The sense of us all being in this together continues, with the property industry very much continuing to play its part in the fight against coronavirus.
Television Centre and White City Place developers Stanhope, Mitsui Fudosan and Aimco are showing their support for the fight against Covid-19 by rolling out a number of initiatives, including the launch of a new community channel for occupiers, tenants and residents, and ensuring labs can remain open for essential medical research and development.
The partners insist they are committed to helping and showing their appreciation during these unprecedented times. Ahead of the Easter weekend, more than 1,000 Easter eggs are being gifted to doctors, nurses and support staff at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust hospitals, Hammersmith and Charing Cross.
The partners say they are working closely with the local authorities and hospital administration to ensure a smooth delivery. An additional batch of 200 eggs will be gifted to pupils with severe learning difficulties from Jack Tizard School in Shepherd’s Bush.
To help pay tribute to the NHS and emergency services, meanwhile, both the WestWorks building in White City Place and the iconic façade of Television Centre will be bathed in a bright blue light, from dusk until dawn for the foreseeable future.
“We’re hugely proud of all the efforts our partners and community are making to help each other and most importantly those on the frontline of the pandemic,” David Camp, chief executive at Stanhope, said.
“We appreciate this must be an unsettling time for all and the need for a sense of community to keep people connected and supported has become more important than ever. We hope that by lighting up our buildings blue and setting up a dedicated channel for our community we’re able to provide some light-relief during these unprecedented times.”
Manchester developers provide drop-off centre for homeless donations
Kamani Property and Capital & Centric, two Manchester-based property development companies, have partnered with the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity and Street Support to provide their joint venture property site on the Northern Quarter’s Swan Street. It will be used as a drop-off location for essentials for Manchester’s homeless community during the coronavirus crisis.
The Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity has launched a Covid-19 appeal at a time of great strain on Britain’s communities, asking big businesses in the region to make a difference to those experiencing homelessness at this challenging time across Greater Manchester.
Businesses are being asked, if they can, to donate food, welfare and hygiene packages in bulk, with Kamani Property and Capital & Centric’s property on Swan Street acting as the drop-off point.
If you are able to donate, please fill out the form at: gmmayorscharity.co.uk/corporate/. Items being requested for donation in the appeal include the below:
Food packages – i.e. Dry food such as cereals, microwaveable meals, tea/coffee, sugar, fruits
Welfare packages – i.e. Toothbrush, toothpaste, flannels, shampoo, shower gel, sanitary products, deodorant
Hygiene packages – i.e. Hand sanitiser, hand wash, soaps, wet wipes, tissues
Food preparation equipment – i.e. Microwaves, hot plates
Cutlery and crockery – i.e. Knives, forks, bowls, plates, cups and mugs
Transportation – For delivery of food and welfare packages
Essential IT Equipment – i.e. Smartphones, laptops
Solo activities – i.e. Games, consoles, notebooks, pens
“Our joint venture project with Capital & Centric, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, is being utilised as a drop-off point for essential items to help those affected by homelessness in and around Manchester,” Adam Kamani, chief executive of Kamani Property, said.
“It goes without saying that this is a time to pool resources and lend a helping hand wherever possible, therefore we’re happy that we can do something to help during the current crisis.”
What are the Covid-19 obligations for landlords and tenants?
The coronavirus pandemic has brought many new challenges to the private rented sector, and those investing in property. But where do landlords and tenants stand when it comes to the issues being caused by Covid-19? Jamie Gray, director of Portsmouth-based agency NEXA Properties and a former international rugby player, attempts to shed some light.
“The issue of social distancing has certainly raised many questions around the landlord/tenant/agent relationship, so I wanted to highlight the rights and obligations for tenants and landlords,” he said.
“A landlord has the responsibility to ensure the property is fit for habitation, so what if the landlord/agent is incapable of undertaking an emergency repair (or, say, the annual gas safety check) because the tenant is self-isolating or actually has the virus?”
The answer, he says, is the landlord ‘should use their best efforts’ to fix the problem if it’s an urgent repair. However, if the landlord/agent are unable to do so, they should record this fact and that it is related to the coronavirus epidemic.
“One should then retry as soon as is possible and appropriate, having full respect for information on self-isolation, personal safety and social distancing, and ensure that you make a written note for future issue,” Gray adds. “My advice is that you or your agent need to uphold good lines of communication with the tenants touched by these current circumstances, so they are clear on what action you are taking and the timescales for this.”
At the same time, he continues, there will be very few situations in the coming weeks when the contractors who the landlord/agent use will also be in self-isolation, meaning a handful of tenants might have to wait for repairs to be sorted.
“We have some excellent contractors with their own backup plans and so together we will use our best endeavours to find an alternative contractor to fix any issues. If your agent has issues, then maybe we can help – do call me. Whatever you do, if this occurs, document everything and note that it’s related to coronavirus.”
Gray says that, while it’s true the UK government has demanded that building societies and banks give a three-month mortgage holiday to those landlords that are unable to make mortgage payments, this is ‘not free cash’.
“The mortgage payments are basically postponed with interest to be collected at the end of this crisis, meaning your obligation as a tenant to pay the rent still exists,” he argues. “The government is offering employers an 80% wage support with furloughing to avoid having to make people redundant and the rent for your rental home will be treated in the same way as the landlord’s mortgage.”
For those who are incapable of being able to pay their rent – which will still build up and accumulate during the virus – Gray advises that a payment plan will need to be started to pay it back on top of normal monthly rent once things return to relative normality.
One option, subject to status and agreement by all parties, could be for tenants to renegotiate a new longer lease to pay off the arrears over a longer period.
“Again, the point here is communication from all sides – making sure there are no nasty surprises”.
For tenants in this predicament, Gray says there is a lot of help accessible from the government - including Universal Credit or Employment Support.
“Remember, your landlord will need proof of your Universal Credit or Employment Support claims to give to their mortgage company to be able to start the mortgage holiday, so my advice to all tenants is to keep in contact with your agent to ensure your landlord doesn’t suffer any avoidable hardship.”
He says communication is the number one priority throughout all this. “Whilst most agents’ premises are closed including our own, all are open for telephone and email enquiries, with staff working from home. This is a fast-changing time for everybody, and we will be ever vigilant to oversee the financial and monetary backdrop in the coming months.”
“These are going to be tough times for people, financially and mentally; yet together we will come out of this stronger,” Gray concludes.