DOMVS UPDATE | COVID-19 | 6th January 2021
The Prime Minister has announced a national lockdown for England, starting on 6th January. Different rules are in place for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales to limit the spread (see below).
So, if you should be staying at home, can you still buy, sell or move home as normal?
Yes, you can move to a new house during the national lockdown.
The Government has confirmed yes – the housing market will remain open throughout this period. Everyone should continue to play their part in reducing the virus’s spread by following the current guidance.
Can I list my home for sale during the national lockdown?
Yes. You can market your home, and estate agents can visit to take photos/videos of your property.
What changes apply when moving home during coronavirus?
Whether you’re in an area under local lockdown restrictions or not, you can expect the following to apply as part of the “new normal” for moving home at the moment:
More is being done online
The process of searching for and moving into a new home is different because property agents, conveyancers, and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19.
These changes include doing more online, such as offering virtual viewings. While these are a good initial filter of a property you want to buy, you will want to visit it in person before parting with your money.
2. Viewings rules
With physical viewings, the Government advise:
1. There should be no more than two households inside the property at any one time. This includes any agent accompanying either party. Anyone in a support bubble with either household, however, will count as part of that household.
2. Viewings in person need to be arranged by appointment only. When viewing in person, you should maintain a 2-metre distance where possible and avoid touching surfaces.
3. Homeowners should keep internal doors open, and clean surfaces and door handles with standard household cleaning products afterwards.
4. Government advises estate agents and potential buyers/tenants on viewings to wear face masks.
- Expect delays and be flexible
If someone in your chain has symptoms of COVID, you could have to wait while they self-isolate, which could add delays to your home move.
Your conveyancer will be able to make sure that any contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.
In particular, you will want to protect yourself against the likelihood of a sudden change in circumstances that could undermine your sale and purchase and expose you to unexpected costs.
A “Covid Clause” within the contract offers parties the ability to exchange contracts while ensuring you are not at fault and in breach of contract, with all of the associated costs, if you are unable to complete because of a coronavirus related issue. Speak to a conveyancing solicitor for advice.
The three most important ways to minimise delays are:
Instructing a conveyancing solicitor as soon as you list your home or as your offer is accepted and speak to them about the process and costs, so you’re ready to instruct them.
Getting your paperwork in order. If it’s a leasehold, find the lease. Locate certificates showing compliance with regulations of any works done from planning permissions to FENSA certificates for window replacements. Don’t forget valid guarantees a home buyer will want to see. See what documents you’ll need.
Sorting out your mortgage. Many lenders and brokers are experiencing COVID related delays, and mortgage choices have significantly reduced, especially for first-time buyers. Avoid wasting time later down the line and start the mortgage process now.
The Government advise you do as much of the packing yourself. If you are using a removals firm or someone outside your household is helping you, then these additional rules apply:
- clean your belongings where possible before being handled
- leave doors open
- do not provide refreshments
- use separate towels or paper towels for handwashing where possible
If you need help with your move, find a removals firm and get quotes now.
You may want to speak to a cleaning firm for your home or the house you are moving into. A deep clean of your onward home once it has been vacated might help put you at ease.
Can a tradesperson still come into my house?
Yes – tradespeople like electricians, plumbers, repairers of domestic appliances can enter your home. They will need to follow social distancing guidance.
How are the rules different in Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland?
Anyone in Wales, whether resident or travelling here, is bound by the rules in Wales. Under the rules that apply in Wales, travelling to move home or view a property connected with its purchase, sale, letting, or rental is a reasonable excuse to enter Wales. Similarly, the rules in Wales allow people to travel to other parts of the United Kingdom for the purposes of moving home or to view a property in connection with its purchase, sale, letting, or rental.
If your move involves a move into or out of Wales, you must ensure that you comply with the rules applicable in Wales and any rules applicable in the area you are moving to or from.
All home moves are permitted, provided they can be carried out safely. This guidance provides advice on how to do this. This continues to be the case following the announcement of the measures in the five-level system. People can move home in all protection levels and to and from areas with different levels but may wish to consider if they can postpone a move and related activities in areas subject to level 4 protection. Relevant businesses can also continue to support people to move home in all protection levels and should follow the Scottish Government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19.
In Northern Ireland
The NI Executive has amended the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 to remove individuals’ restrictions on moving home. This guidance provides important public health information to ensure that the housing market’s re-opening and key activities around this, such as viewing a property, can happen safely. Some of the guidance applies to the entire property market, i.e., home selling, purchasing, letting, and renting. Other parts of the guidance are (as detailed by headings) sector-specific. The Department for Communities has also produced guidance for the private and social rented sectors. The Private Rented Sector guidance can be accessed using the following link: COVID-19 Guidance for Private Sector Landlords and Tenants.