Coronavirus Update


 

COVID-19 Update - Version 3, Updated 24/03/2020

During these uncertain times, we’re still doing everything we can to help keep you moving. As of 24/03/20, our branches will temporarily close to comply with government directions and to keep all of our staff and customers safe.

We’re still open for business, just in a different way. We will be working remotely to ensure that all areas of the business remain functioning and supported and ensure the health and safety of our employees and customers.

We also understand that some of the greatest difficulties of the next few weeks and months of isolation will come from loss of social interaction. As such, please look to our social profiles and website where we will keep you up to date with any changes, share tips and advice, and foster a community.

Take care of yourselves and if you’d like to get in touch with any queries or concerns, we’d love to hear from you.

 

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

·       My local branch is closed, are you still open for business?

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.

·       How will you market my property during 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.

·       How are you managing viewings?

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.

·       Can you still progress my property sale? How will you do this?

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.

·       If the chain collapses in my sale due to the issues we are facing, what will happen?

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.

·       Should I place my property sale on hold?

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

·       Can I still get a mortgage?

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.

·       Am I able to view a house I’m interested in?

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.

·       I’ve just put an offer in on a property, what happens now?

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. 

·       Can I still use a removal service and complete my purchase now we are in lockdown?

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.

·       Should I put my property purchase on hold at this time?

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

·       My tenant can’t afford to pay rent – what are my rights?

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.

·       Is my property still going to be promoted?

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

·       How will you manage any problems my tenants report?

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.

·       I have property visit booked in, will this still go ahead?

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.

·       Am I still able to have a market appraisal conducted on a property?

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.

·       What does the eviction freeze mean for me?

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.

·       Can I visit my tenant if there’s an issue with the property?

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.

·       What happens if my tenant can’t pay rent as a result of Covid-19

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. 

·       If tenants are not paying the rent who will cover this? How will this work moving forwards?

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. 

·       How will the issues in the country now affect the changing legislation?

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. 

·       Will the issues affect the rental price of my property?

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.

·       If my property is on the market to be rented, how will viewings be conducted?

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

·       Will you be keeping me updated on the latest government changes affecting me and my tenants? (if not, can we direct them somewhere?)

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

·       Can I be reimbursed for lost rental income?

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

·       I have an empty property, can you still find a tenant?

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

·       What will happen with property repairs?

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.

·       Can I arrange a viewing on a property I am interested in renting?

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.

·       I’m due to move into my new rental property. Will this still happen?

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.

·       Do I have to pay my rent if I am affected by the COVID-19? What support can you offer?

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.

·       How can I report an issue with my rental property?

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.

·       How will the contractors collect the keys for my property to complete work?

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.

·       What if I get a leak in my rented property?

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

·       I know my case is nearly ready to exchange and complete. What should I do?

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. 

·       Are there risks in exchanging and completing on the same day?

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.

o   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.).
  • Can you help me decide whether to continue with my purchase or sale?

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.   

  • I exchanged contracts before the Coronavirus impact but my circumstances have changed, and I now cannot complete on my house purchase or sale.

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.

  • I know my case is not ready to exchange. Will you still be working on it?

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

·       Can I still get a mortgage?

Yes, you can and Countrywide Mortgage Services are able to do this for you from the comfort of your own home by phone and email using the technology we already have in place. This includes digitally signing all the necessary forms and paperwork.


In the first instance please email admin@mortgagescountrywide.co.uk and include your contact details and we will arrange for a member of our team to call you back.

·       I am worried about paying my mortgage. How do I get mortgage payment holidays?

The Government has recently announced that mortgage lenders will support customers who need help and support at this time with payment holidays for 3 months. Some lenders also offer additional support but this is based on your individual circumstances and you will need to contact your lender directly to discuss these. Further details can be found on the main lender websites below.

Lender

Contact details

Barclays

https://www.barclays.co.uk/mortgages/

BM Solutions

0345 850 5000

Coventry Building Society

0800 121 8899

https://www.coventrybuildingsociety.co.uk/

Halifax

https://www.halifax.co.uk/mortgages/existing-customers/payment-holidays/?WT.ac=PaymentHoliday

HSBC

https://www.hsbc.co.uk/help/coronavirus/

Leeds

https://www.leedsbuildingsociety.co.uk/coronavirus-information/

Nationwide

https://www.nationwide.co.uk/support/coronavirus/mortgage-payment-holiday

NatWest

https://personal.natwest.com/

Platform

https://www.co-operativebank.co.uk/news/2020/coronavirus-support-personal-customers

Precise

https://www.precisemortgages.co.uk/

Santander

https://www.santander.co.uk/personal/coronavirus?icid=php-Hero-Coronavirus-0320

Scottish Widows Bank

0345 845 0829

The Mortgage Works

https://www.themortgageworks.co.uk/payment-holidays

Virgin Money

https://uk.virginmoney.com/contact/support-hub/coronavirus/

·       How do I make a claim on my AXA or AVIVA policy that I arranged through Countrywide?

Please contact their claims line teams direct as per your policy document.

AXA:

AXA Claim - Homeowner

Contact

Buildings, Contents, Personal Possessions and Pedal Cycles

0345 521 3905

Domestic Helpline and Home Emergency

0330 058 1638

Legal Helpline and Legal Expenses

0330 058 1641

 

AXA Claim - Landlord

Contact

Buildings, Landlord’s Contents and Carpets, Curtains and White Goods

0345 521 3905

Domestic Helpline and Home Emergency

0330 058 1639

Legal Helpline and Legal Expenses

0330 058 1643

 

AXA Claim - Tenant

Contact

Contents, Personal Possessions and Pedal Cycles

0345 521 3905

Legal Helpline and Legal Expenses

0330 058 1642

AVIVA:

Personal Protection

Contact

Changing details, making a claim or ask a question

https://www.aviva.co.uk/help-and-support/contact-us/

Manage your existing policy

https://www.direct.aviva.co.uk/MyAccount/login

·       I 

  • I need to speak to someone about my remortgage to see if I can save some money on my monthly repayments. Who do I contact?

In the first instance please email admin@mortgagescountrywide.co.uk and include your contact details and we will arrange for a member of our team to call you back.

  • How do I get in touch with my Mortgage and Protection Consultant if the branch is closed?

In the first instance please email admin@mortgagescountrywide.co.uk and include your contact details and we will arrange for a member of our team to call you back.