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As well as our FAQs we are collating additional material for practices on Covid 19 below. These show the current position, which is kept under continuous review and we will update if and when circumstances change.
The Government issued guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed in the UK understand how to work safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments can be seen here.
To support this the BSI, in its role as the UK’s National Standards Body, has published safe working guidelines to help businesses manage a safe return to work and reoccupation of their facilities, they continue to update this and its is now on version 3.
It provides a framework for business owners, senior leaders, managers and workers to protect people at work from the ongoing risks related to the coronavirus, and much of the advice and guidance will be useful to property industry businesses.
Reopen your business safely during coronavirus – guidance tool
Employers in England that want to reopen their business have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site. Use this guidance to help you carry out a risk assessment and make sensible adjustments to the site and workforce. If you do not carry out a risk assessment, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or your local council can issue an enforcement notice. Employees can use this guidance to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe. This guidance is only for businesses that are allowed to reopen in England.
Employee return-to-work tool
The Government has developed a tool to help employees in England easily assess if they can return to work. The tool guides employees through questions that may influence their ability to go back to work safely. Employers can share this tool with employees to aid discussion on how employees can return to work safely. Find out more here.
The CLC shares the Government’s determination that businesses that were sound before the coronavirus restrictions came into force should emerge from this period in good shape and able to support the national recovery effort. Although the CLC expects the home moving industry to bounce back in the longer term, the short-term economic effects of Covid-19 are likely to be particularly difficult for the conveyancing sector.
As a result, the CLC Council determined to support the practices it regulates by giving them the option to defer payment of their Practice Fee and Compensation Fund contributions for April, May and June. Most CLC practices pay by monthly direct debit and the scheme was open to those practices.
Firms deferring their payments in this way were given the option to repay the deferred fees over either four or 12 months, starting in July 2020.
See more on the scheme's FAQ page here
The coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations in England currently allow people who wish to move home to do so. The government’s stated intention is that home moving should continue during the new lockdown that is planned to begin on Thursday, 5th November. That could be amended when the measures are debated in parliament.
Under the new measures, staff will be expected to work from home wherever possible, estate agents and removers will be able to operate and everyone will need to work within the general COVID safety guidelines.
The Government have published Guidance to provide important public health information to ensure that moving home and key activities around this, such as viewing a property, can happen safely.
They make clear that all businesses should follow the government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus and safer working guidance. We would particularly draw your attention to the advice for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments which can be seen here.
The specific guidance for Conveyancers in the home moving guidance says you can open for business and can take on new instructions. You should make sure your clients are aware of the differences in completing transactions during this period.
A cross-industry guide has been published to support the Government's guidance. The collaborative industry guide sets out in detail how home moves can take place while still fully complying with social distancing measures and Public Health guidance.
The guidance, approved by the CLC, was developed collaboratively by the residential sector and professional organisations’ representatives. Specifically, it is relevant to property agents, mortgage advisers, property managers, property lawyers/conveyancers, surveyors, energy assessors, home removal, and also associated professionals such as those contractors involved in property development, management, and the home moving processes in the UK.
Home moving in Wales
Under the current ‘firebreak’ measures in place in Wales, people have been asked to postpone home moves wherever possible until after 16 November. The Welsh Government have published Guidance for the housing market to in Wales that applies otherwise. This enables house viewings to take place in vacant properties and house moves where a sale has been agreed but not yet completed. It will be a reasonable excuse to leave your local area or be indoors with other persons in order to:
This guidance is national guidance that applies across Wales.
Conveyancing industry bodies including the SLC and the Conveyancing Association, with the support of Government departments including the Land Registry, have published industry-wide guidance to help conveyancers assist clients and comply with the latest Government Regulations and Guidance on home moving. This additional Guidance covers four key areas:
The full guidance is available from the download section on the front-page of the Conveyancing Association website.
Additional sector-specific guidance has been prepared by the Law Society, the Society of Licensed Conveyancers, CILEx, the Bold Legal Group and the Conveyancing Association to support the recently published cross-industry guidance.
This guidance is applicable to both England and Wales, but the regulations and guidance relating to the re-opening of the market issued by the UK government and referred to in this guidance apply only in England.
This guidance applies to owner-occupied homes and to second hand, rather than new-build, homes.
Additional information is available on the Conveyancing Association website.
The cross-sector Home Buying and Selling Group has now produced Additional home moving guidance for people becoming ill or needing to isolate during the moving process, including Moving Day.
Legal Sector Affinity Group
The Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) has issued advice for legal practices on preventing money laundering and terrorist financing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practices should refer to the advice for guidance on the risks arising, identification and verification (including digital identification services) and other issues including training requirements and policies, controls, and procedures.
The LSAG advisory note reminds those in scope of the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (as amended) that they must still comply with the statutory requirements at all times, including performing an appropriate level of client due diligence (CDD).
The advice note can also be found in the CLC's AML toolkit along with other guidance and resources to support AML compliance.
CLC Guidance Note
To support you in carrying out of client due diligence while you are not able to meet clients in person and view physical identify documents we have produced a guidance note on using digital ID&V methods that provide you with robust assurance that a client is who they claim to be. This Guidance Note summarises previous guidance from the CLC and the Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) COVID-19 advice on identification and verification (ID&V).
To support this guidance note we have recorded a webinar you can view here (registration required).
UKFIU SAR Glossary Codes and reporting routes
The UKFIU has implemented three new SAR Glossary Codes for reporters as a result of the increased threat posed by organised crime groups (OCGs) seeking to exploit the COVID-19 situation by means of fraud. The Codes are to be used immediately
The Glossary Codes Note document can be found on the NCA website at: https://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/who-we-are/publications/443-sar-glossary-codes-note-april-2020/file
The Glossary Codes and Reporting Routes document can be found on the NCA website at: https://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/who-we-are/publications/442-sar-glossary-codes-and-reporting-routes-april-2020/file
We seek to ensure that CLC practices provide high standards of consumer protection by taking a regulatory approach designed to support client-focused and innovative businesses. If we identify issues or concerns, we will look at how regulated practices and individuals have sought to comply with regulatory and legal requirements. We will take a proportionate approach where we are satisfied the practice has been trying to act in the best interests of the client.
Practices are reminded to liaise with their RSM if they have questions or queries and as new issues arise.
The Government has announced plans for new support that will replace existing schemes including the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) that are due to come to a close over the autumn. It includes plans for a jobs support scheme to replace furlough, help for the self employed, business loans and VAT cuts.
This page will be updated as more details become available.
Job Support Scheme – To support viable UK employers who face lower demand due to COVID-19, and to keep their employees attached to the workforce, the government will be introducing a new Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020. Employees will need to work a minimum of 33% of their usual hours. For every hour not worked the employer and the government will each pay one third of the employee’s usual pay, and the government contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month. Employees using the scheme will receive at least 77% of their pay, where the government contribution has not been capped. The employer will be reimbursed in arrears for the government contribution. The employee must not be on a redundancy notice. The scheme will run for six months from 1 November 2020 and is open to all employers with a UK bank account and a UK PAYE scheme. All Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) will be eligible; large businesses will be required to demonstrate that their business has been adversely affected by COVID-19, and the government expects that large employers will not be making capital distributions (such as dividends), while using the scheme.
SEISS Grant Extension – The government recognises the continued impact that COVID-19 has had on the self-employed and has taken action to provide support. The SEISS Grant Extension provides critical support to the self-employed. The grant will be limited to self-employed individuals who are currently eligible for the SEISS and are actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand due to COVID-19. The scheme will last for 6 months, from November 2020 to April 2021.
The extension will be in the form of two taxable grants. The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November until the end of January. This initial grant will cover 20%of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £1,875 in total. The second grant will cover a three-month period from the start of February until the end of April. The government will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.
Extension of access to finance schemes – The government is extending temporary loan schemes to 30 November 2020 for new applications:
Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) – BBLS has provided £38 billion of finance through more than a million loans to UK-based small businesses, many of which had not previously borrowed. Loans are between £2,000 and £50,000, capped at 25% of turnover, with a 100% government guarantee to the lender to provide them with the confidence they need to support the smallest businesses. The borrower does not have to make any repayments for the first twelve months, with the government covering the first twelve months’ interest payments. Under the new Pay as you Grow options (see below), Bounce Back Loan borrowers will all be offered the choice of more time and greater flexibility for their repayments.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) – CBILS has provided over 66,000 loan facilities worth £15.5 billion to eligible UK-based businesses with turnover under £45 million. The scheme provides loans of up to £5 million with an 80% government guarantee to the lender, giving lenders the confidence to provide finance to SMEs. The government does not charge businesses for this guarantee and also covers the first twelve months of interest payments and fees.
Pay as you Grow – The government will give all businesses that borrowed under the BBLS the option to repay their loan over a period of up to ten years. This will reduce their average monthly repayments on the loan by almost half. UK businesses will also have the option to move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which they can use up to three times), or to pause their repayments entirely for up to six months (an option they can use once and only after having made six payments). These changes will provide greater flexibility to repay these loans over a longer period and in a way that better suits businesses’ individual circumstances.
CBILS loan extension – The government intends to allow CBILS lenders to extend the term of a loan up to ten years, providing additional flexibility for UK-based SMEs who may otherwise be unable to repay their loans.
They have developed a business support finder to see what support is available for you and your business.
Bounce Back Loans
On 27 April the Government announced a government backed loan scheme for small business which are open for applications. Businesses can borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days. The loans will be interest free for the first 12 months, and businesses can apply online through a short and simple form.
Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
From Tuesday 26 May 2020, small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, are able to apply to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees.
Employers can make claims to the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme through an online service. Employers will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.
HMRC has published online guidance which includes information about who can use the scheme and the records employers must keep. Click here to find out more.
On 25 June 2020, the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 received royal assent.
Some of the measures in the Act came into effect immediately on Friday 26 June. Other measures came into effect on Saturday 27 June when the secondary legislation came into force.
The measures introduced by the Act will relieve the burden on businesses during the coronavirus outbreak and allow them to focus all their efforts on continuing to operate.
Companies and other types of business registered at Companies House will get more time to file accounts. They are in the process of updating all deadlines on Companies House service.
They’ll update your filing deadline automatically. You do not need to apply for an extension.
The Welsh Government is providing support for businesses based there. Information can be found on their website.
The Society of Licensed Conveyancers has produced a special guide to on the support available to business which can be viewed on their website.
The trade association for the finance and banking industry, UK Finance is collating information for businesses as to how the banking and finance industry will be able to support them to access the finances, support and guidance they need.
HM Land Registry has produced a new Practice guide 80: useful information for conveyancers which provides information about changes they’ve made to their practice to facilitate conveyancing and registration before and during the coronavirus outbreak.
It includes information on:
Practice Guide 63
The Land Registry has updated Practice guide 63: Land Charges-applications for registration, official search, office copy and cancellation with a new section 6.1.3 being added following a change of practice to allow most Land Charges applications to be made by email attaching PDF copies of application forms and any supporting evidence. There are conditions that apply that can be seen in a notice given under Schedule 3 to the Land Charges Rules 1974.
HMLR has introduced temporary changes when verifying a person’s identity and for signing deeds.
In addition to conveyancers and chartered legal executives, verification can now be undertaken by people who work, or have worked, in certain professions including:
The verification can also be done by way of a video call.
Further details on these changes are available in our new practice guide 67A: temporary changes to HM Land Regis
HM Land Registry will accept deeds that have been signed using the ‘Mercury signing approach’.
This means that, for land registration purposes, a signature page will need to be signed in pen and witnessed in person (not by a video call). The signature will then need to be captured, with a scanner or a camera, to produce a PDF, JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page. Each party sends a single email to their conveyancer to which is attached the final agreed copy of the document and the copy of the signed signature page.
This is effective from Monday 4 May. Practice guide 8: execution of deeds has been updated with more information.
All practices should have in place their own business continuity plans for ensuring the continuing delivery of services to your clients. If you have not already done so we recommend that those are tested and reviewed in the light of Covid 19. This should take account of evolving guidance for business and individuals, the absence of any consensus as to how long the pandemic is likely to last, and when an effective vaccine will become widely available. It should also provide for contact to be made with an RSM at the CLC immediately if there is a risk, or delay, to the delivery of services.
Please ensure that all managers and members of staff are aware of the latest guidance about Coronavirus which is regularly updated.
Please contact your RSM should you have any questions.
The Legal Ombudsman has published new Guidance setting out their approach during the COVID-19 pandemic which you can see on their website
This states: "The Legal Ombudsman is aware that there are certain areas of law, such as conveyancing and litigation, which may be particularly impacted by the COVID-19 situation. Our Scheme Rules set out how we determine complaints and this includes giving consideration to what was good practice at the time of the act or omission. We are keeping up-to-date with the guidance which has been issued by regulators and professional bodies and will use these as a basis for determining expectations and what was deemed good practice at the specific point in time. This will allow us to take account of the changing landscape and advice to providers and the public through the period."
In line with Government advice, the CLC continues with remote working for the majority of staff. However, we continue our work as usual and we can be contacted through the usual channels, for any advice or support you may need.
Calls to CLC office numbers are currently being forwarded so it may take more than one attempt to reach us by phone, but be reassured that we are here.
In light of the rapid increase in staff working away from the office, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has produced a guide on Home working: preparing your organisation and staff.
With businesses having to adapt to remote working for the foreseeable future, the NCSC has produced a new guide Moving your small business from the physical to the digital to support The guide will help you determine how ready your business is for this digital transition and point the way to any new cyber security measures you should put in place.
The National Cyber Security Centre has also now produced guidance to help you to choose, configure and securely implement video conferencing services.
If you are worried for yourself or have concerns about others wellbeing we would remind you that LawCare offers a free, confidential emotional support service to all legal professionals, their support staff and families in the UK and Ireland.
We’re here to listen, with helpline calls, emails and webchats answered in confidence by trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law. We also have a network of peer supporters. If you need to talk call our free, independent and confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lawcare.org.uk
LawCare is an independent charity offering emotional support, information and training to the legal community in the UK and Ireland. We work to promote good mental health and wellbeing in legal work places and drive change in education, training and practice
You may find their advice on working from home of use for you and your staff.
There is also a collection of resources Coronavirus and isolation: supporting yourself and your colleagues which has been curated by the mental health at work coalition.
The Government have also published advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The Royal Mail has advised:
Public Health England (PHE) has advised that people receiving parcels are not at risk of contracting the coronavirus. From experience with other coronaviruses, we know that these types of viruses don’t survive long on objects, such as letters or parcels. This complements the highly publicised guidance from PHE for people to wash their hands more often than usual using soap and hot water.
The ICO has prepared advice for businesses on managing data protection issues, including staff working from home.
This new guidance provides advice to landlords and tenants on the provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020, and further advice for landlords, tenants and local authorities more broadly about their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Welsh Revenue Authority has said their online services are largely unaffected by coronavirus (COVID-19). They continue to review the situation and have had to adapt some of their services and the way they operate. They have outlined these changes on the Welsh Government website.
The government has confirmed that apprentices can continue with funded training when employers use the job retention scheme, subject to being paid the apprenticeship minimum wage “for all the time they spend training”. This means that you must pay your Apprentices at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (AMW/NLW/NMW) as appropriate for all the time they spend training. See more on the Government's website.
Last updated 24 September 2020