We hope you are well and keeping safe.
All Scottish Property Centre branches have been closed since the 23rd March when we had to take the necessary steps to transfer to remote working. Each branch has a core team working from home, continuing to manage your property, and available for any advice or questions you, or your tenants, may have during these unprecedented times. The office landline is still the best place to reach each branch.
Our first priority is, and will remain, the health of our staff, our landlord clients and your tenants. The situation continues to change rapidly and we will keep you updated with news and developments as quickly as we can. Regular updates can also be found on our social media pages.
Below is our latest guidance, in conjunction with the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL).
Which work activities are “absolutely necessary”?
At present the UK government advice is that we should all stay at home and only leave home for work if it is absolutely necessary. Below are examples of activities we currently consider to be necessary:
SAL advises that the following activities should still go ahead where possible:
Whilst conducting any of the above activities, those involved will follow advice on social distancing and personal hygiene to reduce the chances of spreading the virus. Wherever possible we will try and carry out any required activity without the tenant being present.
If tenants are not willing, or able to allow access (e.g. if they are self-isolating) for emergency maintenance repairs, we will:
In most cases, all other activities are unlikely to be considered absolutely necessary. Property inspections and viewings shouldn’t be carried out at present unless it is an exceptional circumstance e.g. if a tenant needs to be rehoused because their current property is uninhabitable.
The Scottish Government has now advised that landlords and letting agents should postpone routine safety certification requirements during the crisis and carry them out as soon as possible after the Government restrictions have been lifted. Therefore, all safety certificates have been postponed until further notice. We will let you know when the Scottish Government consider landlords and agents should resume these activities.
The government has delayed the launch of the Energy Efficiency (Domestic Private Rented Property) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, which were due to come into force on 1 April 2020. The work on improving energy efficiency in private rented housing will resume once the current COVID-19 crisis comes to an end and the regulations may still come into force before the first trigger point of 1 October 2020.
Managing rent arrears during COVID-19
Under the terms of the tenancy agreement the rent is still due as normal unless the landlord agrees to a rent reduction or for tenants to pay what is due over a longer period. If any tenant contacts our office to indicate they are in financial difficulty, we are providing them with all the relevant Government guidance and potential sources of financial support and help that is available for tenants. We are also asking them for as much information/evidence as possible on how the coronavirus has impacted them. We will inform you immediately should your tenant be in touch in order that we can discuss the options with you further.
Where a tenant is unable to pay their rent in full the landlord – if a mortgagee – is encouraged to discuss this with their lender, who can arrange a mortgage holiday where appropriate. For guidance on mortgage holidays click here.
Change to notice/eviction procedures
Scottish Ministers have announced that they will bring in legislative change to ensure there will be no evictions from the private rented sector or the social rented sector for six months. This legislation has not yet been published so we don’t know the full details of what the changes will be. The Housing and Property Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal that deals with eviction cases is also closed and will not be hearing cases until at least 28 May, but this could be much longer.
Financial help for businesses
The following information may be also be useful if you run your own business or are self employed.
In addition to the well-publicised coronavirus job retention scheme and the newly announced self-employed income support scheme, various support packages have been put in place for businesses to assist them financially during the COVID-19 period. Details of these can be read here.
Businesses which have non-domestic business premises that qualify for the small business bonus scheme can apply for a £10,000 grant from their local authority. This is not means tested. Application forms can be accessed via the link here. On the application form you will need to quote your rates reference number which can be found using the postcode search at www.saa.gov.uk
Those with larger non-domestic business premises which have had to close due to the outbreak will be exempt from business rates. Further details can be read here.