CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) HUB

Although the coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused uncertainty in the housing market, we’d like to reassure our AR firms that we will continue to support you during this unpredictable period.

Our key priority is to ensure that your business is impacted as little as it can be during this period and that our business partners, colleagues and members remain safe.

In relation to what we’re currently doing to reduce the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) on our AR Firms, we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions for mortgage advisers and their customers below.

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AR Firm FAQS
Advice For Mortgage Customers
Our Updates
Useful Resources

AR Firm FAQs

Is the Stonebridge office closed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Yes, in line with Government advice, our offices in Basildon, Milton Keynes and Chilwell are closed due to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Despite this enforced working from home regime, we will strive to operate a business as usual approach. Business and service disruption should be limited as our key functions continue to operate remotely, as far as possible, so that we can continue to give our AR firms our usual high level of support.
Can AR firms still contact Stonebridge during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Yes. If you wish to contact a member of the Stonebridge team during this period, please do so by telephone and email – not by post.
Will Stonebridge's Business Development Managers be available during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Yes, your Business Development Manager will be available remotely, via telephone or email, during normal business hours.
How will the complaints procedure work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
It is our aim to ensure our complaints procedure is as easy as possible for customers who wish to express a complaint. Due to our temporary office closures, we currently have no access to post. We are therefore asking that customers submit complaints via telephone or email only. Terms of Business generated via Revolution will be updated to reflect this change.
How will fee agreements work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
At present, our fee agreement is the only document we have no digital solution to deliver and get returned. We are unable to set up an integrated digital signing facility at such short notice, and have considered that not all clients will have access to a printer and scanner, as such we are willing to relax our procedures in this area to give you the following options:

  • You may ask the client(s) on email that they have read and accept the terms of the fee agreement. This will demonstrate client understanding and will satisfy our process, however it is unlikely (although untested by us) that such confirmation would stand up in court should the client refuse to pay. Therefore proceeding on this basis carries a risk of non-payment.
  • Your firm may set up its own arrangement with an e-signature provider, such as DocuSign at its own expense. An electronically signed document will also satisfy our procedures.

Both solutions will allow you to deliver fee documents and get them returned, reducing the obstacles caused by self-isolation and home-working.

How can clients send documents during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
With the introduction of Revolution ID, generally the provision of original ID & V documents have been minimised and places you ahead of many brokers. Use of the client site provides an excellent, secure resource to allow clients to send electronic documents to you. We would encourage you to use these resources wherever possible to reduce the need for clients to provide you with original documents.

We are now extending use of document upload via the client site to allow customers to copy and upload traditional ‘paper’ documents, providing a clear legible copy is provided.

We have been liaising with a number of lenders to understand whether they will revise their approach on certification of documents. 

We would however, continue to urge you to exercise increased vigilance during this time. With uncertainty around incomes, increased levels of non-face-to-face sales, and the fact that the current situation with coronavirus (COVID-19) is giving everyone other things to think about, fraudsters are taking advantage of these factors. Therefore the importance of conducting due diligence on your clients, reviewing their documents thoroughly and questioning anything unclear or unusual has never been more vital.

Which Government support schemes are available to my business during the coronavirus (COVID-19) disruption?
The Government has launched a range of temporary measures to support businesses through the period of disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19). We’ve collated the schemes that are most applicable to our AR firms below.

Please click the scheme headers to review the full information on each scheme.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
All UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. HMRC will reimburse 80% of wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
The scheme will provide a grant to eligible self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000.

Small Business Grant Funding
Support for small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) and tapered relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant*
Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000. Businesses with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.

*Please note that this would only be relevant to those whose premises fall into the retail bracket.
 

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports small and medium-sized businesses, with an annual turnover of up to £45m, to access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to six years.

Support for Businesses Paying Tax
All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time to Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

Is Stonebridge making use of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme?
We have imposed a recruitment freeze on head office staff and halted all discretionary expenditure – in a bid to avoid compulsory redundancies. But to achieve that – and to continue providing the services and support you expect from us as your network – we have used the Government’s Job Retention Scheme to furlough a number of colleagues from April, until the market shows some recovery. Sadly, the number of colleagues being furloughed could increase in line with the inevitable reduction in income as a consequence of application volumes falling.
How will Stonebridge support AR firms who are considering furloughing employed advisers?
We want to be as supportive as we can to our AR firms who are considering furloughing their employed advisers. In line with the Government’s guidelines, the furloughed advisers, whilst remaining in the employment of their ARs, are not able to provide any service to their employer or contribute to revenue generation. However, during this period they remain authorised under Stonebridge, and we therefore continue to have regulatory responsibility for every one of them. As they are employees in ‘professional’ roles, they are still able to complete CPD, and we strongly recommend that they do so. This is undertaken in order to keep an adviser competent and for them to maintain qualified status, enabling them to return to the AR firms’ business with the minimum of delay.
How will Stonebridge support with replacing or recruiting new advisers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis?
WWe are still receiving and accepting applications from new AR firms and we remain very well placed to support any instances of existing AR firms replacing or recruiting new advisers. Even in these challenging times, we still have a strong pipeline of broker firms who are keen to leave their existing network and join Stonebridge. Our firm/adviser recruitment process continues to operate largely as normal. The onboarding process has been revised to include a remote induction course using video conferencing, which has received fantastic feedback so far. If you have any questions about recruitment of advisers to your firm please contact Lesley Sharkey at lsharkey@stonebridgegroup.co.uk
Will AR firms still receive business standards support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Yes. Our Business Standards Teams are continuing to support you, while working at home. Our offices will remain closed until further notice, however we are managing to maintain good service levels, with file reviews being undertaken and telephone 1:1s being conducted in the usual way. The Business Standards Teams are available as always to answer queries and give guidance. While phone lines are diverted, your support by raising queries via email in the first instance is appreciated during this period. The specialist support offered by our field team is still available with meetings taking place via video conferencing rather than face-to-face.
Are there any changes to policies relating to adviser's own sales during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
There is no change in our policy, just a reminder that should you be arranging a mortgage or protection policy for yourself, you need to inform your Business Standards Team that the case is being submitted.

Also commission for protection will only be paid on non-indemnity terms, so please submit to the insurer on this basis as it will avoid any delay of payment once the policy goes into force.

The above will apply even where a lender or insurer requires the case to be submitted by another adviser.

How will Stonebridge accommodate for product transfers and payment holidays during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
There is concern that clients who take a payment holiday may then not qualify for a product transfer, or that a payment holiday may cancel out a product transfer in some cases. Systems vary from lender to lender and some are unsure how this may work if there is an overlap. Therefore please explore any intention to take a payment holiday with any client looking to transact a product transfer, and ensure a note is recorded to document any discussion. You will then need to check the procedure with each lender to confirm their process.
Which lenders are offering payment holidays for customers affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)?

To see a list of lenders who are offering payment holidays for customers affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) take a look at L&G Mortgage Club’s Coronavirus COVID-19 Update page.

How will lenders be changing their products during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Some lenders are withdrawing products (particularly those products at higher LTVs), or suspending new applications so it’s never been more important to ensure you keep Trigold up to date and check the lender’s website at the point of giving advice. Many lenders are reducing their opening hours or the availability of broker support, and attended property valuations are generally on hold.

Please manage your client’s expectations – these are unprecedented times and it’s important clients understand withdrawal of products and delays in getting updates are a feature of the market at the moment.

To see what criteria / underwriting changes lenders have made as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) take a look at L&G Mortgage Club’s Coronavirus COVID-19 Update page.

Lender contact options for customers and brokers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

See contact options for individual lenders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (for customers and brokers) by taking a look at L&G Mortgage Club’s Coronavirus COVID-19 Update page.

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Advice for Mortgage Customers

With the national situation positioned as delicately as it is, now, more than ever, the importance of ensuring that your clients have the answers they need when they need them cannot be understated. Below are some of the most common questions being asked by mortgage customers in relation to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Will taking a payment holiday on my mortgage due to coronavirus (COVID-19) affect my credit score?
No. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have made it explicit to lenders that a customer’s credit score will not be impacted if they take a payment holiday on their mortgage as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in their guidance.
How to contact lenders as a mortgage customer during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
Individual lenders are offering different ways for mortgage customers to get in touch with them during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak including e-mail, telephone, in branch and live chat. To see how you can get in touch with your specific lender during this period visit their website.
What is the Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
The Government have put together guidance on people buying or selling homes during this stay-at-home period, including advice to the public relating to different elements of a home move during the coronavirus (COVID-19) update.
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Our Updates

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Useful Resources

Business and Financial Guidance
SourceContent
GOV.UKCOVID-19: support for businesses
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (acas) Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees
GOV.UKTax helpline to support businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)
Bank Of EnglandOur response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Smartr Criteria - Legal & GeneralSmartrCriteria - Lender Criteria
Mind, The Mental Health Charity Coronavirus: supporting yourself and your team
Legislation.GOV.UKThe Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020
Scottish GovernmentCoronavirus in Scotland
Confederation Of British Industry (CBI)Coronavirus Hub
AMI (Association of Mortgage Intermediaries)Guide to saving protection policies
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