DOMVS UPDATE | COVID-19 | 2nd November 2020
The Prime Minister has announced a national lockdown for England, starting on 5th November for 1 month until 2 December. 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 house as normal?
Yes, you can move house during the national lockdown.
In a series of tweets, the housing minister Robert Jenrick has confirmed yes – the housing market will remain open throughout this period. Everyone should continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus 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 in order 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:
1. 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:
- there should be no more than 2 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.
- 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.
- Homeowners should keep internal doors open and clean surfaces and door handles with standard household cleaning products afterwards.
- Government advises estate agents and potential buyers/tenants on viewings to wear face masks.
3. 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 which could undermine your sale and/or 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 3 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 hand washing 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?
You can still move home in Wales during its ‘firebreak’ lockdown from Fri 23rd October to 9th November, but only if you cannot delay the moving date until after the 2 week lockdown period is over. During the short lockdown property viewings will not be allowed and estate agents will have to close.
If the Welsh government decide to go back to setting restrictions at a local level, you should be able to move into and out of these areas. You will be asked if there are viable alternatives to visiting a property in person; and surveyors will be able to visit properties as long as they socially distance. The Welsh government also suggests that if you cannot leave the property you are moving into empty for 3 days that you ensure that the property is thoroughly cleaned beforehand.
In Northern Ireland, you are allowed to move as long as you follow the guidelines issued in June. Builders, tradespeople and repair people can go into people’s homes to carry out repairs and installations.
In Scotland, all home moves have been allowed since July, as long as they can safely be carried out, and this continues to be the case.