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FAQs

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs for areas in lockdown

COVID-19 - How can I get in touch while my area is in lockdown? +

We would like to assure you that you will be still be able to contact us throughout this difficult time.  For maintenance reporting or straightforward queries we would recommend that, if you have access, you sign-up to our Customer Portal which is a simple way to access information on your tenancy, make one off payments or to report maintenance.

You can also contact us by phone as usual but please be aware we are experiencing an increase in calls to our property management teams so it may take longer than usual to speak with someone - we will answer your call as soon as possible.

COVID-19 - Can I stop paying rent during the lockdown in my area? +

We appreciate this continues to be a challenging time.  Customers should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Rent levels agreed in tenancy agreements remain legally due. 

If your financial circumstances have changed as a result of the coronavirus, please get in touch with us. If you are concerned about your ability to meet your rent payments we will be able to offer advice and may be able to help with a spreading of future payments.

The government has a strong package of financial support available and further information can be found as follows:

Universal Credit 

There is new Government support in place to help those affected by coronavirus. For the next three months there is no longer any requirement to attend an interview at a job centre to start a claim, and all applications will be dealt with online. Information can be found here

Financial Support

You may not have previously claimed benefit or your circumstances may have changed. You can find out what financial support may be available to you on the entitled to free benefit calculator   To find out what you might be able to claim enter your details and you'll receive an estimate of your entitlement to benefits, tax credits and universal credit.

You can also find more information on Government support here 

If you do experience financial problems that could affect your payment of rent, please contact us at the earliest opportunity so we can provide advice and look for a solution to support you.  Please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as you can.

COVID-19 - Can I be evicted while my area is in lockdown? +

Government guidance strongly advises landlords not to commence or continue eviction proceedings during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so.  The Coronavirus Act 2020 puts measures in place that says where landlords do need to issue notices seeking possession, the notice period must be for three months. Landlords can choose to give a longer notice period. 

At the expiry of the three-month notice, a landlord cannot force a customer to leave their home without a court order. When the notice period expires, a landlord would still need to take court action if the customer was unable to move. 

COVID-19 - What if my boiler breaks, or something else happens which is an urgent risk to my health? +

During lockdown in your area, inspectors or maintenance workers can still visit for essential or urgent work such as inspecting and testing fire alarm and emergency lighting systems. Urgent health and safety issues are those which will affect your ability to live safely and maintain mental and physical health in the property. This could include (but is not limited to): 

·       If there is a problem with the fabric of the building, for example the roof is leaking 

·       If your boiler is broken, leaving you without heating or hot water

·       If there is a plumbing issue, meaning your tenant does not have washing or toilet facilities 

·       If the white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken, meaning you are unable to wash clothes or store food safely 

·       If there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door

·       If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair 

COVID-19 - Moving in and out +

Government have advised as far as possible, for people to delay moving home while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus in your area. If you are due to move, we will support you as far as we are able though this time.

We are aware that a number of businesses that support home moves – removal firms, inventory and inspection clerks particularly – will be severely limited in their movements and activities while a local lockdown is in place.  If you are about to move home, we would recommend that you check the latest position with any companies that you have made arrangements with directly and that you contact us as soon as possible to update us on your plans.  Given the restrictions on travel and social contact in your area, our partners that would normally provide check in and check out services as well as providing information for tenancy deposit administration will also be affected.  We will try to complete the administrative tasks associated with all move-ins and outs as quickly as possible, but it is likely that these processes will take longer than normal.

Read Government guidance on moving during the COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 – What should I do if I think I many have the virus? +

You should follow government guidance, which you can find here 

You should tell anyone you share the property with immediately, so that they can take appropriate action and make informed decisions regarding shared areas and access to the property. If we need to arrange a visit to the property for urgent health and safety reasons, please also inform us and agree to take sensible precautions. 

COVID-19 - What can I do about rent arrears as a result of Coronavirus? +

Government guidance is for people to continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Rent levels agreed in tenancy agreements remain legally due. 

We appreciate that we are in unprecedented times, and many people have financial concerns.  If you do experience financial problems that could affect your payment of rent, please contact us at the earliest opportunity so we can provide advice and look for a solution to support you..  An early conversation can help us agree a plan if you are struggling to pay your rent or are incurring arrears. Please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as you can.

COVID-19 - Reporting of repairs +

While your area is in lockdown, please continue to report repairs in the usual way. In light of Government advice and limited contractor availability within locally locked down areas we may need to take the decision to prioritise urgent maintenance work within that area.  We consider this to be work that is required to stop imminent damage to the property (or adjoining properties), reduce the risk of harm to customers or the public, and to maintain key services such as power, heating, lighting and plumbing as far as is reasonably practicable. It is likely that in some instances the work instructed will be to stop the current challenge rather than being a permanent solution.

If this is the case, we would like to assure you that all repair items that are raised will still be recorded and responded to as soon as possible but we would ask for your patience as we manage the completion of the most urgent works.  If this is the case, your Property Manager will ensure you are kept up to date as to expected timeframes.  

If you have vulnerable people in your household, please make us aware at the time of reporting any urgent issues that might result in a visit to your home so we can plan accordingly. 

Where a contractor visits your home, we have asked all contractors to:

    ·       Ask you to wait in another room while the repair is taking place – always observing the government’s advice on social distancing.

    ·       Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

    ·       Wash their hands or use hand sanitiser upon arrival and when leaving the property.

    ·       Wash down any surfaces with antibacterial products that they may have come into contact with when undertaking work.

If you are visited by a contractor and you are not satisfied that they are observing these actions you should not let them in to your home and report the event to your property manager.

COVID-19 Will you need to access my property to conduct viewings for sale or letting? +

We are following government’s latest guidance necessary to help stop the spread of the virus in your area, which you can find here https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. While there is a lockdown in your area, no one will visit the property to conduct viewings. We will only need to access to a property for serious and urgent issues such as emergency repairs. 

COVID-19 - Our services during the outbreak +

We’ll continue to follow the guidance given by the government for your area.  We will do everything we can to provide you with the best service we can.  Your patience during this difficult period is very much appreciated.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs

How can I get in touch during the outbreak? +

We would like to assure you that you will be still be able to contact us throughout this difficult time.  You can contact us by phone as usual but please be aware we are experiencing an increase in calls to our property management teams so it may take longer than usual to speak with someone - we will answer your call as soon as possible.

For maintenance reporting or straightforward queries we would recommend that, if you have access, you sign-up to our Customer Portal which is a simple way to access information on your tenancy, make one off payments or to report maintenance. 

Can I stop paying rent during the outbreak? +

This will be a difficult time for many people and, whilst there has been some easing of restrictions and a return to work in some sectors, for many this continues to be a challenging time.  

Customers should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Rent levels agreed in tenancy agreements remain legally due. The government has a strong package of financial support available, and where you can pay the rent as normal, you should do.

If you are already furloughed, have recently become furloughed or if your circumstances have changed as a result of the coronavirus, please get in touch with us. If you are concerned about your ability to meet your rent payments we will be able to offer advice and may be able to help with a spreading of future payments.

Further information can be found as follows:

Universal Credit 

There is new Government support in place to help those affected by coronavirus. There is currently no requirement to attend an interview at a job centre to start a claim, and all applications will be dealt with online. Information can be found here.

Financial Support

You may not have previously claimed benefit or your circumstances may have changed. You can find out what financial support may be available to you on the entitled to free benefit calculator. To find out what you might be able to claim enter your details and you'll receive an estimate of your entitlement to benefits, tax credits and universal credit.

You can also find more information on Government support here: 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/guidance-and-support-for-employees-during-coronavirus-covid-19

If you do experience financial problems that could affect your payment of rent, it will be easier for us to provide advice and look for a solution if you contact as at the earliest opportunity.   Please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as you can.

Can I be evicted during the outbreak? +

Government guidance strongly advises landlords not to commence or continue eviction proceedings during this challenging time without a very good reason to do so.  The Coronavirus Act 2020 puts measures in place that says where landlords do need to issue notices seeking possession, the notice period must be for three months. Landlords can choose to give a longer notice period. 

At the expiry of the three-month notice, a landlord cannot force a customer to leave their home without a court order. When the notice period expires, a landlord would still need to take court action if the customer was unable to move. 

Will you need to access my property to conduct viewings for sale or letting? +

Agents in England have been encouraged to return to work and to meet with customers in their offices and at properties for viewings, but only where it is safe to do so for all parties and where social distancing can be maintained. We are following the government’s latest guidance to help stop the spread of the virus which you can find here https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus 

While the outbreak continues, we will only conduct viewings where it is safe to do so in line with Government guidelines. We note that the approach is different in devolved parts of the UK and will ensure that any changes in our approach comply with local guidance.

Moving in and out +

Government advice in relation to Sales and Letting Agents has now changed and Agents are now encouraged to return to work and to meet with customers in their offices and at properties for viewings, but only where it is safe to do so for all parties and where social distancing can be maintained.  The latest Government advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

In line with our previous advice, if you are planning to move at the end of your tenancy or have had a move delayed as a result of the coronavirus situation, please continue to contact your property manager in the usual way.  Also, if you were planning to move and now find that you no longer wish to or are unable to do so, please contact us as soon as possible so that we can support you and maintain our records.

Whilst there is now more activity permitted, if you are about to move home we would recommend that you check the latest position with any companies that you have made arrangements with directly and that you contact us as soon as possible to update us on your plans.  Given the restrictions on travel and social contact, our partners that would normally provide check in and check out services as well as providing information for tenancy deposit administration may still be affected.  We will try to complete the administrative tasks associated with all move-ins and outs as quickly as possible, but it is likely that these processes may take longer than normal.

Read Government guidance on moving during the COVID-19 outbreak

What should I do if I think I may have the virus? +

You should follow government guidance, which you can find here 

You should tell anyone you share the property with immediately, so that they can take appropriate action and make informed decisions regarding shared areas and access to the property. If we need to arrange a visit to the property for urgent health and safety reasons, please also inform us and agree to take sensible precautions. 

What can I do about rent arrears as a result of Coronavirus? +

Government guidance is for people to continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Rent levels agreed in tenancy agreements remain legally due. 

We appreciate that we are in unprecedented times, and many people have financial concerns.  If you do experience financial problems that could affect your payment of rent, it will be easier for us to provide advice and look for a solution if you contact as at the earliest opportunity.  An early conversation can help us agree a plan if you are struggling to pay your rent or are incurring arrears. Please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as you can.

What if my boiler breaks, or something else happens which needs to be fixed urgently? +

Inspectors or maintenance workers can still visit for essential or urgent work such as inspecting and testing fire alarm and emergency lighting systems. Urgent health and safety issues are those which will affect your ability to live safely and maintain mental and physical health in the property. This could include (but is not limited to): 

·       If there is a problem with the fabric of the building, for example the roof is leaking 

·       If your boiler is broken, leaving you without heating or hot water 

·       If there is a plumbing issue, meaning you do not have washing or toilet facilities 

·       If the white goods such as fridge or washing machine have broken, meaning you are unable to wash clothes or store food safely 

·       If there is a security-critical problem, such as a broken window or external door

·       If equipment a disabled person relies on requires installation or repair 

Reporting of repairs +

The Government has now lifted some restrictions on the construction sector and we anticipate that more contractors will return to work or offering a wider service and that we will be able to start instructing some non-urgent repairs where it is safe to do so.

Please continue to report repairs in the usual way - please be aware that while we will instruct non urgent repairs where possible, we will continue to prioritise urgent maintenance work.  We consider this to be work that is required to stop imminent damage to the property (or adjoining properties), reduce the risk of harm to customers or the public, and to maintain key services such as power, heating, lighting and plumbing as far as is reasonably practicable. It is likely that in some instances the work instructed will be to stop the current challenge rather than being a permanent solution.

Our colleagues and customers wellbeing and safety is our priority – and where we need to come into your home we will be following stringent measures. Where a contractor visits your home, we have asked all contractors to:

  • ·       Ask you to wait in another room while the repair is taking place – always observing the government’s advice on social distancing.

  • ·       Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

  • ·       Wash their hands or use hand sanitiser upon arrival and when leaving the property (which they should supply themselves).

  • ·       Wash down any surfaces with antibacterial products that they may have come into contact with when undertaking work (using materials which they have supplied themselves).

 

We would like to assure you that, where we are unable to instruct works within normal time scales, all repair items that are raised will still be recorded and responded to as soon as possible but we would ask for your patience as we manage the completion of the most urgent works.  If this is the case, your Property Manager will ensure you are kept up to date as to expected timeframes.  

Our services during the outbreak +

We will continue to operate our services and to maintain ‘business as usual’ as far as we are able. We’ll continue to follow the guidance given by the government and will continue to provide updates to you if the situation changes.  We will do everything we can to provide you with the best service we can.  Your patience during this difficult period is very much appreciated.

At Touchstone we know how important your home is to you. We have compiled some frequently asked questions to help guide you through your tenancy with us as smoothly as possible.

Who can stay in the property? +

Only customers and permitted occupiers who are listed on the tenancy can live in the property. ‘Live’ is defined by a guest staying longer than two weeks.

Can I change my energy supplier? +

Yes, however you need to let us know in writing or via email.

Can I decorate my home? +

Usually that’s no problem, you just need written permission from us first – otherwise you might be charged for re-decorating it back to the original state.

Can I install a Sky dish or Virgin TV? +

Please check with us first and we’ll need to authorise it in writing. If you go ahead without asking us, you may have to pay for the dish to be removed etc.

Can I make alterations to my home? +

Very rarely, so please check with us first and we’ll need to authorise it in writing. If you go ahead without asking us, we’ll have to charge you for any works to restore the property to its original state.

How can I pay my rent? +

Rent is generally paid by Standing Order. Contact us if you need any details or have a follow up question that isn’t covered elsewhere in this guide.

My partner or friend wants to move in to the property. What should I do? +

Anyone living at the property needs to be listed on the tenancy agreement and vetted by us. If you’d like to add another person to your tenancy agreement, please contact us. Please also be aware of the administration fees (shown in the fee schedule). Please ensure you have our written approval before any new tenants move in.

What do I do if I want to leave the property temporarily? +

If you need to leave for more than 28 days, please notify us in writing. If you forget, it could have serious insurance consequences and you may be charged for any costs.

Can I have a pet at the property? +

Each property is different so before you go ahead we need to confirm that everything is fine in writing.

Can I change the terms of my tenancy? +

For any queries about your tenancy agreement, please contact us.

Someone has moved out of the property. How do I remove them from the tenancy agreement? +

Please contact us as soon as possible.

Who insures my belongings? +

The building’s insurance does not cover your personal belongings, so please arrange your own contents insurance.

Who do I call in an emergency or if I have maintenance issues? +

In the first instance please call your property manager. If the incident occurs outside of office hours and there is damage that requires urgent attention, please call our Emergency Helpline on 01772 667182.

Who do I report communal issues to? +

Please contact us.

What do I do if I have a complaint? +

Please contact us in the first instance. If we can’t resolve it, you can ask for a copy of our complaints procedure.

Any other questions? +

Please contact us.

How do I find out who supplies my energy? +

Gas: Call the Meter Point Administration Service
Telephone: 0870 608 1524

Electricity: Contact the local electricity distribution company. Then ask for the company's Meter Point Administration Service (MPAS).

North Scotland: 0800 048 3515
Central & Southern Scotland: 0330 1010 300 
North East England & Yorkshire: 0845 070 7172
North West England: 0800 195 4141

Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales & North Shropshire:  0330 1010 300 
East Midlands & West Midlands: 0800 096 3080
South Wales & South West England: 0800 096 3080

London, South East England & Eastern England: 0845 601 4516
Southern England: 0800 048 3516
Northern Ireland: 03457 643 643

How much is my council tax and what band am I in? +

Please either contact your local authority or, for banding visit www.gov.uk/council-tax-bands

Where can I park? +

If it’s not clear, please contact us.

What do I do if my phone line isn’t connected? +

If you know your supplier, please contact them. If not, call BT on 0800 800 151.

What happens if I can’t pay my rent? +

Rent is due on the date advised in your tenancy agreement. If you think you may have any difficulties paying your rent, please contact us as soon as possible.

Can I advertise my house with Air B&B? +

No, this is against the landlord’s wishes. 

Can people temporarily stay at the property? +

Friends and family are welcome to visit for up to two weeks. If it’s any longer than that then please contact us first.

What do I do when my child reaches 18? +

Once they become an adult, you’ll need to add them to the tenancy agreement. So please contact us to sort it out.

What do I do if I’ve lost my keys? +

Please contact us straightaway. Or if it’s out of office hours, please call our [Emergency Helpline]. If your keys can be linked to you or the property, please also inform the Police. You can check the charge for replacement keys on our fee list.

What if I need to leave before my tenancy expires? +

Your tenancy agreement is for a fixed period, so you need to stay at the property until the expiry date. If you need to vacate before then, unfortunately you’re legally responsible for the rent right up until the expiration date – as well as any re-letting fees.

What should I do if I’ve been burgled? +

Firstly, call the police. They’ll give you a crime reference number which your insurer will need when you contact them. Then call us. If the incident occurs outside of office hours and there is damage that requires urgent attention, please call our Emergency Helpline on 01772 667182.

What do I do about noisy or abusive neighbours? +

If you’re unable to resolve the matter, please contact the following:

  • Excessive noise: your local environmental health department.
  • Abuse or threats: the Police.

Can I arrange maintenance and deduct the costs from rent? +

No. Please refer all maintenance issues to us rather than sorting them out yourself.

Can I buy the property if I like living here? +

This will depend on the landlord, but please contact us.

How do I end my tenancy? +

Please contact us in writing at least a month in advance of the date you want to leave. (This is two month in Scotland).

Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs +

Getting in touch

We would like to assure you that you will be still be able to contact us throughout this difficult time.  You can contact us by phone as usual but please be aware we are experiencing an increase in calls to our property management teams so it may take longer than usual to speak with someone - we will answer your call as soon as possible. For maintenance reporting or straightforward queries we would recommend that, if you have access, you sign-up to our Customer Portal which is a simple way to access information on your tenancy, make one off payments or to report maintenance. 

Payment of Rent

We appreciate that this will be a difficult time for many people. If your employment or financial situation changes as a result of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) situation, please contact us as soon as possible so that we can register your concerns and provide guidance on help that may be available to you.  You will no doubt be aware of the various assistance that the government is proposing for individuals affected by the pandemic. Further information can be found as follows:

Universal Credit 

There is new Government support in place to help those affected by coronavirus. For the next three months there is no longer any requirement to attend an interview at a job centre to start a claim, and all applications will be dealt with online. Information can be found here.

Financial Support

You may not have previously claimed benefit or your circumstances may have changed. You can find out what financial support may be available to you on the entitled to free benefit calculator. To find out what you might be able to claim enter your details and you'll receive an estimate of your entitlement to benefits, tax credits and universal credit.

If you do experience financial problems that could affect your payment of rent, it will be easier for us to provide advice and look for a solution if you contact as at the earliest opportunity.   Please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as you can.

Reporting of repairs

Please continue to report repairs in the usual way.  In light of Government advice and limited contractor availability we have taken the decision to prioritise urgent maintenance work.  We consider this to be work that is required to stop imminent damage to the property (or adjoining properties), reduce the risk of harm to customers or the public, and to maintain key services such as power, heating, lighting and plumbing as far as is reasonably practicable. It is likely that in some instances the work instructed will be to stop the current challenge rather than being a permanent solution.

We would like to assure you that all repair items that are raised will still be recorded and responded to as soon as possible but we would ask for your patience as we manage the completion of the most urgent works.  If this is the case, your Property Manager will ensure you are kept up to date as to expected timeframes.  

If you have vulnerable people in your household, please make us aware at the time of reporting any urgent issues that might result in a visit to your home so we can plan accordingly. 

Where a contractor visits your home, we have asked all contractors to:

  • Ask you to wait in another room while the repair is taking place – always observing the government’s advice on social distancing.
  • Wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 
  • Wash their hands or use hand sanitiser upon arrival and when leaving the property.
  • Wash down any surfaces with antibacterial products that they may have come into contact with when undertaking work.

 

Moving in and out

Government have advised as far as possible, for people to delay moving home while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus. If you are due to move, we will support you as far as we are able though this time.

We are aware that a number of businesses that support home moves – removal firms, inventory and inspection clerks particularly – will be severely limited in their movements and activities moving forward.  If you are about to move home, we would recommend that you check the latest position with any companies that you have made arrangements with directly and that you contact us as soon as possible to update us on your plans.  Given the restrictions on travel and social contact, our partners that would normally provide check in and check out services as well as providing information for tenancy deposit administration will also be affected.  We will try to complete the administrative tasks associated with all move-ins and outs as quickly as possible, but it is likely that these processes will take longer than normal.

Our services during the Coronavirus outbreak

We will continue to operate our services and to maintain ‘business as usual’ as far as we are able. We’ll continue to follow the guidance given by the government and will continue to provide updates to you if the situation changes.  We will do everything we can to provide you with the best service we can.  Your patience during this difficult period is very much appreciated.

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