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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COVID19: UK Government suspends property market till further notice

The housing market was halted on Thursday night by the Government after financial institutions said they could no longer operate properly.

Ministers are discouraging buyers from going ahead with house sales and purchases unless they have ­already exchanged contracts as part of wider efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying no one should move unless absolutely necessary. ­

As a result of the pandemic, homeowners trying to sell their properties face a year of misery as the number of buyers dwindles, estate agents close their doors, banks withdraw deals and house prices falling.

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Banks and building societies have agreed to extend mortgage offers where completions have to be delayed as a safety precaution.

Grainne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, commented: “The clarity provided by the government announcement is welcome for buyers, sellers and agents who are in the middle of the sales process.

“Agents continue to support their buyers and vendors remotely. But, now that there is some leeway on mortgage offers – with a three month extension from lenders – this will enable some buyers to press pause, and to re-start their purchase once the current social distancing rules are relaxed.”

What does it mean if you’re buying?

You should only consider going ahead with your move in the immediate term if you have already exchanged contracts.

If you have not yet exchanged contracts, the government are advising you to delay doing so.

See the source imageBanks and building societies have agreed to extend mortgage offers for up to an additional three months to enable customers to move at a later date without losing the deal they had lined up.

If your circumstances change during this period or the terms of the house purchase alter significantly, meaning that continuing with the mortgage would put you into financial hardship, lenders have pledged to work with you to manage your finances as a matter of urgency.

What it means if you are selling?

Putting your property on the market will be more challenging than usual, as you are not allowed to have visitors to your home.

As a result, you will not be able to have estate agents come to take photos or carry out a physical market appraisal, while Energy Performance Certificate assessors are also not allowed to visit you.

If your home is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it for sale, but people cannot come to physically view your property.

Importantly, you are still allowed to accept offers on your property during the current period.

In fact, the number of sales agreed between March 16 and March 22 were only 4% lower than a year earlier.

Source: Zoopla Property 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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UK Covid-19: How to apply for government business loan

The government has released more details about the £350bn package of financial support which Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised to UK business to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Last week he set out plans to pay employees 80% of their salaries, capped at £2,500 per month, in an attempt to protect jobs.

Two further schemes to help business were announced on Tuesday: a new interest-free Business Interruption Loan Scheme for small and medium-sized firms and a Bank of England finance option for bigger businesses.

How will the Business Interruption Loan Scheme work?

UK-based small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with an annual turnover of less than £45m can apply for an interest-free loan of up to £5m to help them through Covid-19 related difficulties.

The government will provide a grant payment to cover the interest and initial fees for the first 12 months, and will guarantee 80% of the loan amount to give banks and financial companies the confidence to lend.

Under the scheme, which will initially run for six months, businesses will be able to borrow for up to six years. They will be liable to repay the money in full – the guarantee is for the lenders, not the borrowers.

Will all small and medium-sized firms be able to borrow money?

Not necessarily, Firms will have to prove that they are viable businesses which have been trading successfully, but just need extra support to deal with short term difficulties caused by the current disruption. Some firms may not be successful.

The money will be provided by more than 40 lenders who have signed up to the scheme, including High Street banks like Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest, as well as more specialist finance companies.

Businesses are asked to contact their own bank first (if they are taking part in the scheme) via the company website if possible, and only approach other lenders if they need to.

The British Business Bank, which is running the scheme, told the BBC on 23 March that it expected money to start flowing “this week”.

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You can read more about how the scheme will work here.

Can self-employed people apply to the Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

Yes, The British Business Bank says self-employed people with an annual turnover of up to £45m can apply under the scheme, as long as they operate through a business bank account, and generate more than 50% of their turnover from trading activity.

This includes sole traders, freelancers, and limited partnerships, operating in all sectors.

The government has already said the UK’s five million self-employed people would be allowed to defer self-assessment tax payments, and would benefit from mortgage payment holidays as well as an expansion of welfare support, including universal credit and Local Housing Allowance.

HM Treasury told the BBC the government was “working hard on further measures to support the self-employed”.

What about help for bigger businesses?

Companies that have a yearly turnover of more than £45m may be able to take advantage of the Bank of England’s new Covid Corporate Financing Facility.

The Corporate Financing Facility is effectively a government promise to buy short-term IOUs from companies which are in sound financial health and have a very high credit rating, but which need help to boost their cash flows.

The IOUs can be for any period between one week and 12 months.

The Bank of England says that eligible companies must have a “genuine business” in the UK, and “make a material contribution to the UK economy”.

Generally they will be based in the UK, or have their headquarters here, and employ or provide services to a significant number of people in the country.

How do big companies apply?

Companies must apply through their own bank in the first instance, assuming it is taking part in the scheme, and need to request funding of at least £1m.

The facility will offer finance to companies on similar terms to those available in the markets in the period before the pandemic.

The government will not publish details of which firms have taken advantage of the scheme, which is due to run for at least 12 months.

Source: BBC News

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UK Covid19 Lockdown: Only emergency repairs allowed, Landlords and Estate Agents told

The latest advice issued today is that although tradespeople can complete repairs at properties if they take precautions, landlords should avoid face-to-face contact with existing or prospective tenants.

The government has told landlords and letting agents that they should not conduct house viewings or complete routine inspections of properties, but has said that their tradespeople can complete emergency repairs.

See the source imageBut confirmation has yet to come through from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about essential tasks such as gas safety and electrical equipment testing and whether these will be exempt from the lockdown as ‘essential services’.

It is also understood that ministers are considering whether to allow many of the companies serving the private rented sector to continue doing their work if a property is owned by someone working in frontline health and emergency services.

Until yesterday industry organisation Gas Safe Register was recommending to landlords that they book inspections by an approved engineer as soon as possible if their renewal date was within the next two months.

The organisation says that following the lock-down announcement last night, it is urgently seeking guidance from the Cabinet Office and the Health and Safety Executive about whether residential property safety inspections will be deemed ‘essential services’.

Also, landlords who are refurbishing properties can continue their work as construction sites have also been given the green light as essential service, it was confirmed this morning.

But all this advice from government remains just that – guidance; the necessary legislation to make it an offence to ignore the rules has yet to make its way through parliament, although this is expected to be achieved at any moment.

One grey area is whether landlords can help tenants move into or out of a property; there are a large number of outstanding rental tenancy contracts that were signed and paid for up-front before the Coronavirus shutdown, and now lockdown, gripped the nation.

Source: LandlordZone

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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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