Covid19: Air pollution falls sharply across the world

With global economic activity ramping down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is hardly surprising that emissions of a variety of gases related to energy and transport would be reduced.

Scientists say that by May, when CO2 emissions are at their peak thanks to the decomposition of leaves, the levels recorded might be the lowest since the financial crisis over a decade ago.

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Researchers in New York told the BBC their early results showed carbon monoxide mainly from cars had been reduced by nearly 50% compared with last year.

Emissions of the planet-heating gas CO2 have also fallen sharply.

But there are warnings levels could rise rapidly after the pandemic.

An analysis carried out for the climate website Carbon Brief suggested there had been a 25% drop in energy use and emissions in China over a two week period. This is likely to lead to an overall fall of about 1% in China’s carbon emissions this year, experts believe.

Both China and Northern Italy have also recorded significant falls in nitrogen dioxide, which is related to reduced car journeys and industrial activity. The gas is a serious air pollutant and also indirectly contributes to the warming of the planet.

With aviation grinding to a halt and millions of people working from home, a range of emissions across many countries are likely following the same downward path.

While people working from home will likely increase the use of home heating and electricity, the curbing of commuting and the general slowdown in economies will likely have an impact on overall emissions.

Source: BBC News

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Covid-19: UK property market to be suspended as sales drop significantly

UK house buyer interest has slumped as people stay at home to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to property listings websites.

Zoopla predicts housing transactions will drop by up to 60% over the next three months.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of sales that had been agreed before the lockdown are falling through.

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The government has advised homebuyers and renters to delay moving as much as they can.

“Would-be homebuyers paused major decisions and took stock of the unfolding events in the UK and around the world, even before [restrictions] announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” Zoopla said.

Demand in the week to 22 March slumped 40% on a week earlier, its figures suggest.

The property listings site said the UK housing market had a strong start to the year before the coronavirus outbreak crushed demand.

The pandemic has since led to a “rapidly increasing” proportion of sales falling through, as would-be buyers “reassess whether to make a big financial decision in these shifting times”.

Sales were still being agreed, it found, but at a 4% slower rate than at the same time a year earlier.

The Financial Times has reported that bankers have been urging government ministers to suspend the housing market.

They are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on valuations but they are also worried about issuing loans due to uncertainty about the effect the virus will have on the economy, the paper reported.

In response to the crisis, UK Finance, which was formerly known as the British Bankers Association, said lenders would extend mortgage offers for people who were due to move house during the lockdown.

“Current social distancing measures mean many house moves will need to be delayed,” Stephen Jones, who runs the group, said in a statement.

“Where people have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion this is likely to be particularly stressful,” he said.

“To support these customers at this time, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.”

The government has told people “there is no need to pull out of transactions”, instead encouraging them to “amicably agree alternative dates to move”.

The sentiments identified by Zoopla echo a previous announcement from rival Rightmove, which said the slowdown in the UK housing market had been “significant”.

“The number of property transactions failing to complete in recent days and likely changes in tenant behaviour following the announcement of the renters’ protections by the government may put further pressure on estate and lettings agents,” it said, referring to the recent ban on evictions.

The government said on Wednesday that home buyers and renters should delay moving if possible while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus.

“If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus,” a housing ministry spokesperson said.

“Anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice and not move house for the time being.”

Meanwhile, there were reports on Thursday that mortgage lenders had started to temporarily restrict some products for certain customers.

Source: BBC News

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What must a mortgage lender do if a borrower is in arrears

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considers that a reasonable period for repayment of arrears or a shortfall will depend on the borrower’s circumstances. In some cases, it can mean spreading the payments over the remaining mortgage term.

The lender must not attempt to process more than two direct debit requests in any one calendar month

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A mortgage lender must also establish and implement clear, effective and appropriate policies and procedures to ensure the fair treatment of customers whom the lender understands, or reasonably suspects, to be particularly vulnerable.

If a borrower is in arrears, the lender must consider whether one or more of the following actions would be suitable to help resolve the problem

  • extend the mortgage term;
  • change the mortgage type;
  • defer payment of interest due on the mortgage or sums due under a home purchase plan;
  • treat the payment shortfall as if it was part of the original amount – know as capitalisation and effectively adding the shortfall to the capital owing;
  • make use of any government forbearance schemes to help borrowers with problems.

Please contact your lender as soon as possible if you’re experiencing financial difficulties to get a suitable solution.

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Covid 19 Financial impact: Pension freedom

Over 55 and in financial difficulty due to Covid 19, you can take the opportunity of pension freedom as solution to Covid 19 financial impact.

Pension freedom allows personal pension planholders to take as much cash as they want from their pension fund from the age of 55. This can be an attractive option for those in mortgage difficulty, but there are two key factors to consider:

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  • Only 25% of the fund can be taken tax free, with any excess added to income for the year. This could result in a large (and unexpected) tax liability, which, in turn, could lead to less cash than expected.
  • The planholder’s income in retirement could be significantly reduced as a result of using the pension fund in this way. In addition, because they cannot take cash from their fund before the age of 55, they will have only limited time to rebuild their pension fund for retirement.

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Property Ombudsman conference postponed due to COVID 19

The Property Ombudsman has announced that it will postpone its annual conference, which was to have been on June 18, until next year.

In its place, TPO will be holding a Rightmove Webinar on the same morning.

Katrine Sporle, who retires as TPO later this year, says: “Given the circumstances affecting us all, we have decided to convert the conference in Solihull to a Rightmove Webinar to take place on the morning of June 18. We will provide updates, advice and interactive sessions to respond to agents’ questions and concerns.”

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TPO’s office says tickets already purchased will be credited towards the 2021 conference “when normal business resumes.”

Meanwhile a statement from the organisation says it’s business as normal at The Property Ombudsman, with many of its staff managing to work remotely to provide a normal service.

However, TPO says that the priority for agents is of course to ensure the welfare of their employees and advises: “Therefore, if services have to change and complaints cannot be dealt with in the usual way, agents should ensure this is communicated to complainants in writing.”

Should a complaint then be subsequently escalated to TPO, this will be taken into account.

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