From Tuesday 4 May, The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space Moratorium and Mental Health Crisis Moratorium) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 has come into force, this scheme provides a temporary period of relief from creditors for individuals in England and Wales to help those with problem debt.
Any person who is in debt can seek a moratorium from an approved debt advice provider. This debt can include rent arrears.
Types of breathing space a tenant may enter:
- Standard breathing space - lasts for a maximum of 60 days
- Mental health crisis breathing space - ends 30 days after treatment finishes
Once a Breathing Space has started, no enforcement action can take place against the debtor or anyone who is jointly liable with them for a Breathing Space debt. This means that if a tenant enters a breathing space, legally we cannot pursue them for rent if they don't pay and therefore enter arrears. This does not mean they will not be liable for the rent, it just means we cannot pursue them until the breathing space ends.
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Estate agents can enter homes to carry out inspections, the guidance recommends one person visiting at any one time. For us through this lockdown we have found virtual inspections have been very beneficial, we have still managed to obtain inspections from a large portion of our tenants.
All viewings must be by appointment only, virtual viewings are still recommended by the government. At CB Estates all of our properties that go live have a video walkthrough of the property, this means that potential applicants can get a better feel for the property by seeing the video prior to viewing it in person.
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The evictions ban in England has been extended for a further six weeks, meaning that evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs until 31 March 2021 at the earliest, with the measures to be kept under review in line with the latest public health advice. Exceptions remain in place for the most "serious cases", including illegal occupation, anti-social behaviour and arrears of at least 6 months rent.
This is a continuation of the government's measures to protect tenants during lockdown, alongside the previously announced six-month notice periods, currently in place until at least 31 March 2021.
The new court rules and procedures that were introduced in September in 2021 will remain in place, with the courts continuing to prioritise the most serious cases, such as those involving anti-social behaviour, illegal occupation, and perpetrators of domestic abuse in the social sector". The government also launched its free mediation pilot in February, "to support landlords and tenants to resolve disputes before a formal court hearing takes place".
"Our measures strike the right balance between protecting tenants and enabling landlords to exercise their right to justice," said Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP. "By extending the ban on the enforcement of evictions by bailiffs, in all but the most serious cases, we are ensuring renters remain protected during this difficult time."
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The Government has recently announced that millions of leaseholders will be given the right to extend their lease by a maximum term of 990 years at zero ground rent as part of the biggest reforms to English property law for many years
What are the changes?
Under the current law, many people face high ground rents and Freeholders can increase the amount of ground rent with little or no benefit seen to the owners of the property who hold the lease. It can also create problems and lead to increased costs when buying or selling the property.
Leaseholders of houses can only currently extend their lease once for 50 years with ground rent. This compares to leaseholders of flats who can extend as often as they wish at a zero ‘peppercorn’ ground rent for 90 years. These changes mean both house and flat leaseholders will now be able to extend their lease to a new standard of 990 years with a ground rent at zero.
These changes will mean that any leaseholder who chooses to extend their lease on their home will no longer pay any ground rent to the freeholder.
A cap will also be introduced on ground rent payable when a leaseholder chooses to either extend their lease or become the freeholder. The Government will soon be introducing an online calculator to make it simpler for leaseholders to find out how much it will cost them to buy their freehold or extend their lease.
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