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Coronavirus – NHS Announce Stay at Home Measures on the Back of New Test and Trace Service

Posted on June 2nd, 2020 -

With effect from 28 May 2020, individuals who have been notified that they have had contact with an infected person and instructed to stay at home for 14 days under the new NHS test and trace system will also be deemed incapable of work and eligible for SSP (statutory sick pay).

How NHS test and trace service works

Part 1: for someone with symptoms of coronavirus

  1. isolate: as soon as you experience coronavirus symptoms, medical advice is clear: you must self-isolate for at least 7 days. Anyone else in your household must self-isolate for 14 days from when you started having symptoms
  2. test: order a test immediately at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access
  3. results: if your test is positive, you must complete the remainder of your 7-day self-isolation. Anyone in your household must also complete self-isolation for 14 days from when you started having symptoms. If your test is negative, you and other household members no longer need to self-isolate
  4. share contacts: if you test positive for coronavirus, the NHS test and trace service will send you a text or email alert or call you with instructions of how to share details of people with whom you have had close, recent contact and places you have visited. It is important that you respond as soon as possible so that we can give appropriate advice to those who need it. You will be told to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by one of our contract tracers.

Part 2: if you are contacted by the NHS test and trace service because you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus

  1. alert: you will be alerted by the NHS test and trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The alert will usually come by text, email or phone call. You should then log on to the NHS test and trace website, which is normally the easiest way for you and the service to communicate with each other – but, if not, a trained call handler will talk you through what you must do. Under-18s will get a phone call and a parent or guardian will be asked to give permission for the call to continue
  2. isolate: you will be told to begin self-isolation for 14 days from your last contact with the person who has tested positive. It’s really important to do this even if you don’t feel unwell because, if you have been infected, you could become infectious to others at any point up to 14 days. Your household doesn’t need to self-isolate with you, if you do not have symptoms, but they must take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing and handwashing and avoid contact with you at home
  3. test if needed: if you develop symptoms of coronavirus, other members of your household must self-isolate immediately at home for 14 days and you must book a test at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access. If your test is positive, you must continue to stay at home for at least 7 days and we will get in touch to ask about your contacts since they must self-isolate. If your test is negative, you must still complete your 14-day self-isolation period because the virus may not be detectable yet – this is crucial to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

For further information, see the full guidance; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works


Government Publish a ‘Guide for Landlords: electrical safety standards in the private rented sector’

Posted on June 1st, 2020 -

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/electrical-safety-standards-in-the-private-rented-sector-guidance-for-landlords-tenants-and-local-authorities/guide-for-landlords-electrical-safety-standards-in-the-private-rented-sector

The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 1 June 2020.

The new regulations will apply to new tenancies from 1 July 2020 and to existing tenancies from 1 April 2021.

Landlords must have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is “qualified and competent”, at least every five years. Landlords must provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants (and to their local authority if requested). For further information, please see the government guidance link above.


Coronavirus – Changes to the Job Retention (Furlough) Scheme

Posted on May 31st, 2020 -

Through June and July, the scheme will continue in it’s current form with no change, the Government will pay 80% of wages up to £2,500 per month – with no employer contribution.

Greater flexibility has been introduced. This will help agencies to bring back more employees while they establish business need.

From July 1, under a new ‘flexible furlough’ employers will have more freedom to bring back employees for a number of days per week. To make changes, the existing scheme will need to close, this will happen on June 30 and new registrations under the existing scheme, will need to be made prior to June 10.

In August, the taxpayer contribution will stay at 80% of wages. Employers will be asked to pay national insurance and employer pension contributions.

By September employers will have made preparations and will therefore be asked to start paying towards people’s wages whilst the Government ensure staff remaining on furlough continue to receive up to 80% of their salary. Taxpayers will pay 70% of furloughed wages, employers will pay 10%.

Then in October, taxpayers will pay 60% with employers contributing 20%.

The Self-Employment Income Scheme will be extended, with applications opening in August for a second and final grant covering three months’ worth of average monthly trading profits up to 70% or a maximum total of £6,570.

Through June and July, the scheme will continue in it’s current form with no change, the Government will pay 80% of wages up to £2,500 per month – with no employer contribution.

In line with the messaging that Propertymark has been pushing through to Government on behalf of members, greater flexibility has been introduced. This will help member agencies to bring back more employees while they establish business need.

From July 1, under a new ‘flexible furlough’ employers will have more freedom to bring back employees for a number of days per week. To make changes, the existing scheme will need to close, this will happen on June 30 and new registrations under the existing scheme, will need to be made prior to June 10.

In August, the taxpayer contribution will stay at 80% of wages. Employers will be asked to pay national insurance and employer pension contributions.

By September employers will have made preparations and will therefore be asked to start paying towards people’s wages whilst the Government ensure staff remaining on furlough continue to receive up to 80% of their salary. Taxpayers will pay 70% of furloughed wages, employers will pay 10%.

Then in October, taxpayers will pay 60% with employers contributing 20%.

The Self-Employment Income Scheme will be extended, with applications opening in August for a second and final grant 
covering three months’ worth of average monthly trading profits 
up to 70% or a maximum total of £6,570.

The Chancellor went on to advise there will be no further extensions or amendments to these schemes.

Information from ARLA-Propertymark


Tenant Fees Act – Transition Period Comes to an End

Posted on May 31st, 2020 -

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 (which came into force on 01 June 2019) provided a transition period of 12 months for tenancies which started before June 2019, this ends 31 May 2020. This means that any tenancy clauses in existing contracts that charge fees will not be enforceable after this date.

Any breach of the ban will incur a penalty of up to £5,000.00. Further breaches can result in a criminal offence and unlimited fines.

Key points;

Check-out fees – Letting agents should be aware that tenants on existing contracts which involved paying check-out fees up front, these become Prohibited Payments as of 1 June 2020. Agents will have 28 days in which to repay these fees to tenants or they will be in breach of the legislation.

End of the transition period – During the transition period fees written into existing contracts could continue to be charged. However, with the 12-month transition period now ending from 1 June 2020, the ban applies to all tenancies (both Fixed Term and Periodic) regardless of when the tenancy started.

Tenancy Deposits – The Act set a cap (five or six weeks rent dependent on the amount of rent paid annually) for how much could be charged as a security deposit on a tenancy. This will apply to all relevant tenancies (ASTs and Licenses to occupy) from 1 June 2020.Agents do not need to immediately refund any part of an existing Tenancy Deposit that exceeds the cap of five or six weeks’ rent and can hold this for the duration of the existing tenancy. However, where a tenant renews their tenancy by signing a new Fixed Term agreement on or after 1 June 2019, any amount of their existing deposit which exceeds the applicable five- or six-week limit must be refunded to ensure the new tenancy complies with the tenancy deposit cap. Agents should liaise with the Tenancy Deposit schemes when dealing with calculations.

Section 21 – A Section 21 notice cannot be issued in relation to the tenancy if Prohibited Payments or Holding Deposits need to be repaid.

For detailed information on the Tenant Fees Act and what it means for landlords;
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/819634/TFA_Landlord_and_Agent_Guidance_190722.pdf


Coronavirus – Employers Must Contribute to Extended Furlough Scheme from August

Posted on May 29th, 2020 -

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has laid out how he expects to move businesses off the Coronavirus job Retention Scheme, meaning that some agencies must begin to start part-paying salaries for furloughed staff.

The Job Retention Scheme currently supports 7.5 million workers on furlough, guaranteeing 80 per cent of staff pay up to £2,500 per month, alongside national insurance and pension payments. The Chancellor announced an extension of the scheme until October on 12 May. No changes are expected until the end of July.

Changes begin in August

From August, employers will be required to pay a quarter of all staff wages – even if the business is still in lockdown. They will also be required to pay National Insurance contributions, but it is thought that the Government will still pay pension contributions.

Employees may start working part-time

Employers will be able to bring furloughed staff back part-time from August and will be obliged to declare the number of hours the currently furloughed staff work if they return. Firms caught abusing the system by not paying their share of staff wages face fraud charges.

Information for both employers and employees can be found on the gov.uk website. 

Article from ARLA/Propertymark;

https://www.arla.co.uk/news/may-2020/employers-must-contribute-to-extended-furlough-scheme-from-august/


Coronavirus – Agents – Managing Annual Leave

Posted on May 29th, 2020 -

With businesses in England looking to reopen, and those in other parts of the UK still under lockdown, agency managers may struggle to balance the annual leave needs of staff with keeping the business running both now and when offices are reopened.

The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation, which has seen many employees being placed on furlough. This has led some employees to stockpile holiday entitlement.

Almost all workers who work a five-day week currently receive 28 days of statutory leave entitlement inclusive of bank holidays. This entitlement is not normally transferable between leave years.

New holiday provisions

The Government has passed new emergency legislation allowing workers to carry forward, for two years, up to four weeks of unused leave the Coronavirus outbreak prevented them from taking. This eases the requirements on businesses to ensure that workers take the statutory amount of annual leave in one year. These amendments to the Working Time Regulations 1998 apply to all employees, including agency workers, and some casual and zero-hours contract workers. Financial penalties for employers who do not ensure that workers take their statutory entitlement in one year are also lifted.

Payments in lieu of holiday are usually disallowed unless the worker is leaving the employer, this has also been changed.

However, just because this legislation has been passed does not mean that it will happen in this way. The normal annual leave provisions are still in place and employers must still take all reasonable measures to allow an employee to take their allocated leave, These changes are for those workers that have been unable to take their leave due to the fact that they have needed to work during this crisis period.

Options for furloughed employees

Employers can require workers to take holiday as long as they give them twice as many days’ notice as the period of leave the worker is required to take, or whatever is outlined in their employment contract. Employers are recommended to seek their employee’s agreement to this arrangement, as this will come at a time where employees are unable to travel freely due to lockdown measures. Employees may be happy to agree to this arrangement as it would mean that the employee would be entitled to full pay for the period of annual leave.

This set of rules would apply equally to those employees who have not been furloughed.

Holiday allowance above the statutory amount continues to accrue during furlough

If an employee is contractually entitled to more than the statutory amount (i.e. a business offers more than the 28 days statutory amount) then employers can ask employees to agree that leave above the statutory amount does not accrue during the period of furlough, however, this must be agreed and confirmed in writing by both parties.

Without such an agreement, the employee still accrues annual leave at the rate of their contractual entitlement.

Topping up furlough pay using holiday

The Government guidance does not address if furloughed workers can use holiday to top up their 80 per cent salary pay. If holiday is taken during a furlough period employers should top up the holiday pay to the full normal salary amount. Employers can also claim 80 per cent of the holiday pay through the furlough grant in the same way as regular salary.

Employees who are worried about a drop in income may propose taking holiday on set dates on full pay. They may only agree to being furloughed before or after some leave on full salary for the holiday part of the period.

Employers who are not in a financial position to pay furloughed employees in full during annual leave can refuse employees’ requests for holiday in what would otherwise be a furlough period. The employer must give the normal notice which is as much notice of a refusal as the amount of leave requested, so two weeks’ notice if the leave requested was for two weeks.

The information provided in this article is for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Whilst the material is valid at the time of publication, changes in circumstances may impact the accuracy and validity of the information. It is therefore suggested that you consult with the Government website for the very latest information or speak with an HR adviser on the HR member legal helpline. 

Article by ARLA Propertymark.

The full article can be read here;

https://www.arla.co.uk/news/may-2020/post-pandemic-plan-managing-annual-leave/


Coronavirus – Webinar – The Impact of Coronavirus on Universal Credit

Posted on May 29th, 2020 -

Wed, Jun 10, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Coronavirus has already had a dramatic impact on jobs and incomes and we will be living with the economic impact of the crisis for years to come. Government response has been to support people’s incomes and millions have made a claim for Universal Credit. This is chance to hear from DWP and discuss:

• their response and how the UC service is managing increased demand,

• supporting tenants to cope with the financial impact

• protecting vulnerable people

• changes to rent collection and arrears recovery

• preparing for the months to come

To register for the webinar; https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3093999739360478224?ProductId=The-impact-of-coronavirus-on-Universal-Credit_1&utm_campaign=1908809_The%20impact%20of%20coronavirus%20on%20Universal%20Credit%20Webinar&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dotmailer&dm_i=3R33,14WUH,42400I,40CTI,1


Tax Advice from Go Simple Tax

Posted on May 29th, 2020 -

HMRC to stop automatically sending out physical copies of tax-return forms as part of an attempt to drive up use of digital platforms as the service goes digital;

https://www.holyrood.com/news/view,hmrc-to-stop-automatically-sending-out-physical-copies-of-taxreturn-forms_15243.htm

Webinars on Income Tax and VAT;

https://info.gosimpletax.com/gst-webinar-aia

It is important now more than ever to prepare your self-employed tax return. 

It pays to plan ahead. Already the deadline for second payments on account has been deferred, and it seems inevitable that new forms of help will be announced over the coming months to further support those affected by the lockdown. So, to know where you stand, submit your Self Assessment tax return early.

But remember, filing early doesn’t mean paying early. It just means that you can find out the amount you’ll owe in January. From there, you can better inform your spending and enjoy complete peace of mind…


New Members

Posted on May 29th, 2020 -

SWLA annual membership is currently £45.00, the membership year runs from 01 November – 31 October. If you join after 01 June 2020, please pay just £25.00 which will take your membership up to 31 October 2020.

**Please note, as approved at the SWLA AGM 2020, as of 01 November 2020, yearly membership will be £50.00.**


Coronavirus – Proposals to Extend the 3 Month Mortgage Holiday Until 31 October 2020

Posted on May 22nd, 2020 -

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/help-with-mortgages-to-continue-for-homeowners-affected-by-coronavirus

Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage due to Coronavirus will be able to extend their mortgage payment holiday for a further three months, or start making reduced payments, in proposals published today.

  • ongoing mortgage support for homeowners still struggling with impact of Coronavirus
  • application period for a mortgage holiday also extended
  • lenders will contact their customers to discuss options

The availability of a three month mortgage holiday was first announced in March as part of an unprecedented package of support for individuals, businesses and the economy. Over 1.8 million mortgage payment holidays were taken up, and the first of these will be coming to an end in June. So to give people the certainty they need, they will be contacted by their lender to discuss a way forward. Where consumers can afford to re-start mortgage payments, it is in their best interest to do so. However, if people are still struggling and need help, a full extension of the mortgage holiday for a further three months will be available as one of the options open to them.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published new draft guidance today for lenders which will set out the expectations for firms and the options available to their customers. This includes extending the application period for a mortgage holiday until 31 October so customers that have not yet had a payment holiday and are experiencing financial difficulty will be able to request one. The current lender ban on repossessions of homes will be continued to the same date.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen said:

We’re doing everything we can to help people with their finances at this difficult time, and that includes making sure people get the support they need with their mortgages. That’s why we’re working with the banks and lenders to extend payment holidays if people need them.

Everyone’s circumstances will be different, so when homeowners can pay some or all of their mortgage, they should work with their lender on a plan; but if they are still struggling, I want them to know that help is there.

Christopher Woolard, Interim Chief Executive at the FCA, said:

Our expectations are clear – anyone who continues to need help should get help from their lender. We expect firms to work with customers on the best options available for them, paying particular attention to the needs of their vulnerable customers, and to provide information on where to access help and advice.

Where consumers can afford to re-start mortgage payments, it is in their best interests to do so. But where they can’t, a range of further support will be available. People who are struggling and have not had a mortgage payment holiday, will also continue to be able to apply until 31 October.

When the guidance comes into force, following a short consultation, lenders will be expected to contact their customers whose mortgage holiday is coming to an end. Some may be able to resume their full monthly payments, others may be able to pay a proportion of their monthly payment, or temporarily switch to an interest only mortgage, and others will opt to extend their mortgage payment holiday.

Borrowers that resume with their mortgage payments will be given options on how best to do so, such as the opportunity to extend the term of their mortgage in order to leave their monthly payments at around the same level as they were prior to their mortgage holiday.

Notes

Full details have been published by the FCA – for more information see https://www.fca.org.uk/publications/guidance-consultations/mortgages-coronavirus-updated-draft-guidance-firms

The guidance sets out that:

  • Customers who can afford to return to full repayment should do so. At the end of a payment holiday, firms should contact their customers to find out if they can resume payments and if so, agree a plan on how the missed payments will be repaid.
  • anyone who continues to need help gets help – lenders should continue to support customers who have already had a payment holiday where they need further help, including a further three month deferral
  • keeping the scheme available to people who are impacted at a later date – customers that have not yet had a payment holiday and experiencing financial difficulty will be able to request one
  • keeping a roof over people’s head during a public health crisis – the current lender ban on repossessions of homes will be continued to 31 October 2020
  • payment hoidays and partial payment holidays offered under this guidance should not have a negative impact on credit files

The FCA welcomes comments on these proposals until 5pm on Tuesday 26 May and expects to finalise the guidance shortly afterwards.

Information from gov.uk.


Coronavirus – £3m Advertising Fund for Small Firms Hit by COVID-19 Downturn

Posted on May 21st, 2020 -

The Small Business Advertising Support Fund is a £3 million initiative which aims to provide free print and online advertising for small businesses struggling in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Applications are open, the funder is expecting this scheme to be very popular, so interested parties are advised to apply promptly.

https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources-page/small-business-advertising-fund.html


Coronavirus – Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme set to launch

Posted on May 21st, 2020 -

A new online service will be launched on 26 May for small and medium-sized employers to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.

This scheme will allow small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related SSP.

Employers will be able to make their claims through a new online service from 26 May. This means they will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

Tax agents will also be able to make claims on behalf of employers.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-statutory-sick-pay-rebate-scheme-set-to-launch

Business Support Helpline

The Government Business Support Helpline number in England has changed to FREEPHONE 0800 998 1098. The helpline provides free, impartial business support and signposting services to businesses in England – which currently includes business advice on Covid-19.  

You can also find free support, advice and sources of finance through your local growth hub or speak to an advisor on webchat about support for your business. 


Coronavirus – Agents; Guidance from the Government on Working Safely During Coronavirus

Posted on May 21st, 2020 -

Government guidance for offices; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres

Webinar for offices; https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/working-safely-during-coronavirus-offices-contact-centres-tickets-105954490734?aff=BIRD

Government guidance for branches; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/shops-and-branches

Webinar for branches; https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/working-safely-during-coronavirus-shops-branches-tickets-105950589064

Business Support Helpline

The Government Business Support Helpline number in England has changed to FREEPHONE 0800 998 1098. The helpline provides free, impartial business support and signposting services to businesses in England – which currently includes business advice on Covid-19.  

You can also find free support, advice and sources of finance through your local growth hub or speak to an advisor on webchat about support for your business. 


Universal Credit – Landlords Can Now Apply Online for UC Direct Payments if a Tenant is Having Difficulty Paying Rent

Posted on May 15th, 2020 -

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-landlord-request-for-a-managed-payment-or-rent-arrears-deduction

This is a new online service for landlords to request direct payments of rent or rent arrears. It replaces the existing UC47 process.

Use this service to request payment of rent directly from a tenant’s Universal Credit, if a tenant is having difficulty paying their rent.

Guidance on when to request a managed payment or rent arrears deduction, or both from a tenant’s Universal Credit can be found in the Alternative Payments guide.


Coronavirus – Post Pandemic Planning and Checklist for Agents Operating

Posted on May 15th, 2020 -

https://www.arla.co.uk/news/may-2020/post-pandemic-plan-agents-must-be-clear-communicators-to-confront-virus-fears/

Article written by ARLA Propertymark

With the property market now open for business in England, agents may find themselves dealing with not only tenants eager to get out there and find a property but current tenants who are wary of inviting people into their home.

What can agents do to help allay tenants’ fears?

Understand their viewpoint

After two months of lockdown, and with no vaccine yet forthcoming, it’s not unreasonable for someone to feel nervous about letting strangers into their home. Agents can play a crucial community role here, in understanding and mitigating worries.

Communicate clearly and proactively

Be proactive and transparent in your communications with clients. Agents returning to work will have adapted their business practices to reduce the risk of Coronavirus transmission. It may be that fully communicating the steps that your business has taken is enough to allay any fears.

Agents that have followed the ‘Propertymark operating checklist‘ will be able to prove that they have:

  • Put distancing measures into their offices 
  • Trained their team in how to handle social distancing, new business practices, and new safety measures
  • Made sure their staff are safe and well 
  • Conducted customer due diligence checks in advance
  • Used virtual viewings to narrow any in-person viewings to serious customers only 
  • Communicated clearly with potential buyers on social distancing during viewings

Where you do ultimately need to tell a potential tenant that an occupant will not accept a viewing at the current time, explain:

‘The occupant has asked that all viewings are held in abeyance until [the relevant date]. We are continuing to update them about your interest and we will ensure that you have access under our new safety procedures at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, we have virtual viewing for the inside and the exterior rear of the property. If you have any particular questions or requests for footage please let us know. I look forward to keeping you updated.’

Take any necessary action

Remember, no viewing should take place if an agent, occupant or potential tenant is isolating or displaying COVID-19 symptoms, however mild and the Government guidance around viewings must be adhered to in all circumstances.


If a tenant has specific concerns that are easily addressed within the scope of your new socially distanced business practices, be sure to do this promptly. Property agents are already experts in taking care of their customers’ needs – handling these concerns is just a further step into the ‘new normal’.

SWLA would like to thank Propertymark for this clear and concise information.

There is also a brilliant checklist for agents planning to operate in the coming weeks;

https://www.propertymark.co.uk/working-in-the-industry/covid-19/


Coronavirus – Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Posted on May 13th, 2020 -

This guidance applies to people moving between private residential homes; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak#history

All businesses should follow the government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus and safer working guidance.

As well as government guidance, we encourage all professionals to speak to their representative bodies and familiarise themselves with the guidance that these bodies have prepared for their specific sectors.

It is important that all businesses work together to ensure we stay alert and safe to minimise the spread of infection and we expect all sectors to consider how they can operate in a way which minimises the need for face to face contact.

Stay alert

We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.


Coronavirus – Applications for Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Open Early

Posted on May 13th, 2020 -

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/applications-for-self-employment-income-support-scheme-open-early

  • Self-Employment Income Support Scheme opens for applications 13 May 2020
  • those eligible will receive government grant worth up to £7,500
  • money expected to be in bank accounts by 25 May


Coronavirus – Chancellor Extends Furlough Scheme Until October

Posted on May 12th, 2020 -

Announced Tuesday 12th May 2020.

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until end of October
  • furloughed workers across UK will continue to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500
  • new flexibility will be introduced from August to get employees back to work and boost economy

For further information; https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-extends-furlough-scheme-until-october


Coronavirus – New Lockdown Measures from Wednesday 13th May

Posted on May 12th, 2020 -

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

Stay alert

We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.


Coronavirus – Housing Market in England Released from Lockdown

Posted on May 12th, 2020 -

Effective immediately, estate agents can open, viewings can be carried out, and removal firms and conveyancers can re-start operations whilst following social distancing guidelines. We must also bear in mind that the following social distancing guidelines must be followed;

Stay alert

We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

All landlords and agents should read the updated gov.uk guidance; https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

The government has set out plans to re-start England’s housing market, which has been in deep freeze since the coronavirus lockdown. The changes were contained in the updated lockdown regulations presented to Parliament on Tuesday 12th May.

Buyers and renters had previously been urged to delay moving while the “stay at home” advice was in place.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the changes must be carried out under social distancing and safety rules. He said;

“Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process, from viewings to removals. This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”

Mr Jenrick also said that guidance from Public Health England must continue to be followed. For example, anyone advised to self-isolate should continue to do so and not move home.

The new guidance includes the permission for trades people to operate in homes, provided they follow social distancing advice.

Article abridged from BBC News https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52640696

See the regulations; http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/500/made?utm_campaign=11539560_Parliament%20releases%20the%20brakes&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dotmailer&dm_i=Z6K,6VBZC,962SLC,RKLLM,1


Coronavirus – Prime Minister’s Address 10 May 2020 – for landlords and lettings, the government guidance released in March is still in force.

Posted on May 11th, 2020 -

Boris Johnson’s full address to the nation Sunday 10th May 2020; https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-address-to-the-nation-on-coronavirus-10-may-2020

We are awaiting new guidance from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Until this is released, the following guidance still stands for the sector; 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

At this stage, we would recommend that you make plans to prepare your business for coming out of lockdown.

Ensure to keep in mind the following when preparing for coming out of lockdown, whenever that may be;

  • Social distancing (staff, clients and the community)
  • Work from home if it’s possible
  • Only use public transport if you really need to, avoid where possible
  • Make preparations with the information that we have now – especially agents, think about protective equipment, cleaning, sanitising, staff hours, rotation, distancing within the workplace, travel etc

SWLA will keep members informed with any important updates.

Read this article from Goodlord for a great write up of the Government’s transition to coming out of lockdown;

https://blog.goodlord.co/government-announces-roadmap-to-transition-out-of-lockdown


Reminder – Tenant Fees Act; 01 June 2020 – all existing tenancies affected.

Posted on May 11th, 2020 -

The Tenant Fees Act 2019 came in on 01 June 2019. The ban on tenant fees applies to new or renewed tenancy agreements signed on or after 1 June 2019.

From 1 June 2020, the ban on fees will apply to all applicable tenancies. You will not be able to charge any fees after this date unless they are a permitted payment.

The ban applies to assured shorthold tenancies (except social housing or long leases), tenancies of student accommodation and licences to occupy housing in the private rented sector in England.

It means you cannot require a tenant (or anyone acting on their behalf or guaranteeing their rent) to make certain payments in connection with a tenancy. You cannot require them to enter a contract with a third party or make a loan in connection with a tenancy.

From 1 June 2019, if you entered into a tenancy agreement, student let or licence to occupy housing in the private rented sector, you are prohibited from charging any fees or other payments that are not included in the list of permitted payments.

Where a tenancy agreement was entered into before 1 June 2019, you will still be able to charge fees until 31 May 2020, but only where these are required under an existing tenancy agreement. After 1 June 2020, the term requiring that payment will no longer be binding. Should you, in error, ask a tenant to make such a payment, you should return the payment immediately and must return this within 28 days. If you do not return the payment within 28 days, you will be treated for the purposes of the Act as having required the tenant to make a prohibited payment (a payment that is outlawed under the ban).

If a pre 01 June 2019 tenancy rolls into a statutory periodic tenancy, the deposit remains as is, until the tenancy is renewed or a new fixed term starts. If the tenancy is renewed or a new fixed term agreement starts after 01 June 2019, you must return the amount of the deposit that is over the cap. Your deposit protection scheme will have the facility to do this once you instruct them.

Here is a guide if you aren’t sure about deposit refunds; https://www.arla.co.uk/media/1047879/tds-deposit-cap-guide.pdf

From 1 June 2020, the ban on fees will apply to all applicable tenancies. You will not be able to charge any fees after this date unless they are a permitted payment.

Permitted Payments

If the fee you are charging is not on this list, it is a prohibited payment and you should not charge it. A prohibited payment is a payment outlawed under the ban.
The only payments you can charge in connection with a tenancy are:
a) the rent
b) a refundable tenancy deposit capped at no more than five weeks’ rent where the annual rent is less than £50,000, or six weeks’ rent where the total annual rent is £50,000 or above
c) a refundable holding deposit (to reserve a property) capped at no more than one week’s rent
d) payments to change the tenancy when requested by the tenant, capped at £50, or reasonable costs incurred if higher
e) payments associated with early termination of the tenancy, when requested by the tenant
f) payments in respect of utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax; and
g) A default fee for late payment of rent and replacement of a lost key/security device, where required under a tenancy agreement

More information/guidance for landlords on the Tenant Fee Ban can be found on the gov.uk website;

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/791273/TFA_Guidance_for_LandlordsAgents.pdf


New Electrical Safety Standards – Landlord’s Questions Answered by NAPIT

Posted on May 6th, 2020 -

NAPIT have launched ‘Guidance for Landlords’ on the new Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector, England.

These Regulations apply in England to –
all new specified tenancies from 1st July 2020; and
all existing specified tenancies from 1st April 2021.

NOTE– Properties let on statutory periodic tenancies where the fixed term expires between 01 July 2020 and 01 April 2021 WILL require an inspection and test at this point under the Regulations. For statutory periodic tenancies – where on expiry of the fixed term the tenancy rolls over into a periodic tenancy automatically by statute (rather than by contract) – the periodic tenancy would be a new tenancy.

The Regulations coming into force are for new specified tenancies which require private landlords to ensure their properties are subject to electrical inspection and testing, resulting in a satisfactory report, carried out by a qualified, competent person at intervals not exceeding 5 years. This will apply to all existing specified tenancies from the 1st April 2021.

Mike Andrews, Chief Executive Officer of NAPIT comments: “As the National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers, we see it as our duty to provide accurate, consistent and easy to understand Guidance for landlords on these new Regulations. Electrical Safety is at the forefront of everything we do, and we have worked hard on this guidance to make it easy for Landlords to understand their requirements. We have also launched a dedicated online search facility on our website helping landlords search for competent and qualified tradespeople that they can trust to carry out their electrical inspections. As well as this we have created a new Landlord Electrical Installation Safety Record for our members to use which provides a summary of the often lengthy Electrical Installation Condition Report. We will continue to support both our members and Landlords during this period of adjustment.”

The guide is very clear for landlords. Most queries are covered;

https://www.napit.org.uk/downloads/Electrical-Safety-in-the-Private-Rented-Sector-Regulations-Guidance-for-Landlords-NAPIT.pdf


Membership Passed on to a New Generation

Posted on May 6th, 2020 -

It’s always very sad when we hear of an SWLA member passing away. We are a local association and get to know most of our members well over the years.

Mr John Farrant passed away recently, he was a member for many years. His son Tony got in touch with us in the hope that he could continue his late father’s membership so that he could also receive the help and training and value that we offer to all of our members. Tony’s father had regularly mentioned the good work that SWLA do and recommended us to many landlords that he spoke to.

Mr John Farrant was proud to be a good, fair landlord. His son hopes to continue that and SWLA are happy to help him along the way.


Coronavirus – Update for Bristol Landlords & Agents

Posted on May 6th, 2020 -

Thank you to Fran Miller from Bristol City Council for the following information. Please note, this is only relevant to private landlords/agents who rent properties in Bristol;

Has there ever been a better time to work with the Bristol City Council Private Renting Team?

Bristol City Council wants to hear from anyone who has a property available for private letting, either immediately or in the coming year.

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the private lettings and sales market has stalled, with government advice stating that moves should only happen if absolutely necessary or considered an “essential move”. This has left many landlords with empty accommodation and without an income. Letting a property to a person who is experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness is considered an essential move. Working with us, you will be able to let your property and receive a guaranteed rental income.

By renting through the council, you’ll also enjoy a range of other benefits including no agency fees, a free property inspection, fully vetted tenants, and an ongoing comprehensive package of support for both landlord and tenant. The government has also recently increased the rates of Local Housing Allowance. This means the rent you receive will be at or close to rents that can be achieved through the private market.

Here are the increases to the monthly Local Housing Allowance rates:

 Shared Room rateStudio/One bed2 bed3 bed4 bed
New rate£391.51£695.02£824.99£950.00£1,324.99
Old rate£315.81£585.22£710.27£848.58£1,136.11
Increase per month£75.70£109.8£114.72£101.42 £188.88
      

Visit https://www.bristol.gov.uk/private-landlords/get-help-with-renting-out-your-property to find out more or contact the team at private.renting@bristol.gov.uk

Property Licence update for Bristol

No routine licence compliance inspections will be undertaken until further notice. However, where there is an imminent risk to the health and safety of tenants due to conditions in a property, each case will be assessed individually and action will be taken accordingly.

Deadline EXTENDED by three months for Gas & Safety Certificate submission

Working with your tenant

With eviction bans in place during Covid-19 until 30 September 2020, it is vital to keep in contact with your tenant(s).  The economy has been heavily impacted and the government has stepped in to support individuals during these unprecedented times by introducing the Coronavirus job retention scheme.   In addition, the Local Housing Allowance Rates have been increased from 1 April 2020.

If your tenant is concerned about their ability to pay rent due to illness, furloughing, redundancy or loss of employment, here are some useful links to pass on:  https://www.bristol.gov.uk/benefits-financial-help/covid-19-financial-help

You may have concerns about whether tenants who are entitled to housing benefit can manage their monthly payments.  If so, you may be able to organise an Alternative Payment Arrangement so rent payments will be paid direct to you.  You will need to complete this form by email

https://www.bristol.gov.uk/private-landlords/housing-benefit-information-for-landlords

Email Before You Serve Service

Are you thinking of issuing notice to your tenant as things are not going to plan? Why not contact us to see if we can help you.

The council is committed to saving tenancies, and if you are experiencing problems and your relationship with your tenant is not as it should be, we may be able to help you by offering a mediation service. We can also provide helpful advice and guidance to help try to resolve issues and get the tenancy back on track for both you and your tenant.

Contact us to find out more about our services and find out what we can do for you.

Email: private.renting@bristol.gov.uk