COVID-19: Your questions answered

You have lots of questions right now. We understand. The situation we're facing in the UK is like no other, but at times like these it's important to come together to help each other through what’s ahead.

With that in mind, we've created this page to keep you updated about everything we and the government are doing to help home movers through this period. Bear in mind that the information we're getting is constantly changing, so keep checking back to find out the latest developments.

All of our branches are open and are still accessible via phone or email and so if you have a question that's not answered here, or if you're just after some reassurance, get in touch at any time between 9am-6pm. You can find your local branch details here.

If you can't find the answer to your question, please get in touch with a member of our team.
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Advice for buyers and sellers

I presently have my house on the market following the end of the crisis, am I likely to get less for it?

Since the first lockdown ended, we have seen an incredibly busy housing market, which has been reflected in the local and national press. New properties coming onto the market and sales are dramatically higher than we saw during the same period last year, which leads us to be very positive about selling your home for a similar (if not better) price. However, we would always recommend you talk to your local branch manager to discuss any specific concerns you have.

I hear prices are set to fall in 2021. Should I withdraw and buy later?

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the market was exceedingly busy, spurred on by the certainty provided by the Brexit vote and the General Election. During the first lockdown, online activity remained reassuringly buoyant and now the government have allowed estate agents to stay open, allowing socially distanced viewings to take place. We are sure the market will maintain its momentum. Combine this with record low interest rates, the Stamp Duty Holiday and everything the government is doing to safeguard employment, we believe the housing market will remain healthy with prices at the very least holding. We would suggesting that having found a home you are happy with, you keep this sale going.

My employment is uncertain due to being furloughed, so making big financial purchases is very risky. Should I withdraw and come back once things have settled down?

This is a very understandable concern. However, lots of people have been furloughed and will resume working with their companies when the restrictions are lifted. Our advice would be to continue with your purchase and/or sale, and to see how quickly you can get back to work. You have found a property that you really like, and in the euphoria that we believe will follow once restrictions are lifted, the market is likely to regain its momentum very quickly. If you withdraw too soon, it may take some time to find another home that you are happy with.

Are viewings still going ahead?

Yes they are. We would recommend you virtually view properties you are interested in via a Virtual Reality Tour or Video Walk Round, we have these available on around 75% of our properties. These give you a really good feel for the property before committing to what might be limited slots for physical viewings. Customers registered with us are able to take advantage of our Pre-View service where a video tour (where available) is automatically emailed to you, up to 72 hours before the property is uploaded onto the portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. Pre-View is restricted to 5 physical viewing slots so we would recommend you contact the office right away if you are interested in viewing in order to not miss out. It is also worth mentioning that our staff are trained and have access to personal protective equipment to carry out contactless viewings by appointment.

Are staff still working throughout the supply chain?

All Lettings, Mortgage Matters Direct and Mortgage Administration Units will be working remotely. Despite this, our high quality level of service will still remain. Please though, be mindful that remote working does pose its challenges, and so please be patient.

As a result of the challenges currently involved, please do be organised, as the process may take a little longer than normal. The stamp duty holiday has resulted in a significant increase in sales activity and as a result of this there are some inevitable delays with the house buying process.

As a consequence, the average time a sale takes to complete has significantly increased, so bear this in mind when planning your move, especially if you intended to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday that ends on 31 March 2021.

I'm concerned about safety - what measures do you have in place to tackle Covid-19 infection?

The wearing of face masks (not visors) is mandatory at all appointments and the obligatory two metre social distancing to be strictly adhered to at all viewings, valuations and any other home visits.

If you are planning a visit to our offices, it’s best to make arrangements first and please wear a face mask when doing so. Our offices are open (in line with up to date guidelines) but the front door will be locked. Please knock and a member of our team will attend to you.

Advice to Landlords

Will I still be protected by my rent protection product if my tenant doesn't pay you?

You will need to check with the provider of the cover as many products have been removed or revised since the start of the pandemic. Our product will still cover you and although there were some early changes to limit the cover we are really pleased to say that many of these restrictions are being lifted. Our Rent Protect Pro now covers for up to 15 months, which is market leading in the current climate. If you do not have rent protection in place currently and would like to know more please let us know and we can let you know the details.

What can I do if my Tenant doesn't pay and I can't meet my mortgage payments as a result?

Mortgage payment holiday help was put in place last March, but those schemes have now ended with only those who applied before 31 March 2021 still able to access them.

If you're struggling to pay your mortgage, or you're coming off a payment holiday and you're still in financial difficulty, then your lender has to offer you 'tailored support'.

What that means for you will depend on your financial circumstances and the general state of your finances will also be a factor. To find out more you will need to speak to your mortgage lender or look on their website for more information.

Will tenancy renewals be actioned in the same way?

Yes, nothing changes here – perhaps now more than ever people are keen to have long term stability, so renewing tenancies is still a core part of our business.

Have the notice periods to end a tenancy changed?

Yes, during the pandemic they have now changed several times. The good news is that they are retuning back to pre-pandemic timeframes. Currently (from the 1st June 2021) the notice period for serving a Section 21 notice has dropped from 6 months to 4 months. The intention of the government, all being well, is to reduce the time back to 2 months at the end of September.

For section 8 notices, used when you are giving notice due to breaches of the Tenancy Agreement, for example rent arrears, the notice periods have changed also. This is more complicated and situation specific, for more information follow this link to the government guidance.

What if my tenants can't pay their rent? Can I still serve notice to end tenancy?

Yes, it is possible to serve notice to end a tenancy when the tenants are not paying the rent, but the notice periods have changed and are dependent on the level of arrears, for more information read the government guidance on eviction notices.

Bailiff evictions were possible again from the 31st May 2021, but you will need a possession order first before you can apply for a Bailiff Warrant.

Our advice is to work closely with the tenant through this difficult time, where possible, and to work out an agreement that suits both parties. The government have set up a mediation service to help people reach amicable agreements, rather than heading to the already busy courts, read more information on the Rental Mediation Service here

Can repair or maintenance work still take place?

Government guidelines have now been updated to allow maintenance work again – but any visits to an occupied property will need to be undertaken with the full agreement of the occupiers. When in the property social distancing measures must be observed, keeping 2 meters distance between the contractor and the occupier. If this is not possible appropriate PPE must be worn. It will not be possible to carry out maintenance work in a property where the occupiers are self-isolating or have coronavirus symptoms.

What happens if repair, maintenance work or a compliance certificate is needed and the tenants won’t allow access for the contractor?

The law remains the same, which means landlords are required to take the same steps to keep their properties safe and legally compliant. If access is refused you should keep a record of each time the tenants refuse access. You would be required to show evidence of this later if you were challenged about non-compliance and you should make more than one attempt. If you are in a situation where you can’t find a contractor to carry out work this should again be documented and you should contact as many contractors locally as possible. Work should be booked in for as soon as possible when restrictions have been lifted.

Will your property visits still take place over the next few months?

We are able now to undertake property visits and are working hard to get through a large amount that we were not able to complete during lockdown. The situation is still rather fluid and its possible that where we see localised issues, potentially with new variant cases, visits may need to be put on hold again.

It will not be possible to carry out routine visits in properties where the occupiers are self isolating or have Corona Virus symptoms or where they refuse us access.

Advice to Tenants

Can I use the money from the tenancy deposit scheme to pay my rent?

No – your tenancy agreement will not allow this while the tenancy is running. The tenancy deposit is held primarily to protect the landlord against damage being caused to the property. That said, once the tenancy is over, providing there is no damage or other permitted deductions made from the deposit it could be used then against any remaining rent arrears.

Will you serve me with a section 21 if I can’t pay and if so how quickly will this happen?

This very much depends on the Landlord and their circumstances but we are finding that advising us of a problem at the earliest opportunity gives the best chance of a good outcome in terms of payment plans etc. Most Landlords don’t want to lose otherwise good tenants and serving notice is often the last resort and not the first thought. However it is a possibility. The landlord could serve either a section 21 notice or a section 8 notice depending on the situation. A Section 21 notice currently requires 4 months notice to be given.

Do you have an insurance policy in place if I miss a payment?

In some cases a Landlord may have cover in place to protect themselves, perhaps with an excess to pay. However, that doesn’t mean its ok to not pay as the insurance company will suffer the loss instead of the Landlord. Always talk to your Letting Agent, it’s in everyone’s interest to work together to get through this.

Do I still need to pay my rent?

The simple answer is yes. If you think you will struggle to pay your rent speak to your agent (our branch details can be found here) or landlord as soon as possible. Your landlord may be able to offer you some flexibility. Remember, a ‘payment deferral’ is not open ended and the rent will still need to be paid back in full for the time you have not made the full payments. This means you will need to pay more each month to catch up again, speak to you landlord or agent to agree a payment plan that will work for everyone.

Are rent payment holidays being introduced by legislation?

Despite reports in the media suggesting this would be the case the Coronavirus 2020 Act did not introduce these measures. The government have introduced measures to protect tenants while the crisis lasts to stop evictions and to safeguard incomes, which should enable most tenants to keep paying their rent. That doesn’t mean your landlord can’t work with you (depending on their own circumstances) if you are in difficulty. If you are struggling to pay your rent the best thing to do is to speak to your agent or landlord asap to see what options you may have.

Are evictions being stopped?

The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020 and landlords will now be able to progress their possession claim through the courts. Courts will carefully prioritise the most egregious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour and other crimes.

What if I can’t move out of my property?

If you can’t move out of your property you will need to let your agent or landlord know ASAP. If you know when you will be able to move out, then everyone can work towards the new date. You will need to pay rent while you continue to stay in the property. If you don’t want to move at all, then speak to your agent or landlord as they may be able to arrange a new fixed term tenancy for you. This will give you much more security in these uncertain times.

Will repair or maintenance work still take place at my home during lockdown or if I'm self-isolating

If you are self-isolating or anyone in your household has coronavirus symptoms it won’t be possible for a contractor to enter your property. However, if this is not the case it should be possible for a contractor to visit to carry out work. They will need to ensure that it is safe for them to enter the property and when in the property it is important for everyone to observe social distancing by keeping 2 meters apart at all times. If possible, you should go outside while the contractor is in the property, or into another room.

Financial advice

Has everything returned to normal yet?

It’s not quite back to normal, but we have certainly made significant strides back to a more normal lending environment. We are now seeing 95% LTV (Loan to value) lending which means that you only need a 5% deposit to buy a house.

The kick start for this was the Government backed Loan Guarantee Scheme which was launched in April, but there are also now many lenders lending at this level outside of the scheme due to the current strength and "reduced risk", as the market sees it, to house prices reductions following the end to the stamp duty holiday. These loans are however a little more expensive than pre pandemic and you can certainly benefit from getting some great advice from a broker that has access to the whole of the intermediary mortgage market and exclusive products like Mortgage Matters Direct.

Is Help to Buy still available?

The new Help to Buy Scheme (with regional price limits) also means that you still have the opportunity to buy brand new property more affordably. With a 5% deposit and up to 20% from the Government Help to Buy Scheme interest free for 5 years, means that you can start off with a reduced mortgage and preferential rates on a mortgage of 75% LTV (or as low as 60% in London). In the current climate with fast rising house prices, this could be the best way to take your first step on the ladder. To talk through the full terms and conditions, speak to a mortgage expert from Mortgage Matters Direct.

Can I Purchase or Remortgage if I have been Furloughed?

Although earlier on in the pandemic it was relatively easy to use furlough income to support a mortgage application whether that was buying or remortgaging, it is not so easy now. Most lenders will now want to see the evidence of your first month’s income on a payslip or on a bank statement to evidence that you have returned to work. There are a reduced number of lenders that will consider using the income if they can see a commitment from an employer to take you back and will want to see evidence of this. Obviously, your position is enhanced if you are buying with someone who is not affected by this challenge.

The landscape is changing constantly though and it makes sense to talk to a mortgage expert at Mortgage Matters Direct to see what is possible in your circumstances.

Are Mortgage Payment Holidays still available?

The blanket right to a mortgage payment holiday due to the financial strains of the Covid-19 crisis have now ended. But that does not mean that you have no options. The government has asked lenders to give more specific "Tailored Support".

This means that if you are coming off an old-style blanket payment holiday or are finding yourself in difficulty your bank or building society should consider a number of different options with you including: A (further) payment deferral – But only likely to be for a short period, A (further) period of reduced payments, An extension to your mortgage term or a change to your mortgage type. However, these measures will be recorded on your credit file and could impact your ability to attain future finance.

Can I still Protect My Income?

Yes, you can. An Income Protection Policy can provide a monthly income up to the amount that you would have earnt in your employment (minus the tax) if you were unable to work because of ill health.

This would include the Coronavirus or complications caused by it, as long as you were not displaying symptoms at application (However, if you have recently been exposed to someone in a high-risk environment or work in a high risk environment yourself you may need to answer some additional questions). If you needed to claim, after a deferred period (minimum 4 weeks) your policy would spring into life. In the current climate even if you were having to self-isolate because of a family member being ill, the deferred period would begin irrelevant of whether you were currently showing any symptoms. As soon the deferred period was up your replacement income would start.

You can arrange the protection to pay out for up to 1 or 2 years with a low-cost policy or anything up to retirement for a fully comprehensive one.

Speak to one of our advisers who can talk you through your options.

How does Working from Home affect my mortgage?

With more and more of us now working from home, does this create any issues in relation to mortgages or insurance? The answer is for most of us is that it does not have to. For normally office-based jobs it will have no impact on your mortgage ability although many people are now looking for property with a bit more additional space to accommodate the work from home "Office". If you are thinking of taking on a more manual occupation from home, it is always a good idea to talk it through with your lender especially if that is going to mean any structural changes to the property! For those that are going stick to a phone and a laptop with the addition of a desk and chair, then the one thing that you will want to ensure is that your insurance is fit for purpose. At Mortgage Matters Direct we have access to specialist products that include all homeworking equipment and furniture as standard. Speak to a Mortgage Matters Direct adviser for an expert opinion.