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New lockdown means evictions effectively off-limits for months


It is thought likely that the new four week lockdown in England coming into effect on Thursday will mean evictions will be extremely difficult to enforce for some months.

Although the eviction ban actually ended several weeks ago, it was agreed last week that tenants living in areas under the old Tier 2 and Tier 3 Covid-19 restrictions in England and Wales were temporarily protected from eviction. 

The government asked bailiffs not to enforce court possession orders in areas with the highest Coronavirus restrictions. So although evictions could still proceed through the courts, bailiffs will not enforce court orders in Tier 2 and 3 areas. 

Bailiff trade bodies agreed to the request made in a letter from Justice Secretary Robert Buckland who wrote: “We would request that your members should instruct the enforcement agents working under their authorisation not to enter properties that are classified as local alert level 2 (high) or 3 (very high).”

With the new lockdown in England lasting from November 5 to December 2 – at least – it is thought that the bailiffs’ decisions not to enforce evictions in high-restriction areas will be extended across England.

The government has already said that enforcement action will also be paused over Christmas – specifically between December 11 and January11 – except in ‘the most serious circumstances’, such as cases involving antisocial behaviour or domestic abuse. 

It is thought likely that courts in England will still sit during the imminent lockdown and they are prioritising eviction cases involving anti-social behaviour, crime and extreme rental arrears. 

However, practical enforcement for any eviction agreed appears likely to be on hold until mid-January.

On top of all that, agents acting for landlords in England and Wales must now give six months’ notice to tenants before starting eviction proceedings, apart from in the most extreme circumstances. 

These include where tenants are proven to have demonstrated anti-social behaviour, committed fraud or if they are more than six months in arrears with their rent payments. The six-month minimum notice period was introduced by the government in September and will remain in place until at least March 31 next year. 

Meanwhile analysis by consumer group Which? has shown that in Scotland, landlords must give tenants six months’ notice in most circumstances. If the landlord or their family wants to move in or the landlord has had their registration revoked, the notice period is three months. 

If the tenant has a criminal conviction, has engaged in antisocial behaviour or has moved out, only 28 days’ notice is required. 

And in Northern Ireland, private landlords must give 12 weeks’ notice to evict tenants, and have been encouraged to not issue eviction notices unless it is ‘absolutely unavoidable’.

Original Article from Estate Agent Today 02/11/20

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Mortgage holiday set to be extended as housing market stays open

housing market open

There’s one key takeaway for agents from the weekend’s announcements on the next England-wide lockdown – the housing market is staying open.

However, there will be some short-notice changes on the fringes of agency activity.

This includes an extension to the owner occupiers’ and landlords’ mortgage holiday; and an extension of the furlough system. Both are being extended until at least the scheduled end of the latest lockdown, which is December 2.

An announcement is expected from the Financial Conduct Authority today concerning the extended mortgage holiday, which began in the spring and should have finished on Saturday October 31 – just 48 hours ago. It is thought likely that the extension will be for another six months. 

Under the old system, owner occupiers and landlords who needed help were able to request a payment holiday until October 31 – this is now to be extended, along with the corresponding ban on repossessions.

As before, future mortgage payment holidays and partial payment holidays under this government initiative will not have a negative impact on credit files.

For agents and industry suppliers with staff who were expected to come off furlough on October 31, the Saturday just gone, there may be relief that the scheme is to be temporarily extended until the end of the England lockdown on December 2.

Employees will receive four-fifths of their current salary up to a maximum of £2,500..

In the meantime the housing market will remain open. 

Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, says: “It is essential all agents continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus through following all relevant guidance. Agents must operate in accordance with government and Propertymark guidelines, to keep the market moving through these uncertain times.”

Statements by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government over the weekend both gave a ‘stay calm and carry on’ message to agents and the industry, urging people to continue following existing guidance. 

Original Article from Estate Agent Today 02/11/20

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Stamp Duty Holiday Mayhem – Sunak urged to avoid ‘cliff-edge’


Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been told to avoid a stamp duty holiday cliff-edge next March at any price – because it could be devastating for agents and consumers.

An open letter signed by many key industry figures urges the government to reconsider its hard deadline on both the stamp duty holiday and the Help to Buy scheme, both of which end on March 31.

Signatories include the British Association of Removers, NAEA Propertymark, The Guild of Property Professionals, Purplebricks, the Residential Property Surveyors Association, the Conveyancing Association, Society of Licenced Conveyancers, property consultant Kate Faulkner, the House Buying and Selling Group, conveyancing company Simplify, and Landmark.

They tell Sunak that the deadline is putting the housing market infrastructure under huge pressure with most parts of the process under strain even now, five months ahead of the deadline.

“Operational constraints in all areas of the home buying industry caused by the disruption brought about by Covid-19 and the current advice to work at home where possible, have seen average property transaction times lengthen from 12 weeks to 20 weeks” the letter says.

“We are concerned that consumers continue to offer on properties expecting to benefit from the SDLT rate reduction but in reality they may be too late.”

The letter calls for a six-month extension of the stamp duty holiday to next September and for measures to be introduced that would taper the end of the holiday rather than let it run to a so-called ‘cliff edge’.

In a separate statement, NAEA Propertymark chief executive Mark Hayward – one of the signatures of the Sunak letter – says: “The joint letter sent to the Chancellor today is an important step in protecting those in the process of buying or selling a house that might miss out on the 31st March stamp duty deadline because of increased pressure on service providers within the industry, which is causing delays for buyers and sellers in the sector.

“The boom, caused by the stamp duty holiday, has been hugely beneficial for the housing market; however, the stamp duty cliff edge on March 31 could cause thousands of sales to fall at the final hurdle and have a knock on and drastic effect on the market which has recovered well from the Covid slump.

“We are calling on government to rethink these timings, so pressure on the system can be released to allow transactions to complete and avoid a disorderly and distressing period for movers and businesses throughout the market.”

Original Article from Estate Agent Today 29/10/20

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Big rise in sale of £1m homes despite Covid crisis – Rightmove

£1m Property

The rise and rise of £1m-plus homes continues apace with new research from Rightmove showing the biggest growth areas.

Data released this morning shows that the number of million pound streets in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh has jumped from just two in 2015 to 22 this year. That’s the biggest five-year increase of anywhere in Great Britain.

In London, Hackney has seen the biggest rise in £1m streets, while at a county level Warwickshire has seen the biggest five-year growth.

Outside London the number of million pound streets is up 20 per cent compared with five years ago, and in London it is up 21 per cent.

Local agents in Edinburgh report that demand has soared in recent years, particularly for grand period properties, which they suggest may be fuelled by the city being more affordable than London and the South East.

Across Edinburgh as a whole, which is the only Scottish location in the top 10 £1m-plus streets, average asking prices are £294,633.

The other places in the top five with the biggest increases in million pound streets outside London are Winchester, Sutton Coldfield, Poole, and Alderley Edge.

In London, Hackney is followed by Dalston, Finsbury, Stockwell, and Beckenham.

Esher (141), Cobham (114), and Weybridge (113) – all in Surrey – are the local areas where you’ll find the most million pound streets just a stone’s throw outside of London.

Further north, Altrincham (61) and Sutton Coldfield (44) boast the most million pound streets.

The study by Rightmove looked at the number of million pound streets in 2020 versus 2015, based on areas which had at least 20 streets with an average value of at least £1m in 2020.

Original Article from Estate Agent Today 29/10/20