Some positive news from London

There seems to be little good news at the moment but London is an incredibly resilient city and no more so than now. There are some really positive actions being taken, both by the UK government, our fantastic NHS and individuals coming together as a community. So, this seems like a good time to share some of the encouraging initiatives that are happening in London and across the UK.

This is a very personal email for me because it’s my own view of the current situation and the selfless actions of many people choosing to help. I want to share this with you, particularly those of you who are based overseas and perhaps not directly in touch with what is happening day to day in the UK.

NHS staff and volunteers

The British people are known for being supportive and caring – it’s one of the reasons I love living in London – as do millions of others. Probably one of the things I’m proudest of right now is the overwhelming response to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for volunteers to help fight Coronavirus.

Within a couple of days of his request over 750,000 people had registered to volunteer and many more continue to join the scheme. They’ll be doing everything from helping deliver vital medical supplies to offering transport and phoning the vulnerable and isolated for a chat.

Thousands of recently retired NHS staff are returning to work to help while many final year student nurses and doctors are starting work early to increase staff numbers, all putting their own health at risk to do so.

Car manufacturers and engineering companies have already started manufacturing ventilators for the NHS. And London ExCel is being transformed into a 4,000 bed hospital specifically for COVID-19 patients.

We’ve also been doing our bit by getting senior NHS workers into rental accommodation across the past week and I would personally like to thank our landlord clients who have been so flexible offering a break clause in the first year. If you have an empty property in London, that we do not already know about, please do get in touch, we still have a list of workers who need to be nearby hospitals.

Government support for businesses and workers

Boris Johnson and the UK government meanwhile have offered unprecedented levels of financial support to workers and businesses such as a business rates holiday, 80% pay for employed workers, small business grants and a job retention scheme. There’s more information on these measures here.

In a welcome move for our overseas investors, there has also been an extension of the overseas Stamp Duty surcharge which has now been deferred to April 2021.

Neighbourhood support schemes

On a local level, neighbours are joining together to shop for groceries and medicines for those who are old, ill or self-isolating. Supermarkets are organising dedicated shopping times for the vulnerable and for key workers. Many independent stores are offering deliveries for those who are self-isolating and some restaurants are offering free meals for key workers as a gesture of support and thanks. These are just a few of the measures being taken all across London and the UK.

So, while we are all remaining in our homes and self-isolating, we still have that vital sense of community and support from our friends, neighbours and co-workers. It’s why we love London.

I hope all our clients across the world are keeping well and staying safe and if you’ve seen a small act of kindness in these difficult times, we’d love you to share it with us by replying to this email.

Please do take a few extra minutes to read the information below concerning our current Property Management procedures which may affect your property.

To reassure you:

  • In line with Government regulations, we have closed all of our London branches to the
    public
  • Each branch has staff that are working remotely, including the Manager
  • We are staying in touch regularly through video conferencing and our intranet is a reliable means for updates, enabling us to work cross-geographically with speed and ease
  • Our back office Administration and Accounts teams are fully operational with staff working
    from home
  • Our Directors are in London and are actively overseeing their respective areas
  • We are still carrying out viewings for rental properties in properties where we have keys and the property is untenanted. Our staff are taking all the necessary safety and hygiene precautions to protect themselves and your property
  • For properties with a tenant in situ, we are using virtual tours to conduct viewings

New move-ins:

The Government have said that only critical home moves can go ahead and we do have some tenants scheduled to move in soon. We are following up with these tenants to check their circumstances have not changed.

Existing Tenancies:

  • Some tenants are having difficulty paying rent despite the Government intervention and we are dealing with these on a case by case basis
  • The UK Coronavirus Bill has now passed and is law which has some intervention in the
    private rented sector
  • The Bill did not give an outright ban on evictions as expected, but the notice period has been increased to 3 months
  • We are doing our best to negotiate reasonable payment plans with tenants who are facing genuine financial hardship
  • Some tenants are leaving before the end of their tenancy. We are following up rigorously and explaining that they are still obliged under the contractual terms of their tenancy
  • Some tenants who had planned to leave, now cannot so we are negotiating extensions

Residential Property Management:

Following the Government’s announcement to limit movement and observe a stay-at-home policy, contractors are only permitted to attend a property to carry out emergency repairs.

Any other works will be placed on hold until social distancing restrictions have been lifted. Restrictions affecting our usual Property Management service are as follows:

  • Inspections and non-urgent maintenance requests are on hold
  • Where emergency repairs need to be carried out, we are ensuring it is safe for the contractor to do so
  • If a tenant is unwell and requires emergency repairs, we have to follow Public Health England guidance and will liaise with the tenant to do the work as soon as feasible

Buying a property now:

Anyone interested in buying a property is still allowed to and virtual viewings are recommended to facilitate this. We suggest that our clients allow extra time for exchanging of contracts and talk to us if you are worried about what happens if the completion date of any existing purchase is during the stay-at-home period.

Further details regarding the COVID-19 guidance for landlords and tenants is available here.

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About the Author

For 35 years Anita has been the driving force behind Benham and Reeves’ success as it has grown from a single branch in Hampstead, to one of central London’s oldest, independently owned sales, letting and property management companies. Anita's vision has driven the expansion of the business to offer a complete range of property investment related services from under one roof, from purchase to handover, furnishings and/or refurbishment to lettings and property management. Read more about Anita Mehra here - Read full profile

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