidance from the Government.

In accordance with Government advice, our office is now closed until further notice and our key staff have adopted a ‘work from home’ policy. Staff have full access to systems and files to allow them continue to perform essential activities and services for clients, but in a manner that respects current advice on social distancing and safeguards against the spread of the virus. We remain available during normal business hours to discuss any concerns that you might have about the impact of the coronavirus on your rented property and rent income. Our staff can be reached on the usual office number (01903 259961) or via e mail on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Impact on our lettings and management operations

The Government has recently introduced a series of measures to assist landlords and tenants affected by the coronavirus and we advise on these measures below. We have also made operational changes to our business practices to reflect the current situation and to comply with Government advice. The following operational changes have been introduced to deal with current events; 

 

  • Banks are currently fully functional as is our internal payments system. All landlords should therefore continue to receive rent payments from us on the due date (subject to the tenant having paid the rent – see below)

 

 

  • We have additionally implemented a new “essential repair and maintenance policy” which requires that all but essential repairs be deferred. The policy also requires that any contractor visiting a property to conduct essential repairs must meet strict health and safety standards and observe social distancing protocols while at the property. A copy of our policy can be found here https://www.aspireresidential.co.uk/news/tenants/108-essential-repairs-policy

 

  • As of today’s date, the Government has not issued any guidance in terms of whether gas safety inspections are to continue. Until we do receive guidance, we will be scheduling these inspections as they fall due, however we will be ensuring that gas engineers act in accordance with our essential repairs and maintenance policy. We expect further Government advice on this in the coming days.

 

  • It is possible that some tenants might ask to end their tenancy early due to a change in circumstances brought about by the coronavirus. To date, we have not received any such request but, should we do so, we will consider all options and agree a plan with landlord clients which takes into account both their contractual rights and the specific circumstances of the situation.

 

  • For any tenancies scheduled to end over the coming months we are working proactively with both landlord and tenant to determine a course of action that would most likely see the tenant remain until the Government restrictions on non-essential travel and social distancing are relaxed.

 

  • We will be acting in accordance with Government advice with regard to property inspections and viewings for new tenants. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has advised that agencies should close their offices as they are not deemed to be ‘essential services’. We have acted accordingly. MHCLG has further advised that in-person viewings should not take place. As such, we will not be conducting any further physical/face-to-face viewings until we are advised by the Government that it is safe and appropriate to do so.

 

  • The Government has confirmed that landlords with Buy to Let mortgages may qualify for a three-month mortgage payment holiday. This mortgage holiday is available where a tenant is experiencing financial difficulty due to the Coronavirus and unable to pay the rent and where the Landlord has offered a similar rent holiday to their tenant.

 

  • The Government is introducing emergency legislation by way of the ‘Coronavirus Bill’ which will extend notice periods under S21 and S8 of the Housing Act 1988 to three months. The new provisions are currently scheduled to stay in force until the end of September 2020. The Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and once enacted, we will issue a full update to landlord clients.

 

Commentary

It is without doubt that we are in unchartered territory. A number of tenants will face financial difficulty due to reduced work hours or job losses and landlords will be concerned about a potential loss or deferment of rental income. As drafted, the Coronavirus Bill looks to have stepped back from the Government’s initial suggestion that there would be an eviction ban during the state of emergency caused by the virus. Instead, notice periods are being temporarily extended to three months.

However, legislation aside, what is important at this point in that both landlords and tenants act reasonably and with a degree of empathy in light of the current challenges. That said, we do not see the outbreak of the Coronavirus as a reason for tenants to just stop paying rent if their circumstances have not materially changed. Where a tenant does indeed fall into financial difficulty, the Government and professional landlord and letting bodies advise that the landlord and tenant will be expected to ‘work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances’

At Aspire Residential, we are working proactively with tenants who are indeed facing financial difficulty. Our approach is to;  

  • Fully understand the changes in their circumstances and how long this might last and in particular whether the change is permanent.
  • Determine whether they are able to make reduced rental payments for a period of time.
  • Determine how ‘catch up’ repayments will eventually be made and agree a repayment plan.
  • Discuss options with our landlord clients and take instructions accordingly.
  • Work with landlords to determine whether they are covered by rent guarantee insurance (if a policy has been taken out).
  • Fully document any agreed plan by way of an amendment to the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement.

 

We recognise that this is a potentially difficult time for landlords and tenants and we want you to be assured that we are doing everything in our power to continue to provide a level of ‘business as usual’ service, while also acting responsibly to protect the health and wellness of our staff, clients and the general public. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we will be issuing further updates over the coming days and weeks and in particular, providing our landlord clients with a full analysis of the Coronavirus Bill once enacted.

 

Should you have any questions then please feel to contact me.

Stay safe and thank you for your on going support.

 

Robert Gamon

Director – Aspire Residential Lettings and Management

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