Can I still have my domestic gas appliances tested during the coronavirus outbreak?
Yes. The Health and Safety Executive has stated (as quoted from the Gas safe register site):
“Landlords have a legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances in a safe condition, to ensure an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue, and to keep a record of each safety check.
“If you anticipate difficulties in gaining access as the Covid-19 situation progresses, you have the flexibility to carry out annual gas safety checks two months before the deadline date. Landlords can have the annual gas safety checks at their properties carried out any time from 10 to 12 calendar months after the previous check and still retain the original deadline date as if the check had been carried out exactly 12 months after the previous check.
“You are encouraged to arrange your annual gas safety checks as early as possible, as a contingency against tenants being in self-isolation for 14 days (in line with current guidelines), or gas engineers being unavailable due to illness. The two-month period to carry out annual gas safety checks should provide adequate resilience in most situations.
“In the event you are unable to gain access to the property, e.g. persistent refusal of access due to vulnerable tenants self-isolating, you will be expected to be able to demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to comply with the law, and that you are seeking to arrange the safety check as soon as all parties are able. This will need to include records of communication with the tenant, and details of your engineers attempts to gain access.”
Many Registered Providers have been suspending all gas and electrical testing where internal access is required, continuing checks in communal areas and are carrying out emergency repairs only, whilst void works are suspended and staff are working from home. This does not comply with the legislation, or the guidance.
You must exercise reasonable care in assessing status and making a status determination, considering what the position would be if the contractor was engaged directly by the end user client instead of via a PSC.
Status is usually determined by looking a number of factors and how they apply to the contractor’s working arrangements. This is a difficult exercise that is usually carried out by employment and tax lawyers and it is full of grey areas. We have a toolkit that can help you navigate this process which Paul will tell you more about at the end of the session.
The key factors used to determine status are:
- How much control does the end user client have over the contractor in terms of working arrangements (hours, place of work) and how the work is carried out? Or is the individual contractor able to determine how and when they work and without direct supervision of the end user client?
- Personal service:
- Is the contractor required to perform the services personally without the right to send a substitute? If there is a right to appoint a substitute is this subject to end user client approval?
- Mutuality of obligation:
- Is the end user client obliged to provide the contractor work with a mutual obligation on the contractor to accept that work?
On Tuesday 23rd June, partner Emma Digby was in conversation with Steve Hamstead and Mark Smith from AON along with Ward Hadaway commercial lawyer Nathan Bilton in a webinar titled Can trade credit insurance help to keep the supply chain moving?
The insurance market is under untold pressure as a result of the pandemic, and in such times there is a risk that insurers will cancel or reduce credit lines, particularly in certain high risk sectors such as retail. However the Government has stepped in to effectively underwrite the existing trade credit insurance agreements, and to keep trade supplies moving. Will this be enough?
In this webinar, we discussed:
- the Government backed scheme and how it will operate
- the prospects of obtaining insurance going forward, and whether it will become too cost prohibitive
- could the new legislation put your business at risk and jeopardise your insurance cover if you cannot cancel a contract when you are not getting paid for your goods or services
- the Brexit effect, and how this will affect the insurance market
- protecting your business with proper risk assessment processes and paperwork
An amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules’ Practice Directions has been approved by the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor on 1 April 2020, and is now Practice Direction 51ZA. This has the effect of allowing the parties to extend by prior written agreement up to a maximum of 56 days (rather than the usual 28 days detailed at CPR 3.8(4)) any rule, practice direction or order provided that any extension does not put at risk any hearing date. This Practice Direction will cease to have effect on 30 October 2020.
Additionally each regions’ Designated Civil Judge (DCJ) has issued a Covid-19 Protocol. There are some minor variations between the regions, but overall the guidance is very similar.
In Northumbria, Durham and Teesside the DCJ guidance for multi-track cases provides that “The parties are at liberty to extend, by consent, any step in the timetable up to a maximum of 90 days (as opposed to the present limit of 28 days)” and the Court does not need to be notified if the Trial date is not effected. Where Trial windows are likely to be impacted due to Covid-19 and the parties are in agreement to extending this, a letter can be sent to the Court with a draft order proposing a new timetable, including a new trial window and agreed availability within the trial window.
The same guidance also confirms that an electronic signature on all documents including witness statements and disclosure statements will suffice.
Some organisations are prioritising properties, known to be higher risk, such as properties with open flues, or near to the certificate expiry date.
Vulnerable staff and tenants need protection, safe working practices need to be established, and communicated. Organisations should bring forward servicing for people known to be vulnerable – but bearing in mind the guidance as to preserving the annual test date.
To be eligible for CBILS, the British Business Bank has confirmed that businesses should be able to answer YES to the following points:
- Your application must be for business purposes
- You must be a UK-based SME with an annual turnover of up to £45m. This includes sole traders, freelances, body corporates, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships. For sole traders to be eligible it is expected that sole traders will need to have a business account with its funders and not be operating via a personal account
- Your business must generate more than 50% of its turnover from trading activity
- Your CBILS-backed facility will be used to support primarily trading in the UK
- You wish to borrow up to a maximum of £5m.
Businesses meeting these criteria from all sectors can apply save for Banks, Building Societies, Insurers and Reinsurers (but not insurance brokers), the public sector including state-funded primary and secondary schools, employer, professional, religious or political membership organisation or trade unions which are not eligible.
Your borrowing proposals must be considered viable by the relevant lender under normal circumstances aside from the Covid-19 outbreak, and the lender believes the provision of finance will enable the business to trade out of any short-to-medium term difficulty. Lending decisions are delegated to the accredited lenders and lenders will need further information to confirm eligibility.
The eligibility criteria for CBILS does not require lenders to take into account other forms of Government support that SME’s may already be benefiting from, most notably business rate relief.
We understand that ownership structure is not taken into account when confirming eligibility and that businesses back by a PE funder or a subsidiary of an overseas entity can be eligible if it meets the other criteria.
An update on eligibility – 3 April 2020
Previously, for facilities above £250,000, the lender must establish a lack or absence of security prior to businesses using the Scheme. The requirement for insufficient collateral has been removed allowing those SMEs who are considered to have sufficient collateral to access the Scheme. We would expect that where security is available, a lender will seek to take security over the relevant assets.