1400 Thursday 2md April. New Updates are in BLUE text. 

GENERAL - Many of our clients are concerned about the current situation with the coronavirus and how it may affect them. We have understandably had a significant increase in emails and telephone calls on this subject so in order to try and manage this we will be updating this page on the website with relevant information for Landlords, Tenants and Contractors which should be your first port of call. We will not be commenting on news items or information gained from alternative sources. We will provide information based on the professional advice we receive and the briefings from HM Government. 
 
If you want detailed advice please refer to the HM Government Coronavirus Website. 
 
The Non-Statutory Advice from HM Government for Landlords and Tenants is here. This document will answer many questions for Landlords and Tenants and we advise that you read the relevant section for advice. 
 
HM Government Guidance on Moving Home is here. 
 

Office Hours 

Our opening hours remain the same from 0900 to 1730 Monday to Friday and 0930 to 1400 on Saturday. However, with immediate effect the office in Rushden will be closed to the general public. We can still be contacted on the office phone numbers or by email. 
Our current understanding is that essential work that cannot be completed at home will allow us to travel. The Housing Minister has confirmed on 25th March that essential work relating to safety and sanitation should be undertaken 'where safe to do so' and contractors should follow social distancing guidelines. 
Since 16th March we have significantly reduced our face to face contact with clients and contractors. We believe that it is still important to ensure people can move home, so our travelling is therefore limited to activities directly related to that purpose and we are taking the appropriate precautions. As we all understand the situation is extremely fluid and may change at any moment. We will continue to act on HM Government and professional advice. 
Due to a significant increase in email and telephone calls we would ask that you consider whether your email or telephone call is really necessary. We would still expect maintenance issues to be reported and these will be dealt with on a priority basis as below. 

Property Inspections 

Routine Property Inspections are suspended until April 19th when the situation will be reviewed. 

Tenants Advice 

Rent payments continue to be due according to your tenancy agreement. If you are in financial difficulty due to the ongoing situation the earlier you can contact us the better. 'Rent Breaks' are being talked about in the media but until there is firm information and direction providing a legal basis on this subject we will not be commenting further on this issue.  
'Rent Breaks' have been talked about by Government again. How they will work, the circumstances in which they can be invoked or agreed and repayment of rent due at the end of the 'Rent Break' are not clear. We await further guidance/legislation. 
Maintenance - if, as expected the coronavirus will affect greater numbers of people it is inevitable this will affect some of our contractors too. Maintenance visits will be prioritised on the basis of urgent requirement or personal vulnerability. Our contractors are advised to follow the Government advice on personal hygiene and contact with others. Please do not be offended if we, or our contractors ask if you are self isolating or have contracted the virus.  
If you are at home when contractors visit, please respect the social distancing advice. We will do our best to instruct contractors for urgent work or for tenants who are particularly vulnerable, but as things develop we expect there will be less contractors who are readily available to deal with things. We suspect that their supply chains for replacement parts etc will also become disrupted which may delay repairs further. 
Eviction/Repossession of property - The Government has announced that during the Coronavirus emergency eviction orders are suspended and no new orders will be considered by the Courts. This will be the subject of emergency legislation. 
Financial Support - The Government has announced a range of measures where employers may be able to retain employees and pay them up to 80% of their wages. There are conditions to this and the official advice and process has yet to be published. There are also changes to the Benefits system to support people who may need assistance. 
A financial package has been announced for the self employed. The Government website has not been updated as yet but here is the press release. Self Employed Support. 
 
Our advice is to contact your employer or accountant if self employed and your local council benefits office. 

Landlord Advice 

Rent Payments will continue to be collected from your tenants. If we become aware that payment has not been made we will inform you and engage with your tenants to establish cause and the steps required to remedy the situation. Rent payments received by ourselves are made to you within 5 days of the due date according to our terms and conditions. Landlord Legal Protection Insurance policies may be available to help protect your income. 'Rent Breaks' are being talked about in the media but until there is firm information and direction providing a legal basis on this subject we will not be commenting further on this issue. 
'Rent Breaks' have been talked about by Government again. How they will work, the circumstances in which they can be invoked or agreed and repayment of rent due at the end of the 'Rent Break' are not clear. We await further guidance/legislation. 
Viewings/Check In/Check Out appointments -  
The advice we currently have is to video the properties that are being marketed. The video will be sent to any potential applicant and only if a serious interest is indicated, will a personal viewing at the property be considered if the property is vacant. Whilst we expect the number of enquirers to significantly reduce for the foreseeable future, there will still be a percentage of people who enquire about properties, book viewings and and then do not turn up. Our strategy is therefore to reduce the number of times we are travelling to the absolute minimum. 
If there are delays with a tenant checking in or out of a property due to self isolation or illness we will deal with that on a case by case basis.  
If we are unable to conduct viewings at a property we will advise you. 
Inventory Preparation/Inspections: 
Based on current advice we will still prepare a check in inventory for new tenants.  
Routine property inspections are cancelled until further notice. This will be reviewed on April 19th. 
Mortgage 'Holidays' The Government has announced that the Mortgage 'Holidays' has been extended to Buy to Let mortgages. We would suggest you contact your Mortgage Provider for more details. 
Maintenance - Maintenance visits will be prioritised according to urgency, legal requirement (Gas Safety etc) and vulnerability of your tenants. The current advice is to bring forward safety certificate checks to allow the longest period of time for the check to take place before the current certificate expires. 
We will do our best to instruct contractors for urgent work or for tenants who are particularly vulnerable, but as things develop we expect there will be less contractors who are readily available to deal with things. We suspect that their supply chains for replacement parts etc will also become disrupted which may delay repairs further. 
Eviction/Repossession of property - The Government has announced that during the Coronavirus emergency eviction orders are suspended and no new orders will be considered by the Courts. This will be the subject of emergency legislation. 
Financial Support - The Government has announced a range of measures where employers may be able to retain employees and pay them up to 80% of their wages. There are conditions to this and the official advice and process has yet to be published. There are also changes to the Benefits system to support people who may need assistance. Again the official advice and guidance has not been published. Our advice for tenants is to contact their employer and if appropriate the local benefits office. 

Contractors Advice 

Contractors should follow the current HM Government advice which currently includes regularly washing hands and avoiding immediate contact with other people. 
We would advise that you check with all occupants of a property that they are not self isolating or have contracted the virus. 
 
Maintenance visits will be prioritised according to urgency, legal requirement (Gas Safety etc) and vulnerability of our tenants. The current advice is to bring forward safety certificate checks to allow the longest period of time for the check to take place before the current certificate expires. 
 
If you find yourself self isolating it will be helpful if you can advise at the earliest opportunity. 
 
Key Workers - the Government list of 'Key Workers' refers to those occupations where, if there is no other child care provision available then the Key Worker's child or children can still have access to school. The list of key workers can be found here 
FURTHER UPDATES WILL APPEAR WHEN APPROPRIATE 
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