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Coronavirus advice and support

17th March 2020

In these unprecedented times, safeagent wants to support our firms as much as possible.

While no one knows what will happen over the coming weeks and months, it’s important to protect your staff, tenants and landlords by ensuring you have plans in place to deal with business interruption.

Contingency planning
If you have to close your office and operate with the majority of staff working from home or you suffer staff shortages due to illness, it is vital that you maintain good communication channels with your landlords and tenants.

Explain to your landlords and tenants what measures you have put in place for any period of business interruption and how they can still get in touch with you, should they need to do so.

It is vital that you protect the safety of yourself and your staff. Useful information provided by Government for employers can be found here – guidance for employers and business with a comprehensive FAQ section which is applicable to both employers and employees.

Routine Property Inspections
We suggest you suspend routine property inspections until this emergency is over and communicate this intention to your landlords.

The question arises however as to what happens when you are required, for example, to meet a legal requirement such as having a Gas Safety check carried out and you are unable to gain access to a property if a tenant is self-isolating. What should you do?

We have spoken to The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) regarding guidance on accessing a property in such circumstances or for repairs and maintenance. MHCLG have confirmed that they are actively considering guidance and as soon as we hear more we will share it with you at once.

Financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus

Help for tenants
For tenants who may have trouble paying their rent because of a change in their work circumstances or because they are ill, there is useful advice from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) which you should share with them. This information is helpful for existing benefit claimants or anyone new to claiming benefits because of the emergency.

Prepare your landlords if it looks as though their tenant – even if they have always paid on time previously – may fall into rent arrears
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses

Help for businesses
The Government has set up a dedicated helpline to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559

For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the Government in full. The details of how this recent Budget announcement will be implemented have not yet been published and we will let you know when we hear further.

The Government has also announced that it will provide an additional £2.2 billion funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no Business Rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £3,000 to around 700,000 business currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet ongoing business costs. Your Local Authority will be able to help you further regarding this new grant and the eligibility criteria.

Further information and useful links
Read about the steps employers must take to protect employees details of reasonable precautions – Public Health England’s guidance for your sector.

Finally, you have an important role to play at this time as you are the eyes and ears of your local community. Keep an eye out for the vulnerable and elderly, we know that you will do all you can to offer support those in need at this difficult time.

In terms of our contingency planning, safeagent is equipped to maintain the operation of the business should we need to close our offices.

Please get in touch with any specific questions you have.

Isobel Thomson, Chief Executive

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