Sopra Steria, the third party consultancy responsible for managing the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service Centres (“UKVACS”) on behalf of the Home Office, released a list of the centres which are temporarily closing until further notice due to coronavirus outbreak.
The following Sopra Steria locations will be closed:
First day of closure
Aberdeen – 24th March 2020
Barbican – 17th March 2020
Bedford – 23rd March 2020
Bournemouth – 23rd March 2020
Bradley Stoke – 19th March 2020
Burnley – 24th March 2020
Cambridge – 18th March 2020
Canterbury – 17th March 2020
Coventry – 23rd March 2020
Eastbourne – 23rd March 2020
Edmonton Green – 21st March 2020
Enfield – 21st March 2020
Gloucester – 23rd March 2020
Hemel Hempstead – 23rd March 2020
Hull – 23rd March 2020
Ipswich – 23rd March 2020
Liverpool – 18th March 2020
Llandudno – 23rd March 2020
Manchester (core) – 23rd March 2020
Newcastle – 20th March 2020
Newport – 21st March 2020
Norwich – 23rd March 2020
Nottingham – 18th March 2020
Peterborough – 21st March 2020
Preston – 23rd March 2020
Reading – 17th March 2020
Shoe Lane – 17th March 2020
Stockport – 19th March 2020
Stratford – 20th March 2020
Swindon – 23rd March 2020
Swinton – 23rd March 2020
Taunton 18th March 2020
Wakefield – 17th March 2020
Wolverhampton – 23rd March 2020
All other service points are currently open
However, in the current circumstances, other service points may close at short notice. Please regularly check your email for updates – and especially before you travel to the service point.
Hotline for Coronavirus
The Home Office has established a “Coronavirus Immigration Helpline”:
Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
If you are considering submitting an application to the Home Office or your application is currently with the Home Office and you have some further questions considering the current situation with coronavirus, please do not hesitate to contact us.
According to UK property website Zoopla, the number of residential properties sold in the UK is expected to reduce by 60% in the next three months.
In the week before 22 March, before the nationwide lockdown, there was 40% less housing enquiries and 15% less sales.
Nationwide lockdown resulting from coronavirus outbreak, the government’s request for social distancing and advice to stay at home makes it impossible for buyers and renters to view properties in person.
The housing minister, Robert Jenrick said: “Buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new house while emergency measures are in place. If moving is unavoidable because you’re contracted and the parties aren’t able to agree a delay, you must follow advice on social distancing when moving.”
Noble Francis, an honorary professor at the Bartlett School of Construction of Project Management at UCL, said: “The estate agent sector is very volatile and tends to go hand in hand with the housing market so it suggests that estate agents will be very badly affected unless they can access government help for businesses quickly to sustain themselves until the housing market recovers.”
There is a possibility that some property agencies may collapse. “A 60% fall is probably optimistic given the challenges that lie ahead. Assuming we are once again back to normal by the summer it is unlikely that most buyers will be confident of making what for most is their biggest financial commitment before the new year,” said Henry Pryor, a housing expert.
According to the research by Savills, if a sharp drop in demand was extended until September, total transactions for 2020 would be between 566,000 and 745,000, compared with the 1.027m forecast last November. According to Savills, “suppressed demand would be expected to return relatively quickly to the market and we could see a return to normal levels by May 2021”.
Most of the non-EU nationals are required to register with the police after arriving in the UK with a visa, or after being granted permission to extend their leave in the UK.
Usually, if you are required to register with the police, you must do so within 7 days of:
- arriving in the UK if you applied for a visa from outside the UK; or
- receiving your biometric residence permit (BRP) if you applied to extend your stay.
You will usually be required to register if:
- you are over 16 years old;
- your permission to stay in the UK is for over 6 months;
- your nationality means you must register; and
- you are not exempt.
If you live in the area of London covered by the Metropolitan Police you will have to make an appointment and register any changes to your immigration documentation or your postal address at OVRO.
Due to the coronavirus emergency, OVRO offices are temporarily closed until further notice.
Please keep a record showing that you contacted the Overseas Visitor Records Office or your correspondence with them to show that you were unable to register due to the temporary closure of the offices.
Additionally, please keep monitoring the changes in connection with police registration and other immigration rules. The situation in connection with Coronavirus may change at a very short notice.
As a result of the disruption to daily lives caused by the COVID-19 outbreak most business owners have faced a lot of issues. Losses are mounting due to the major impact of the disruption, and many businesses have called on their landlords for help in reducing the impact of the coronavirus.
This article considers some legal obligations between landlords and tenants in the context of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, known as coronavirus.
Rights under the tenancy agreement amid a public health emergency
As a starting point, we should consider the legal obligations and rights of the landlord and the tenant set out in the tenancy agreement.
In general, unless the tenancy agreement provides otherwise, there is no duty on the landlord to offer any financial concessions, such as rental rebates or waivers in case of public health emergency. In the event of a pandemic outbreak the tenant continues to be bound by its obligations to promptly pay rent and comply with other terms of the tenancy agreement.
Most commercial tenancies do not provide upfront concessions on the tenant and do not set out the obligations of a landlord in situations like a disease outbreak or identify the party to bear the costs of compliance with any governmental regulations.
Since the landlord is not obliged to help the tenant, what then are the avenues available to an affected tenant?
Most tenancy agreements contain a force majeure provision, which address circumstances where unexpected external events prevent a party to the contract from carrying out their duties. In that case, the affected party may be entitled to relief, including a suspension of contractual obligations; exclusion from certain liabilities for non-performance or delay; and even termination of the contract in limited situations.
It is for the parties to agree on the scope and definition of events that would constitute force majeure under the relevant contract, as there is no prescribed or universally accepted definition of “force majeure”. Force majeure events could include terrorist attacks, natural disasters, war, strikes and also any epidemics.
Thus, due to the fact that force majeure clauses are usually narrowly drafted and only include specified events, its interpretation usually requires specific legal advice and will be heavily dependant on the circumstances of the particular case.
Additionally, force majeure may only be invoked when the event referred to has prevented or delayed performance of the contract and not simply because that event exists (for example, caused economic hardship or made performance of the contract inconvenient or commercially unfeasible).
However, the effect of successfully exercising a force majeure clause may lead to a suspension of rent or part of rent, or of the right to terminate the tenancy agreement.
Frustration of purpose
If the external event was not reasonably foreseeable, and it fundamentally changes the contractual obligation to become radically different from what was agreed in the contract, the doctrine of frustration would apply, and the contract is said to be frustrated and is automatically brought to an end.
In the present circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, it may be possible for tenants to seek to rely on the doctrine of frustration if it can be demonstrated that the outbreak of COVID-19 frustrates the purpose of the contract.
If successful, the tenancy agreement can be set aside in its entirety since the contractual obligations have been rendered impossible to perform and/or its underlying purpose is radically different.
However, all the above is to be determined by the courts on a case by case basis, meaning considerable costs in commencing and defending legal proceedings can be incurred in proving frustration of purpose. The threshold is very high, the fact that the contract is more difficult or expensive to perform is usually insufficient to show frustration of purpose.
There may be limited options for the tenant to seek concessions under the tenancy agreement. However, the tenant and the landlord could adopt a collaborative approach when handling unforeseen crises to limit damage for both parties.
1. Communication – the starting point should always be an open dialogue for negotiation, to agree, for example, rent reductions, or a partial surrender of the lease.Landlords can consider making concessions and give tenants the ability to perform their obligations along a workable timeline during the period of difficulty.
2. Replacement tenants – finding a replacement tenant could help mitigate losses, save costs and agent fees and promote business continuity for both landlord and tenant.
In conclusion, in a global pandemic such as the current coronavirus outbreak, there is limited contractual recourse on the tenant to seeking concessions under their leases to enable their businesses to survive. However, landlords and tenants could work together to get through these times of difficulty.
On 10 March 2020, during a special meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), the Bank of England had voted to reduce the Bank Rate by 50 basis points down from 0.75% to 0.25% – this is the steepest rate cut since the financial crisis in 2008 – to counter the “economic shock” resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.
The Bank of England base rate is the UK’s most influential interest rate and its official borrowing rate. The Bank’s base rate – officially called the bank rate – determines what it pays to Britain’s banks when they hold money with it, it therefore impacts all other interest rates.
In turn, this can affect how much those banks pay savers or charge borrowers, be they taking out credit cards, personal loans or mortgages. When the rate is low, it costs you less to borrow money, but means you earn less on your savings.
How does this affect mortgages?
A number of major high-street banks have announced support for customers affected by Covid-19, including mortgage payment holidays. Banks including Lloyds, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland announced that they would offer repayment holidays for mortgage customers affected by coronavirus. Banks can also offer temporary credit limit increases and fees waived on missed payments.
Andrew Montlake, director of mortgage broker Coreco, said: ‘This takes things to a whole new level. Borrowers on a tracker rate will see an immediate benefit but savers will inevitably feel the squeeze.’
Lloyds Banking Group announced those on mortgages which track the bank rate or are on a reversionary rate will see a reduction of 0.5 % by 1 April.
Mortgage rates are currently at near-historic lows, especially on deals where homeowners lock themselves in for 10 years.
Today’s decision is likely to mean that anybody on a tracker mortgage will see an immediate and significant cut in their mortgage costs.
Those currently on fixed-rate mortgages will obviously not see an effect until they come to remortgage, but when they do the rates they are paying could fall, if the base rate is not adjusted again before then.