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What should I do about non-urgent repairs?

As discussed above, Covid-19 will inevitably deplete the workforce of housing providers in the foreseeable future. It would be prudent to consider making short-term policy changes to deal with this situation and manage the expectations of tenants going forward. A key policy change to consider is the extension of the standard lead-time for completing all non-urgent repairs and inform tenants of this change.

Such a change will also reduce pressure on landlords and front-facing staff.

As above, employers must protect the interests of their staff, particularly regarding health and safety. Extra care should be exercised when assessing the level of emergency of a repair on a case by case basis. All efforts should be made to reduce the number of attendances at properties by repair staff, whilst keeping all tenants safe.

As ever, communication is key – the pandemic cannot be used as a blanket excuse for abstaining from all duties and obligations. Housing providers must take a pragmatic approach in safeguarding customers whilst considering the interests of is workers. Maintaining lines of communication with all parties remains paramount.

Related FAQs

What form does the relaxation take?

The European Commission has reintroduced its “comfort letter” system for cooperation in relation to shortage of supply. This allows cooperating businesses to check what the Commission’s view of their proposals are before implementing them.

In the UK context the SMA has introduced an exemption for suppliers of healthcare services to the NHS. This allows:

  • Sharing information about capacity
  • Coordination of staff deployment
  • Joint purchasing of goods, services and facilities
  • Sharing or lending of facilities
  • Division of activities, including agreeing whether to expand or reduce the volume or type of services provided by suppliers

In relation to whether the CMA will investigate cooperation, it has indicated:

  • The CMA will use its discretion as to the prioritisation of its enforcement action to permit some agreements/collaboration which would otherwise potentially give rise to enforcement action (including potentially attracting fines of up to 10% of group worldwide turnover)
  • The CMA will use its existing power to exempt certain agreements under the Competition Act 1998 where these are in the public interest
What support is provided by the government under CBILS?

The Government will provide the lender with a partial guarantee (80%) against the outstanding facility balance, subject to an overall cap per lender. Note, the Government guarantee is to the lender only, the borrower will always remain 100% liable for the debt.

We understand that will make an initial claim for recovery against the borrower and will, once its normal recovery procedures have been completed, claim against the Government guarantee.

Do the usual publicity requirements for planning applications still apply?

The Government has introduced new regulations, which took effect on 14 May 2020, to relax the publicity requirements in respect of planning applications.

Planning applications are usually required to be publicised by way of site notices and local newspaper notices and applications are to be made available for public inspection. The Government has recognised that these actions may not always be possible in accordance with social distancing guidelines and in order that Councils do not delay applications as a result of an inability to comply with the publicity requirements, the Government has relaxed the requirements.

A Local Planning Authority is now required to “take reasonable steps” to publicise a planning application, which may be through use of online newspapers, social media, or other electronic measures. What is considered reasonable will depend upon the circumstances of an individual application and will be proportionate to the scale and impact of the development. A large development that has previously generated significant interest will require more steps to bring the application to the attention of all of those with an interest than a householder application. The guidance emphasises the role of the publicity requirements, namely to enable those with an interest to make representations and to effectively participate in the decision making process and therefore community engagement remains key. It is recommended that the officer’s report refers to the steps taken where a Council has relied upon the temporary publicity arrangements.

The requirement to make planning applications available for public inspection has also been temporarily suspended providing that the applications are available for online inspection. In reality most LPAs already provide such an online facility. Where individuals are unable to access an application online LPAs should make alternative arrangements, for example providing information over the phone or providing a hard copy set of documents by post.

The regulations however only amend the statutory publicity requirements. In addition to these, all LPAs are required to have a Statement of Community Involvement which may provide for additional publicity requirements and the LPA will be bound by these regardless of the temporary relaxation of any statutory requirements. Where a Statement of Community Involvement does go beyond the statutory requirements, the Government guidance suggests that LPAs update these to ensure that local communities can continue to be consulted in the current climate.

The regulations are currently due to expire on 31 December 2020.

Can an employee on family related leave be furloughed?

Yes, but your claim will be limited to any enhanced contractual payments you make to employees who qualify for the relevant family related pay.

All maternity and parental rights remain in force for anyone in this category who is furloughed. However you may need to calculate average weekly pay differently if the employee was furloughed and then started family related leave on or after 25 April 2020.

Furlough pay cannot be claimed for the period that an employee is receiving Maternity Allowance. An employee can agree to accept furlough pay but they must contact Jobcentre Plus to stop their Maternity Allowance payments for this period.

How do I bring an employee with a visa off furlough?

Employees with visas should be treated consistently with the wider workforce. When their furlough leave ends, they should return to work and their pay should be reinstated. If you agree a pay cut or reduction in working hours, you need to ensure that sponsored workers are still earning above the minimum salary for their role and working in excess of the minimum number of hours (see above).

The flexible furlough scheme is now in place and can be used for employees who have previously been furloughed for a consecutive period of at least three weeks. The flexible furlough scheme remains in place until 31 October 2020.