Important new update on house moves during the Coronavirus pandemic
The government has issued updated advice/guidance in respect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations to make clear that people who wish to move home can do so. This guidance provides important public health information to ensure that moving home and key activities around this, such as viewing property, can happen safely.
It is important that everyone knows how to stay alert, contain the virus and save lives.
Advice to the public
In line with government’s advice, those who are shielding or otherwise clinically vulnerable should ensure they are aware of the medical advice, including staying at home and avoiding unnecessary contact over this period, if at all possible. All parties involved in home buying and selling should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.
Clinically vulnerable and shielded individuals (ie those who have received a letter advising they are in the clinically extremely vulnerable group) will need to carefully consider their personal situation and the circumstances of their own move and may wish to seek medical advice before deciding whether to commit to or go ahead with a move. Some moves are likely to be lower risk – for instance if the home is empty, all travel can take place in their own transport and they can avoid contact with others.
We would encourage everyone in these categories who intend to move, to make clear their status to all of the professionals involved in the process. They may be able to implement additional precautionary measures to further protect you.
People self-isolating or having tested positive for coronavirus
Moving home is not appropriate whilst you pose a direct risk of transmitting coronavirus. People who have coronavirus or are self-isolating with their family member should not leave their home to either move home, or undertake property viewings.
If you are contractually committed to move home, you should delay your move until all members of your household have come to the end of their self-isolation period. All parties involved in home buying and selling should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals, or where someone in a chain or their family member is self-isolating or has tested positive for coronavirus.
Should a move be essential for people in this category, for instance due to an urgent health and safety risk, please contact Public Health England/local public health teams for advice.
Everyone involved in the moving process must follow social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus.
Agreeing to move
Once you have agreed to move home by exchanging contracts or signing a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to move. We encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay moves if needed, for example if someone becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process or has to self-isolate. You should not expect to move into any home where people are ill or self-isolating.
Your legal adviser will be able to help you to ensure that any contract you enter into has sufficient flexibility to allow the purchase to be delayed in the event that an individual in one of the parties contracts coronavirus or has to self-isolate. We encourage you to be as flexible as possible if you are asked to delay your move, and in turn, you can speak to your legal advisor about this.
Moving your belongings
Removal firms are able to operate, although they may need to adjust usual procedures in order to ensure moves happen as safely as possible.
We encourage you to contact removal firms as early as possible in advance of your move.
You and your household should also try and do as much of the packing yourself as possible. However, where this is not possible, you should speak to your removal firms in advance. We ask that, where possible, you clean your belongings, with standard domestic cleaning products before they are handled by others, including removal firms.
Whilst the removers are in your home, you should ensure any internal doors are open and seek to minimise your contact with the crew, maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres where possible. All parties should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
You should not provide refreshments, but you should ensure they have access to hand washing facilities, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely afterwards.
If people are doing a final inspection before exchange of contracts around your current home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
As most people choose to, we recommend that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household. Anyone involved in any aspect of the home moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.
When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can. Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance.
If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the professionals involved, your landlord, estate agent or removers as they may be able to put in place extra measures.
Property searches and surveys
Your legal representative should be able to carry out searches on your property online in order to progress your transaction and you can contact them to discuss likely timescales.
Your surveyor can undertake surveys of the property you wish to purchase.
Surveyors should not enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating.
Where possible we encourage inspections to take place by appointment only, with one person visiting the property at any time. Surveyors should follow government guidance for professionals working in other people’s homes and guidance on social distancing.
If your home is being surveyed, you should ensure the surveyor has access to all the parts of the property they need to inspect, and make efforts to minimise contact with the surveyor, for example by staying in another room whilst they are inspecting your home.
We thank you for your cooperation.