COVID-19 Update 20th May
Latest advice & FAQs

Covid-19 Update

COVID-19 Update - Version 12, Updated 22/05/2020

The health and well-being of our colleagues, customers and communities is our utmost priority. Following on from the recent government's announcement we’re working hard to ensure that we can return to work in England whilst keeping everyone safe. Restrictions still remain in Scotland and Wales. 

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.

Landlord FAQs

  • Yes – Your property is still being advertised through the majority of our usual channels. We are also busy expanding use of video for virtual viewings.

  • Yes – During lockdown and in compliance with govt. guidelines we helped to safely rehouse those tenants with an urgent need for accommodation. Over recent weeks we have noticed a marked increase in the number of prospective tenants looking to move. We are actively managing those enquiries and matching tenants with potential properties.

    Following Government’s announcement confirming the re-opening of the English Housing Market on May 13th we are finalising plans on the reopening of our English offices whilst ensuring the protection of colleagues and customers alike. Restrictions in Wales and Scotland remain in place.     

  • English Government has confirmed that subject to a number of restrictions, individuals from the same household can view a property they are interested in. However, restrictions in Scotland and Wales remain. Virtual viewings will be used wherever possible to help limit the number of people entering your property.  Prior to visiting we will provide our terms of engagement outlining what to expect and the preparations required.

  • Booking your appointment

    • When making an appointment you will be asked if you or any of your household has shown symptoms of Covid-19 or has tested positive in the last 14 days. If yes then we will not be able to proceed with the booking.
    • We will also ask if you are officially shielding anyone at the property or whether you or anyone present at the property is in the vulnerable category. If yes then we will not be able to proceed with the booking.
    • Appointments should not be double booked with anyone else. Where possible we should be alone in the property.

     

    Key collection

    • If we need to collect keys, they should be left in an agreed place to avoid any unnecessary face to face contact of less than 2m. You may be asked to place the keys in an envelope or bag that we will provide. We will only touch the keys once we are wearing gloves. We may also disinfect the keys.

     

    Arriving at the property

    • If anyone is presenting Covid-19 symptoms when we arrive at the property we will be unable to proceed.
    • The number of persons per appointment in addition to our colleague will be limited to 2 individuals from the same household.
    • Where possible children should not be present in the property and should vacate whilst we are in attendance. Pets should please be contained.
    • Upon arrival at the property, we would ask that the 2m distancing rule is adhered to at all times. Ideally, the occupants should vacate the property whilst we are in attendance, and at the very least they should not be in the same room at the same time.
    • We will aim to limit our time in the property and will answer any questions either outside of the property or over the telephone.  

     

    Preparing the property

    • The property should be well ventilated with fresh air prior to our visit but the windows must be shut prior to arrival when photos are taken.
    • All light switches, door handles and other key contact surfaces should be sanitised with a disinfectant prior to our arrival.
    • All lights should be on and internal doors open. We will photograph and leave the property as we find it
    • The property should be ready to be photographed. We will not be tidying things away or moving furniture.

     

    We may appear different

    • Our colleague will use hand sanitiser or will request to wash their hands upon arrival at the property; they will do the same before leaving.
    • Our colleague may be wearing protective Face Masks, Gloves or Shoe Covers.
    • They will carry disinfectant spray with them and may need to use this for keys, their kit or even in some areas of the house if they feel they need to.

     

    Other

    • We will politely decline any offers of refreshments.
  • Following Government’s announcement confirming the re-opening of the English Housing Market on May 13th we are finalising plans on the reopening of our English offices whilst ensuring the protection of colleagues and customers alike. Restrictions in Wales and Scotland remain in place.         

    In the meantime you can email us using the branch email address on our website

  • Yes – Whilst we finalise our plans around the reopening of our English offices, and for properties in Wales and Scotland where face to face appraisals are still not possible under current restrictions, we are undertaking telephone and virtual appraisals. To make arrangements please email us using the branch email address on our website.   

  • Likely impact to the UK's housing market is as yet unknown. We continue to monitor activity within the lettings sector to and keep our clients as fully informed as possible.

  • Not for the time being. – Sales of RLP policies through our offices have been suspended whilst the policy underwriter assesses under what conditions the product can be re-introduced.  This approach mirrors that seen across a number of insurance products in the market.

  • Yes – Rent remains payable. There is no automatic suspension of rental payments during the crisis.

  • We have advised tenants that if they are having trouble paying rent then they should discuss this with you as soon as possible. Where payments are made to us, your tenant has been advised to Chat with us on our website or by emailing creditcontrol@countrywide.co.uk. If you would like to speak with someone, please contact your local property management team.

  • Yes - Government has an expectation that landlords will, where reasonably possible, support tenants in difficulty. On May 5th govt. signalled a wish to “strengthen pre-action protocol”. Whilst no further detail is currently available it will almost certainly involve landlords having a duty to manage arrears before commencing possession proceedings. An unreasonable failure to do so could prejudice their ability to gain possession.

  • This will understandably depend on the landlord's personal circumstances but there is an expectation from govt. that landlords will, where possible, agree to payment plans.  In agreeing to a payment plan rent is not waived but delayed by an agreed amount for a set period of time.  The balance is either repaid on an agreed date or spread over the remaining period of the tenancy.  An unreasonable failure to do so could prejudice a landlords’ ability to gain possession.    

  • Yes – From March landlords with a buy-to-let mortgage have been able to apply to their lender for a 3 month mortgage holiday. In May this was extended for a further 3 months. The date for application was also extended with the deadline now at the end of July. Although not yet confirmed, we are hearing reports that not all lenders are granting mortgage holidays. Examples include where the borrower is not resident in the UK and/or has a portfolio of properties. Please check with your lender before extending support to your tenant based on the suspension of mortgage payments.  

    We understand the Scottish Govt. is establishing a fund for private landlords experiencing difficulties in obtaining rent as a result of the crisis. Loans will be interest-free and payments deferred.    

  • You should defer to your cover provider to establish details of any restrictions applicable to your policy as a result of the current crisis. If you have arranged cover through us then please email rlp@countrywide.co.uk.

  • No – Possession proceedings have been suspended until June 26th 2020.  A decision of whether to extend this for another 3 months will be taken in June. 

    Effective March 26th 2020 landlords are required to serve their tenant with 3 months’ notice of their intention to seek possession as opposed to the usual.

  • No – Effective April 7th the minimum notice period for the service of notice seeking possession was extended to 6 months. A shorter notice period of 3 months applies where possession is required by the landlord for his own occupation or as a result of antisocial or criminal behaviour.

    The First Tier Tribunal will not be sitting until May 28th. This may be subject to extension.

  • Yes – Your tenants can give notice by emailing terminations@countrywide.co.uk. When we have received their notice, we will contact you to let you know.

  • Yes – Supporting tenants and landlords in the properties we manage was an immediate priority as lockdown was announced. Landlords and tenants can contact us on the usual property management telephone number.

  • The easiest way for tenants to report repairs is through our website. They will also receive helpful advice on what to do in an emergency. Our property management centres work with an extensive bank of contractors. At the date of this update, most are working as normal and therefore able to undertake essential maintenance and safety inspections.

  • With properties managed by us keys cannot be collected from our branches because of the crisis. To ensure tenant safety and that of the contractor, they will call them directly to arrange access.  Tenants should advise them of any self-isolation or illness within the household.  When providing access, social distancing protocols should are observed.  If the tenant is transferring keys they should do so in a secure envelope ensuring they are sanitised before and after use.

  • Where the property is managed by us, we are reminding tenants that renewal of the annual Gas Safety Record is an important part of keeping them safe in their home as it includes checks for carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless gas that can quickly kill, hence it often being referred to as the “Silent Killer”. Tenants allowing access for the inspection to take place as normal during the crisis is therefore very important. We are also reminding them to test any smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted at the property on a weekly basis.

  • Your tenant should where reasonable and safe, continue to allow access for repairs and safety inspections. If access is refused then efforts to undertake repairs and carry out safety inspections should be carefully documented and regularly followed up until the work has been completed.

  • The requirement for all new tenancies and most renewals commencing July 1st 2020 to have an Electrical Inspection Condition Report (EICR) remains unchanged. If we manage your property we will be in touch with you shortly. In the meantime please contact us if you have any questions.

  • No - Our usual cycle of routine property inspections has been suspended due to the increased risk associated with the majority of tenants remaining at home as a result of govt. restrictions and working from home guidelines.  Inspections will recommence as soon as it is safe to do so.  If you have any individual concerns please discuss these with your property manager.

  • We update these FAQs in line with government announcements. You can also visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus, www.gov.scot and www.gov.wales for updates.

Tenant FAQs

  • Yes – Rent remains payable. There is no automatic suspension of rental payments during the crisis.

  • If you are having trouble paying your rent it is important that you discuss this with your landlord as soon as possible. If you make payments to us then please contact your local branch.

  • Government has an expectation that landlords will, where reasonably possible, support tenants in difficulty. There is currently no legal obligation on landlords to support tenants during the crisis. Any support they can offer may well be dictated by their own personal circumstances.

  • This will depend on your landlords personal circumstances but might include allowing you to make reduced/ deferred payments by way of a payment plan. If this happens it is important that you don’t breach the terms of the plan.

  • Yes – If you are having difficulties and need further help this is available from your local authority, Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service.

  • No – For an initial 90 days from March 27th no tenant will be expected to move and no landlord can take possession. This 90 day period maybe extended.

  • Your landlord is still required to repair the property. There is an expectation that landlords and tenants will be reasonable and sensible around any non-urgent maintenance.

  • You are still required to repair the property. There is an expectation that landlords and tenants will be reasonable and sensible around any non-urgent maintenance.

  • Yes – The fastest and easiest way to ensure that we are notified of a repair when we manage the property is by logging onto our website – choose “Rent” – “Report a Repair”. You will also receive helpful advice on what to do in an emergency. Like many employers, we are operating a reduced workforce in the interest of keeping our staff safe. However, you can still contact us on our usual property management number.

  • Renewal of the annual Gas Safety Record is an important part of keeping you safe in your home. It includes checks for carbon monoxide production. Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless gas that can quickly kill, hence it often being referred to as the “Silent Killer”. Allowing access for the inspection to take place is therefore very important (see below). Remember to test any smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted at the property on a weekly basis.

  • Keys cannot be collected from our branches during the crises. To ensure your safety and that of the contractor, they will call you directly to arrange access. Please advise them of any self-isolation or illness within the household. When providing access ensure that social distancing protocols are observed. If keys are transferred do so in a secure envelope ensuring they are sanitised before and after use.

  • Fire

    • If you smell smoke or see fire call 999 immediately.
    • If living in a development of flats ensure that you are familiar with building evacuation protocols in the event of a fire.

    Gas

    • If you smell gas or think there may be a leak, open windows and doors and leave the property immediately. Do not turn on lights or light a cigarette.
    • Call the National Grid straight away on 0800 111 999, nationlagrid.com.
    • If in doubt call 999 immediately.

    No Electricity/ Supply Tripping

    • Check there is sufficient credit on the meter if you have a pre-payment meter.
    • Check with your neighbours and/ or your energy provider to establish if there is a problem in your area.
    • If your electricity keeps tripping (going off) turn off/ unplug appliances gradually turning them back on until the supply trips. This should highlight the problem device.
    • If the problem persists report the problem to us where we manage the property.

    Burst Pips

    • Turn off the water supply at the stopcock.
    • Use containers to try and catch the water.
    • If the water is close to electricity supplies or appliances immediately switch off the electricity supply at the mains.

    Loss of Water Supply

    • Check if your neighbours have the same problem
    • Check if the water authority serving your area has turned off the supply.
    • Contact the supplier if the problem persists.

    Lack of heating/ hot water

    • The majority of problems can usually be rectified with reference to the manufacturer’s instructions. Copy instruction manuals are readily available online.
    • Check that thermostats and timers haven’t inadvertently been adjusted.
    • With gas boilers try re-setting the pilot and re-pressurising the system with reference to the instruction manual.
    • If you have a hot water cylinder check to see if it has an immersion heater that you can use until the boiler is repaired.
    • If the problem persists report the problem to us where we manage the property.

Conveyancing FAQs

    • 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 COVID-19 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. 
    • If you believe you can no longer complete, contact your Property Lawyer.
  • We are still exchanging and completing cases, and minimising the risks by advising that the safest option is to proceed by completing on the same day as exchange of contracts (this is known as a Simultaneous exchange and completion).

    Ordinarily, there is a period of time between exchange of contracts and legal completion.  However in these uncertain times, there are a number of additional risks which may restrict your ability to move on a predetermined and contractually bound moving date.  For example, you or someone in the chain could contract COVID-19 between exchange and completion which will restrict your ability to move.  This could lead to hefty financial penalties under the contract.

    Some Law Firms are suggesting additional clauses to be inserted into contracts to potentially mitigate these risks.  Prior to exchange of contracts, your Lawyer will be able to provide you with advice on the options available to you, allowing you to make a decision that’s right for you.

    Our best advice is for you to exchange and complete on the same day.  Whilst not ideal as you will not have 100% guarantee that you are moving until the day, we think this is, on balance, the right approach during these extraordinary times.

    If you think your case is nearly ready to exchange and complete, please keep in regular contact with your property lawyer, as we will be working for you.   Please keep your personal and removal arrangements under constant review. 

  • We are quite used to dealing with simultaneous exchanges and completions but it does require the co-operation of all parties involved in the transaction and there are risks.

    • It will be necessary for you to make all the practical arrangements in advance of the proposed completion date, some of which could incur costs in advance even though until contracts have been exchanged, you cannot be certain that the transaction will actually take place. 
    • All parties involved, particularly in a chain of transactions, will have to make the same preparations and if anyone of them cannot make those arrangements in time, or their own circumstances change, the arrangement may collapse at the last minute.
    • If a proposed simultaneous exchange of contracts and completion is not successfully achieved, then all the preparations would have to be repeated in time for an alternative date and you would inevitably incur additional costs (e.g. removals cancellation fee, interest payable on your new mortgage funds ordered in advance, etc.).

    Whilst we have highlighted the main risks, we believe that in the current climate, this is the right approach which will limit some risks which are more prevalent during this lockdown period, such as;

    • Mortgage lender delays  - we know that the majority of mortgage institutions are affected by this crisis, as such there could be difficulties in getting mortgage funds for the day of completion
    • Law firms with limited capacity to operate or closed – during the lockdown period we could see office closures or Law firms who are unable to operate which could affect the ability of a chain to complete
    • Removal firms – Many removal firms are simply not operating during this time, especially in Wales, this may affect the ability of the chain to complete, it is recommended that you continually review your removal arrangements
    • Banks open for business – whilst we have not experienced any issues to date, this could be an issue during the lockdown period.  We will continually review this with our bank and liaise with other firms prior to exchanging and completing.
  • In common with other Law firms, we are operating remotely and at a reduced capacity. You can contact us by e-mail, and the auto response will direct you to respond to a mailbox which will be monitored. We do ask for your patience as we try to manage the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 in the best interests of everyone. We continue to work hard to keep our customers moving and are also focussed on progressing legal work for clients who are expecting to move in the future.  We are also aware that mortgage lenders are reducing their ability to service requests, and an increasing number of Law firms have told us of temporary closure or reduced staffing levels, all of which will have an impact on how much we are able to do.

    During these are uncertain times, we wanted to reassure you that the health and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and communities remain the utmost importance to us. Please be assured that we are working through all queries and we will deal with your case, although we may not be able to respond as quickly as we would like. 

  • 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. 

Mortgage and Protection FAQs

  • Whilst the Government is urging homemovers to put plans on hold until social distancing restrictions are lifted, lenders are still offering mortgages rates for customers looking to buy a property and secure a deal. Whilst there may be limitations on how far  a purchase can progress, discussing your individual circumstances and wishes with us at this time may help you to plan ahead.   

    Although some of our high street branches remain closed, Countrywide Mortgages Services can still help provide an “Advice and Recommendation service” to help review your mortgage and protection requirements, all from the comfort of your own home. 

    Using the technology that Countrywide already has in place, we can progress the whole mortgage & protection application process over the phone and email. This includes digitally signing all the necessary forms and paperwork*.

    To get started 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 as soon as we can.

    *A fee will be payable for arranging your mortgage. Your Consultant will confirm the amount before you choose to proceed.

  • During the COVID-19 crisis, the Government has announced that all mortgage lenders must support customers who need help and financial support at this time with payment holidays for 3 months. Some lenders also offer additional help and support, but this is based on your individual circumstance and you will need to contact the lender directly to discuss further.

    Most lenders have now created a simple payment holiday application form to complete on their website. Your lender will then confirm acceptance of the payment holiday application and when it starts. Please note that this can take up to 2 weeks. Some lenders still require you to contact their helpline first which can be found on their website.

    Details of the main lender websites/telephone numbers can be found below.

    Lender

    Contact details

    Barclays

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

    BM Solutions

    0345 850 5000

     https://secure.lloydsbank.com/

    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/

     

  • If you have to make a claim or have a query on either your household or personal protection policies, in the first instance please refer to your policy document which will highlight all the main helpline numbers.

    We have however listed all of the main contact numbers for both AXA and AVIVA below.

    Please do not cancel a policy without first speaking to us, as your valuable protection will no longer apply. If you wish to change or adjust any of your policies, or you wish to take additional cover then please contact us at admin@mortgagescountrywide.co.uk and include your contact details and we will arrange for a member of our team to call you back as soon as we can.

    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

    Aviva Contact Us

    Manage your existing policy

    Aviva My Account

     

  • Yes customers who are struggling financially due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) can now defer premiums for up to 3 months whilst retaining their important benefits and levels of cover.*

    If you would like to apply to defer your payments then in the first instance please use the contact details below;

    AVIVA  Protection policies

    Apply using either their website or contact  AVIVA direct on 0800 2851 098

    AXA insurance policies

    Apply by contacting Countrywide Insurance Services on 01908 961399

    * Please note that Terms and conditions apply and the scheme is currently available until 18 August 2020 .

  • Lenders have reduced the number of mortgage products they have available as well as reducing the higher Loan to Value deals. However, following the recent Bank of England base rate cuts many lenders are still offering low remortgage rates for customers looking to reduce their monthly mortgage payments.

    Countrywide Mortgages Services can still help provide an “Advice and Recommendation service” and using the technology that is already in place, we can progress the whole remortgage application process over the phone and email. This includes digitally signing all the necessary forms and paperwork*.

    To get started 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 as soon as we can.

    *A fee will be payable for arranging your mortgage. Your Consultant will confirm the amount before you choose to proceed.

  • If you have been liaising directly with your Mortgage Consultant then please continue to do so using the email or telephone number that they have supplied to you.

    We have set up a central email address for all new enquires and this is monitored regularly. 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 as soon as we can.

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.

Landlord FAQs

  • Yes – Your property is still being advertised through the majority of our usual channels. We are also busy expanding use of video for virtual viewings.

  • Yes – During lockdown and in compliance with govt. guidelines we helped to safely rehouse those tenants with an urgent need for accommodation. Over recent weeks we have noticed a marked increase in the number of prospective tenants looking to move. We are actively managing those enquiries and matching tenants with potential properties.

    Following Government’s announcement confirming the re-opening of the English Housing Market on May 13th we are finalising plans on the reopening of our English offices whilst ensuring the protection of colleagues and customers alike. Restrictions in Wales and Scotland remain in place.     

  • English Government has confirmed that subject to a number of restrictions, individuals from the same household can view a property they are interested in. However, restrictions in Scotland and Wales remain. Virtual viewings will be used wherever possible to help limit the number of people entering your property.  Prior to visiting we will provide our terms of engagement outlining what to expect and the preparations required.

  • Booking your appointment

    • When making an appointment you will be asked if you or any of your household has shown symptoms of Covid-19 or has tested positive in the last 14 days. If yes then we will not be able to proceed with the booking.
    • We will also ask if you are officially shielding anyone at the property or whether you or anyone present at the property is in the vulnerable category. If yes then we will not be able to proceed with the booking.
    • Appointments should not be double booked with anyone else. Where possible we should be alone in the property.

     

    Key collection

    • If we need to collect keys, they should be left in an agreed place to avoid any unnecessary face to face contact of less than 2m. You may be asked to place the keys in an envelope or bag that we will provide. We will only touch the keys once we are wearing gloves. We may also disinfect the keys.

     

    Arriving at the property

    • If anyone is presenting Covid-19 symptoms when we arrive at the property we will be unable to proceed.
    • The number of persons per appointment in addition to our colleague will be limited to 2 individuals from the same household.
    • Where possible children should not be present in the property and should vacate whilst we are in attendance. Pets should please be contained.
    • Upon arrival at the property, we would ask that the 2m distancing rule is adhered to at all times. Ideally, the occupants should vacate the property whilst we are in attendance, and at the very least they should not be in the same room at the same time.
    • We will aim to limit our time in the property and will answer any questions either outside of the property or over the telephone.  

     

    Preparing the property

    • The property should be well ventilated with fresh air prior to our visit but the windows must be shut prior to arrival when photos are taken.
    • All light switches, door handles and other key contact surfaces should be sanitised with a disinfectant prior to our arrival.
    • All lights should be on and internal doors open. We will photograph and leave the property as we find it
    • The property should be ready to be photographed. We will not be tidying things away or moving furniture.

     

    We may appear different

    • Our colleague will use hand sanitiser or will request to wash their hands upon arrival at the property; they will do the same before leaving.
    • Our colleague may be wearing protective Face Masks, Gloves or Shoe Covers.
    • They will carry disinfectant spray with them and may need to use this for keys, their kit or even in some areas of the house if they feel they need to.

     

    Other

    • We will politely decline any offers of refreshments.
  • Following Government’s announcement confirming the re-opening of the English Housing Market on May 13th we are finalising plans on the reopening of our English offices whilst ensuring the protection of colleagues and customers alike. Restrictions in Wales and Scotland remain in place.         

    In the meantime you can email us using the branch email address on our website

  • Yes – Whilst we finalise our plans around the reopening of our English offices, and for properties in Wales and Scotland where face to face appraisals are still not possible under current restrictions, we are undertaking telephone and virtual appraisals. To make arrangements please email us using the branch email address on our website.   

  • Likely impact to the UK's housing market is as yet unknown. We continue to monitor activity within the lettings sector to and keep our clients as fully informed as possible.

  • Not for the time being. – Sales of RLP policies through our offices have been suspended whilst the policy underwriter assesses under what conditions the product can be re-introduced.  This approach mirrors that seen across a number of insurance products in the market.

  • Yes – Rent remains payable. There is no automatic suspension of rental payments during the crisis.

  • We have advised tenants that if they are having trouble paying rent then they should discuss this with you as soon as possible. Where payments are made to us, your tenant has been advised to Chat with us on our website or by emailing creditcontrol@countrywide.co.uk. If you would like to speak with someone, please contact your local property management team.

  • Yes - Government has an expectation that landlords will, where reasonably possible, support tenants in difficulty. On May 5th govt. signalled a wish to “strengthen pre-action protocol”. Whilst no further detail is currently available it will almost certainly involve landlords having a duty to manage arrears before commencing possession proceedings. An unreasonable failure to do so could prejudice their ability to gain possession.

  • This will understandably depend on the landlord's personal circumstances but there is an expectation from govt. that landlords will, where possible, agree to payment plans.  In agreeing to a payment plan rent is not waived but delayed by an agreed amount for a set period of time.  The balance is either repaid on an agreed date or spread over the remaining period of the tenancy.  An unreasonable failure to do so could prejudice a landlords’ ability to gain possession.    

  • Yes – From March landlords with a buy-to-let mortgage have been able to apply to their lender for a 3 month mortgage holiday. In May this was extended for a further 3 months. The date for application was also extended with the deadline now at the end of July. Although not yet confirmed, we are hearing reports that not all lenders are granting mortgage holidays. Examples include where the borrower is not resident in the UK and/or has a portfolio of properties. Please check with your lender before extending support to your tenant based on the suspension of mortgage payments.  

    We understand the Scottish Govt. is establishing a fund for private landlords experiencing difficulties in obtaining rent as a result of the crisis. Loans will be interest-free and payments deferred.    

  • You should defer to your cover provider to establish details of any restrictions applicable to your policy as a result of the current crisis. If you have arranged cover through us then please email rlp@countrywide.co.uk.

  • No – Possession proceedings have been suspended until June 26th 2020.  A decision of whether to extend this for another 3 months will be taken in June. 

    Effective March 26th 2020 landlords are required to serve their tenant with 3 months’ notice of their intention to seek possession as opposed to the usual.

  • No – Effective April 7th the minimum notice period for the service of notice seeking possession was extended to 6 months. A shorter notice period of 3 months applies where possession is required by the landlord for his own occupation or as a result of antisocial or criminal behaviour.

    The First Tier Tribunal will not be sitting until May 28th. This may be subject to extension.

  • Yes – Your tenants can give notice by emailing terminations@countrywide.co.uk. When we have received their notice, we will contact you to let you know.

  • Yes – Supporting tenants and landlords in the properties we manage was an immediate priority as lockdown was announced. Landlords and tenants can contact us on the usual property management telephone number.

  • The easiest way for tenants to report repairs is through our website. They will also receive helpful advice on what to do in an emergency. Our property management centres work with an extensive bank of contractors. At the date of this update, most are working as normal and therefore able to undertake essential maintenance and safety inspections.

  • With properties managed by us keys cannot be collected from our branches because of the crisis. To ensure tenant safety and that of the contractor, they will call them directly to arrange access.  Tenants should advise them of any self-isolation or illness within the household.  When providing access, social distancing protocols should are observed.  If the tenant is transferring keys they should do so in a secure envelope ensuring they are sanitised before and after use.

  • Where the property is managed by us, we are reminding tenants that renewal of the annual Gas Safety Record is an important part of keeping them safe in their home as it includes checks for carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless gas that can quickly kill, hence it often being referred to as the “Silent Killer”. Tenants allowing access for the inspection to take place as normal during the crisis is therefore very important. We are also reminding them to test any smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted at the property on a weekly basis.

  • Your tenant should where reasonable and safe, continue to allow access for repairs and safety inspections. If access is refused then efforts to undertake repairs and carry out safety inspections should be carefully documented and regularly followed up until the work has been completed.

  • The requirement for all new tenancies and most renewals commencing July 1st 2020 to have an Electrical Inspection Condition Report (EICR) remains unchanged. If we manage your property we will be in touch with you shortly. In the meantime please contact us if you have any questions.

  • No - Our usual cycle of routine property inspections has been suspended due to the increased risk associated with the majority of tenants remaining at home as a result of govt. restrictions and working from home guidelines.  Inspections will recommence as soon as it is safe to do so.  If you have any individual concerns please discuss these with your property manager.

  • We update these FAQs in line with government announcements. You can also visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus, www.gov.scot and www.gov.wales for updates.

Tenant FAQs

  • Following Government's announcement confirming the re-opening of the English Housing Market on May 13th we are finalising plans on the reopening of our English offices whist ensuring the protection of colleagues and customers alike.   Restrictions in Wales and Scotland remain in place.         

    In the meantime you can email us using the branch email address on our website.

     

  • Yes - You can access details of available properties on our website. For further information it's best to email us using the branch email address on our website.

  • Government has lifted restrictions so that applicants from the same household can now view property in England. Restrictions in Wales and Scotland remain in place.

  • The safety of our clients, applicants, colleagues and the wier community remains our primary consideration. At the time of requestions an appointment you will be provided with details around safety measures that will be taken to help minimise the risk of infection. 

  • Booking your appointment

    • Prior to requesting an appointment you should, where possible, have already undertaken a virtual viewing in order to help avoid unnecessary appointments.
    • When making an appointment you will be asked if you or any of your household has shown symptoms of Covid-19 or has tested positive in the last 14 days. If yes then we will not be able to proceed with the appointment.
    • A maximum of 2 people from the same household will be able to view the property at any one time. Please do not bring children with you.
    • We are unable to provide transport to and from appointments.  

     

    The Appointment 

    • If anyone is presenting Covid-19 symptoms when we arrive at the property we will be unable to proceed.
    • You are requested to bring hand sanitiser with you and to use it before entering the property and again when you leave.
    • From arrival at the property, we would ask that the 2m distancing rule is adhered to at all times.
    • We will seek to minimise the number of people in the same room at the same time.
    • Please avoid touching door handles, light switches and other surfaces wherever possible.
    • We will aim to limit our time in the property and will answer any questions either outside of the property or over the telephone when we return to the office.
    • The wearing of protective Face Masks and Gloves (PPE) is not a mandatory requirement when viewing a property. However, please feel free to bring it with you to wear it if you prefer.  We are unable to provide PPE for you or to dispose of any that you have used on the appointment.       

     

    We may appear different

    • Our colleague will use hand sanitiser or will request to wash their hands upon arrival at the property; they will do the same before leaving.
    • Our colleague may be wearing protective Face Masks, Gloves or Shoe Covers.
    • They will carry disinfectant spray with them and may need to use this for keys, their kit or even in some areas of the house if they feel they need to.
  • Yes – Rent remains payable. There is no automatic suspension of rental payments during the crisis.

  • If you usually pay rent to us please click "Chat with Us" on the right-hand side, choose "Existing Tenant" and "Discuss Rental Payments" from the menu. A member of our team will take some details about your circumstances and pass the information onto your landlord. If you usually pay rent direct to your landlord, please contact them directly to discuss your situation.

  • Government has an expectation that landlords will, where reasonably possible, support tenants in difficulty. There is currently no legal obligation on landlords to support tenants during the crisis. Any support they can offer may well be dictated by their own personal circumstances.

  • This will depend on your landlords personal circumstances but might include allowing you to make reduced/ deferred payments by way of a payment plan. If this happens it is important that you don’t breach the terms of the plan.

  • Where we manage the property and collect rent we can speak with your landlord on your behalf. We are unable to agree payment terms on your landlord’s behalf and we need their consent to change any rental payments. When contacting us in relation to rental payments please do so by email to creditcontrol@countrywide.co.uk or via the "Chat with Us" link on the right-hand side, then choose the option “Existing Tenant”

  • Yes – As a result of the temporary closure of our high street branches, we have created a dedicated payment line in order for you to make card payments for rent and any renewal fees that are lawfully due.

    Colleagues manning the payment line are unable to discuss rental arrears. If you are having trouble paying your rent please email us at creditcontrol@countrywide.co.uk.

    PAYMENT LINE: 01623 416 100

    PEASE NOTE: You must be the cardholder and provide the address to which the card is registered.

  • Yes – If you are having difficulties and need further help this is available from your local authority, Shelter, Citizens Advice and The Money Advice Service.

  • No – For an initial 90 days from March 27th no tenant will be expected to move and no landlord can take possession. This 90 day period maybe extended.

  • Yes - The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 increased notice periods to up to six months. A number of previously mandatory grounds for possession, including rent arrears, are now discretionary. This allows those hearing claims to take into consideration the tenants personal circumstances.

  • Your landlord is still required to repair the property. There is an expectation that landlords and tenants will be reasonable and sensible around any non-urgent maintenance. Please only report repairs that are essential. Emergency and urgent jobs will then be prioritised. Click this link to report your repair where you will also receive helpful guidance.

    https://countrywideresidentiallettings.fixflo.com

  • Renewal of the annual Gas Safety Record is an important part of keeping you safe in your home. It includes checks for carbon monoxide production. Carbon monoxide is a colourless odourless gas that can quickly kill, hence it often being referred to as the “Silent Killer”. Allowing access for the inspection to take place is therefore very important (see below). Remember to test any smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fitted at the property on a weekly basis.

  • Keys cannot be collected from our branches during the crisis. To ensure your safety and that of the contractor, they will call you directly to arrange access. Please advise them of any self-isolation or illness within the household. When providing access ensure that social distancing protocols are observed. If keys are transferred do so in a secure envelope ensuring they are sanitised before and after use.

  • Yes, email terminations@countrywide.co.uk so your notice is in writing and we’ll do the rest.

  • Fire

    • If you smell smoke or see fire call 999 immediately.
    • If living in a development of flats ensure that you are familiar with building evacuation protocols in the event of a fire.

    Gas

    • If you smell gas or think there may be a leak, open windows and doors and leave the property immediately. Do not turn on lights or light a cigarette.
    • Call the National Grid straight away on 0800 111 999, nationlagrid.com.
    • If in doubt call 999 immediately.

    No Electricity/ Supply Tripping

    • Check there is sufficient credit on the meter if you have a pre-payment meter.
    • Check with your neighbours and/ or your energy provider to establish if there is a problem in your area.
    • If your electricity keeps tripping (going off) turn off/ unplug appliances gradually turning them back on until the supply trips. This should highlight the problem device.
    • If the problem persists report the problem to us where we manage the property.

    Burst Pips

    • Turn off the water supply at the stopcock.
    • Use containers to try and catch the water.
    • If the water is close to electricity supplies or appliances immediately switch off the electricity supply at the mains.

    Loss of Water Supply

    • Check if your neighbours have the same problem
    • Check if the water authority serving your area has turned off the supply.
    • Contact the supplier if the problem persists.

    Lack of heating/ hot water

    • The majority of problems can usually be rectified with reference to the manufacturer’s instructions. Copy instruction manuals are readily available online.
    • Check that thermostats and timers haven’t inadvertently been adjusted.
    • With gas boilers try re-setting the pilot and re-pressurising the system with reference to the instruction manual.
    • If you have a hot water cylinder check to see if it has an immersion heater that you can use until the boiler is repaired.
    • If the problem persists report the problem to us where we manage the property.

Conveyancing FAQs

    • 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 COVID-19 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. 
    • If you believe you can no longer complete, contact your Property Lawyer.
  • We are still exchanging and completing cases, and minimising the risks by advising that the safest option is to proceed by completing on the same day as exchange of contracts (this is known as a Simultaneous exchange and completion).

    Ordinarily, there is a period of time between exchange of contracts and legal completion.  However in these uncertain times, there are a number of additional risks which may restrict your ability to move on a predetermined and contractually bound moving date.  For example, you or someone in the chain could contract COVID-19 between exchange and completion which will restrict your ability to move.  This could lead to hefty financial penalties under the contract.

    Some Law Firms are suggesting additional clauses to be inserted into contracts to potentially mitigate these risks.  Prior to exchange of contracts, your Lawyer will be able to provide you with advice on the options available to you, allowing you to make a decision that’s right for you.

    Our best advice is for you to exchange and complete on the same day.  Whilst not ideal as you will not have 100% guarantee that you are moving until the day, we think this is, on balance, the right approach during these extraordinary times.

    If you think your case is nearly ready to exchange and complete, please keep in regular contact with your property lawyer, as we will be working for you.   Please keep your personal and removal arrangements under constant review. 

  • We are quite used to dealing with simultaneous exchanges and completions but it does require the co-operation of all parties involved in the transaction and there are risks.

    • It will be necessary for you to make all the practical arrangements in advance of the proposed completion date, some of which could incur costs in advance even though until contracts have been exchanged, you cannot be certain that the transaction will actually take place. 
    • All parties involved, particularly in a chain of transactions, will have to make the same preparations and if anyone of them cannot make those arrangements in time, or their own circumstances change, the arrangement may collapse at the last minute.
    • If a proposed simultaneous exchange of contracts and completion is not successfully achieved, then all the preparations would have to be repeated in time for an alternative date and you would inevitably incur additional costs (e.g. removals cancellation fee, interest payable on your new mortgage funds ordered in advance, etc.).

    Whilst we have highlighted the main risks, we believe that in the current climate, this is the right approach which will limit some risks which are more prevalent during this lockdown period, such as;

    • Mortgage lender delays  - we know that the majority of mortgage institutions are affected by this crisis, as such there could be difficulties in getting mortgage funds for the day of completion
    • Law firms with limited capacity to operate or closed – during the lockdown period we could see office closures or Law firms who are unable to operate which could affect the ability of a chain to complete
    • Removal firms – Many removal firms are simply not operating during this time, especially in Wales, this may affect the ability of the chain to complete, it is recommended that you continually review your removal arrangements
    • Banks open for business – whilst we have not experienced any issues to date, this could be an issue during the lockdown period.  We will continually review this with our bank and liaise with other firms prior to exchanging and completing.
  • In common with other Law firms, we are operating remotely and at a reduced capacity. You can contact us by e-mail, and the auto response will direct you to respond to a mailbox which will be monitored. We do ask for your patience as we try to manage the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 in the best interests of everyone. We continue to work hard to keep our customers moving and are also focussed on progressing legal work for clients who are expecting to move in the future.  We are also aware that mortgage lenders are reducing their ability to service requests, and an increasing number of Law firms have told us of temporary closure or reduced staffing levels, all of which will have an impact on how much we are able to do.

    During these are uncertain times, we wanted to reassure you that the health and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and communities remain the utmost importance to us. Please be assured that we are working through all queries and we will deal with your case, although we may not be able to respond as quickly as we would like. 

  • 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. 

Mortgage and Protection FAQs

  • Whilst the Government is urging homemovers to put plans on hold until social distancing restrictions are lifted, lenders are still offering mortgages rates for customers looking to buy a property and secure a deal. Whilst there may be limitations on how far  a purchase can progress, discussing your individual circumstances and wishes with us at this time may help you to plan ahead.   

    Although some of our high street branches remain closed, Countrywide Mortgages Services can still help provide an “Advice and Recommendation service” to help review your mortgage and protection requirements, all from the comfort of your own home. 

    Using the technology that Countrywide already has in place, we can progress the whole mortgage & protection application process over the phone and email. This includes digitally signing all the necessary forms and paperwork*.

    To get started 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 as soon as we can.

    *A fee will be payable for arranging your mortgage. Your Consultant will confirm the amount before you choose to proceed.

  • During the COVID-19 crisis, the Government has announced that all mortgage lenders must support customers who need help and financial support at this time with payment holidays for 3 months. Some lenders also offer additional help and support, but this is based on your individual circumstance and you will need to contact the lender directly to discuss further.

    Most lenders have now created a simple payment holiday application form to complete on their website. Your lender will then confirm acceptance of the payment holiday application and when it starts. Please note that this can take up to 2 weeks. Some lenders still require you to contact their helpline first which can be found on their website.

    Details of the main lender websites/telephone numbers can be found below.

    Lender

    Contact details

    Barclays

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

    BM Solutions

    0345 850 5000

     https://secure.lloydsbank.com/

    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/

     

  • If you have to make a claim or have a query on either your household or personal protection policies, in the first instance please refer to your policy document which will highlight all the main helpline numbers.

    We have however listed all of the main contact numbers for both AXA and AVIVA below.

    Please do not cancel a policy without first speaking to us, as your valuable protection will no longer apply. If you wish to change or adjust any of your policies, or you wish to take additional cover then please contact us at admin@mortgagescountrywide.co.uk and include your contact details and we will arrange for a member of our team to call you back as soon as we can.

    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

    Aviva Contact Us

    Manage your existing policy

    Aviva My Account

     

  • Yes customers who are struggling financially due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) can now defer premiums for up to 3 months whilst retaining their important benefits and levels of cover.*

    If you would like to apply to defer your payments then in the first instance please use the contact details below;

    AVIVA  Protection policies

    Apply using either their website or contact  AVIVA direct on 0800 2851 098

    AXA insurance policies

    Apply by contacting Countrywide Insurance Services on 01908 961399

    * Please note that Terms and conditions apply and the scheme is currently available until 18 August 2020 .

  • Lenders have reduced the number of mortgage products they have available as well as reducing the higher Loan to Value deals. However, following the recent Bank of England base rate cuts many lenders are still offering low remortgage rates for customers looking to reduce their monthly mortgage payments.

    Countrywide Mortgages Services can still help provide an “Advice and Recommendation service” and using the technology that is already in place, we can progress the whole remortgage application process over the phone and email. This includes digitally signing all the necessary forms and paperwork*.

    To get started 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 as soon as we can.

    *A fee will be payable for arranging your mortgage. Your Consultant will confirm the amount before you choose to proceed.

  • If you have been liaising directly with your Mortgage Consultant then please continue to do so using the email or telephone number that they have supplied to you.

    We have set up a central email address for all new enquires and this is monitored regularly. 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 as soon as we can.