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Purchasers and renters in England can move home if they want to – as long...

Last night the Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick, announced that "anyone in England can move home if they follow new guidance".The latest updates to the Covid Regulations are a welcome relief to the housing market and will allow people to visit estate agents, lettings agents, developer's sales offices and show homes. It is also now a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave your home to “undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property:visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent;preparing a residential property to move in;moving home;visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property”.The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have also set out proposals to:allow builders to agree more flexible construction site working hours with their local council, such as staggering builders’ arrival times, easing pressure on public transport;enable local councils and developers to publicise planning applications through social media instead of having to rely on posters and leaflets; andsupport smaller developers by allowing them to defer payments to local councils, helping those struggling with their cash flow while ensuring communities.These updates and proposals are a great relief to the housing market and should begin to unlock the market again. However, I would caution that it is unlikely to be completely smooth sailing for some time yet. Transactions will need to be tailored to each set of circumstances and will need to allow continued flexibility to purchasers and their changing circumstances. I also suspect there will continue to be some element of Buyer reluctance so soon after the announcement.But it is definitely a step in the right direction.

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Liquidation of hacked exchange Cryptopia leads to cryptoasset property ruling in New Zealand

2020 has been a landmark year for cryptoasset decisions. On 8 April 2020 New Zealand had its first major decision in this area. Justice David Gendall at the High Court in Christchurch considered that cryptoassets were property in the context of a liquidation. In doing so he held that users of the exchange are entitled to the assets they hold in Cryptopia accounts, deciding they should be classed as "property" as they were held in separate trust accounts.The matter involved Cryptopia, a crypto exchange formed in 2014 which went into liquidation in 2019 after a serious hack and loss of 30 million dollars of cryptocurrency. Issues arose in the liquidation over who owns the remaining cryptocurrency and what should happen to it.The company had over 800,000 users with positive balances that needed to be reimbursed, as well as 37 creditors and 90 shareholders who wanted their share of the remaining assets.The applicants (the liquidators) applied to the Court for directions under s 284(1)(a) of the Companies Act 1993 for categorisation and distribution of assets in the liquidation.The questions which were asked of the Court were (1) what are the assets in liquidation? (2) and what should be the method of distribution? It was held that: cryptoassets are property; the exchange was a trustee for the account holders of the currency on its exchange platform; and a separate trust exists for each type of cryptocurrency. The Court also gave directions that rules from the NZ Trustee Act in regards unidentifiable account holders would be applicable in regards anonymous account holders.Justice Gendall said that he reached “the conclusion that the cryptocurrencies […] situated in Cryptopia’s exchange are a species of intangible personal property and [are] clearly an identifiable thing of value. Without question they are capable of being the subject matter of a trust."Similar to the findings of the UK Jurisdictional Task Force in the Legal Statement of November last year, the Courts of New Zealand are treating cryptoassets as property in the context of insolvency. Justice Gendall also echoed the Task Force’s view that cryptocurrency is not mere information, as he dismissed that argument.The decision aligns with the decisions in the UK, France and Australia this year, and Singapore last year, which all held cryptoassets to be property.

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Can construction continue on development sites following Boris Johnson’s announcement last night?

Last night, the Prime Minister addressed the nation and imposed restrictions on the nation with people only being allowed to leave their home for specific, limited purposes. He specifically referred to a number of business and retail sectors which must close. However, this has left quite a lot of uncertainty. Are your workers key workers? Are non-key workers able to work if they cannot do so from home? This is obviously of concern for housebuilders and their contractors. Work on-site clearly cannot be done from home but is it specifically restricted under this latest announcement?The Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, has this morning tweeted to say that those in construction, building and maintenance industries should:Work from home if they are able to do so;Continue working on site if they are already doing so but make sure that Public Health England guidance on social distancing is followed; andStay home outside of work.Work can therefore continue on sites for now – but bear in mind that any ongoing work is likely to be subject to delays as suppliers, individual contractors, local authorities and utilities are changing their current service arrangements to reflect the latest guidance for their industry. If you do decide to keep your sites open, be aware that the situation is rapidly changing and you will need to keep your decision to continue under constant review. Consideration as to what you would require for a shutdown and how quickly you can put that into place should also be focused on at this time.

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