In the news this week
A round-up of the news on how the coronavirus is affecting the property market, life insurance, renters and your broadband.
March 18, 2020
How coronavirus fears threaten to upset the UK property market – Yahoo
A ‘Boris bounce’ has lifted the UK property market, but the coronavirus marks a growing threat to the fragile recovery in activity since December’s election.
A poll of UK surveyors published on Thursday provides the latest evidence the market is turning a corner after years of dampened activity. An easing of Brexit uncertainty has boosted confidence among buyers, sellers and builders alike.
Members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) report enquiries from aspiring buyers and tenants, property listings and prices all continued to rise in February. But concerns over the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak are mounting by the day. There are growing signs of knock-on effects on the property sector, from buyers and sellers pulling out of viewings to mortgage rates falling after an emergency interest rate cut.
With public health chiefs warning close, sustained contact can spread the coronavirus, many individuals and organisations are trying to minimise face-to-face meetings.
Anecdotal evidence suggests such concerns have begun to affect the property market, sometimes in disturbing ways. Patrick Alvarado, director of estate agent Nicolas Van Patrick in Knightsbridge, London, told Yahoo Finance UK some sellers had cancelled viewings once they found out a potential buyer was from Hong Kong.
Coronavirus: Tenants ‘should get a rent break’ – BBC
Tenants struggling to pay their rent owing to the impact of coronavirus must be dealt with “sympathetically” by landlords, a trade body has said. Millions of people will see their jobs and incomes hit by the economic effects of the virus. Banks have told mortgage holders they can negotiate a payment holiday.
The Residential Landlords Association says members should also allow affected tenants to pay later. Others are calling for a more radical approach.
Many people, often young, are being asked to take unpaid leave, may be seeing contracts dry up, or may be moved onto lower statutory sick pay, as businesses face the financial impact of the outbreak. The loss of income puts pressure on what is often the tenants’ biggest bill, the monthly rent.
A host of banks have said to people in a similar position who have a mortgage that they can defer their home loan repayments for up to three months, although individual banks have different rules.
This does not generally extend to landlords’ buy-to-let mortgages, but landlords’ groups have called on banks to treat these in the same way.
No such widespread policy is in place for tenants wanting a similar pause.
Coronavirus: Will life insurance, income protection and critical illness cover pay out? – Independent
Many of us choose to buy insurance policies such as health, critical illness cover and income protection to give us peace of mind in uncertainty. And it’s hard to think of any time more uncertain than 2020. Europe is now the epicentre of Covid-19, which has spread to 123 countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
So it’s unsurprising that travel insurance providers have taken steps to limit their exposure, with several now refusing to sell travel insurance to new customers.
But with other policies, including life insurance and critical illness cover, then if you have any questions about your policy in a time of coronavirus, then the first place to visit is your insurer’s website. Most have published clear Q&As for worried customers, and that will provide the information that is most relevant to your policy.
If you’re currently in the process of applying for life cover, then the insurer may ask about your recent travels and potentially postpone accepting your application until they are satisfied you are not at increased risk, but that will vary between providers.
The insurers that we checked with say they will not pay out on critical illness cover as a result of coronavirus because it is not a specified illness on their policies and because most people who contract it go on to make a full recovery.
Customers who are left with lasting lung conditions following the illness – a rare event – are likely to be able to make a claim, but this will depend on the wording of the policy.
In those rare and sad cases where people die as a result of the illness, their life insurance should pay out.
Coronavirus: Broadband firms say no issue with extra demand – BBC
UK broadband companies say they can cope with increased demand as many more people stay at home during the coronavirus crisis.
Internet service providers (ISPs) say they have contingency plans in place and that the network can deal with extra daytime demand. Video calls and other work applications should have little impact. But some traffic-heavy services are seeing a surge in use around the world as people stay home.
“Nobody should expect broadband to crash or anything like that,” said Mark Jackson, editor of ISP Review. “That’s not how these things work.”
He added: “Some slowdown in speed during periods of truly heavy usage is possible. I’d expect this to be fairly limited, and that’s true even in normal times.”
The impact would vary between ISPs in different areas, he said – but most are set up to deal with a sudden surge. But in times where we are reliant on our connections, use the time to make sure you’re with the best broadband provider.