On 13 May 2020, the government amended the coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations to allow those who wish to move home, to do so.
Nicola Bennell, Head of Residential Conveyancing here at Richard Reed Solicitors clearly sets out the guidance you will need to follow so that moving home and the key activities around this, such as viewing a property, can happen safely.
I’m a vulnerable or shielding person, can I move home?
Yes – but the increased risks presented by the coronavirus for vulnerable and shielded people need to be carefully considered.
As a clinically vulnerable or shielded individual (i.e those who have received a letter advising they are in the clinically extremely vulnerable group) you will need to carefully consider your personal situation and the circumstances of your 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 your own transport and contact with others can be avoided.
The government encourages everyone in these categories who intends to move, to make clear your status to all of the professionals involved in the process as they may be able to implement additional precautionary measures to further protect you.
Can I move if I’m self-isolating or if I tested positive for coronavirus?
No – Moving home is not appropriate whilst you pose a direct risk of transmitting coronavirus.
If you have coronavirus or are presenting symptoms or are self-isolating due to another member of your household having coronavirus, you should not leave your 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 or your local public health team for advice.
How do I prepare to buy, sell or move home?
You can put your home on the market and start to look for properties you want to move into.
However, if any member of the household being viewed is showing symptoms or is self-isolating then estate agents should not physically visit the property.
For those not self-isolating or showing symptoms:
- You can begin to market your home and estate agents are able to visit in order to take photos/videos of the property.
- To help prevent the spread of infection, the government encourages people to do the majority of their property searching online; for example only physically viewing those properties which you believe you are most likely to want to move into.
- If you wish to buy a new build property you should make contact with the developer in the usual way. You should be able to view the show home or visit the particular plot you are interested in purchasing, although there will be appointment systems in place.
How can I view a property safely?
People should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks.
If any member of either the household being viewed, or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of coronavirus or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed.
All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household.
- It is encouraged that people do their property searching online wherever possible. Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible and physical viewings should only be conducted where buyers are seriously considering making an offer on a property.
- To support this, agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings. This will help reduce the number of properties people need to visit before finding their future home.
- Viewings should be conducted by appointment only and no open house viewings should take place.
- Sellers should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing and allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.
- As most people choose to do, it is encouraged that sellers vacate their property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise contact with those not in your household.
- When viewing a property, all parties should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible. Agents will ask you to restrict the number of people who accompany you on a viewing so that social distancing can be practised, and only those in your immediate household should be there.
- Agents are expected to accompany clients on a viewing but follow social distancing rules wherever possible. Where viewings are unaccompanied, agents should make sure viewers and homeowners understand how they should conduct themselves.
- Once the viewing has taken place, the homeowner should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.
How do I make an offer or reserve a property?
You are free to make or accept an offer or reserve a property as normal.
- There is a greater risk that parties may need to delay their move because someone is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating. Where needed your legal adviser should advise you and help make sure that any contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.
- Prospective purchasers may wish to visit a property again once they have agreed a sale, for example to measure up. Where this has been agreed to, the above advice on prioritising virtual visits, hygiene measures, maintaining social distancing at all times and mitigating contact where possible should be followed.
- Purchasers may also want to send in tradespeople to carry out inspections. Where possible these should be scheduled with one person visiting the property at any time. No tradespeople should enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating. Where a tradesperson is visiting the property, the occupier should maintain social distancing, wash their hands regularly and minimise contact as far as possible, for example by staying in another room. These visits should be carried out in line with government’s safer working guidance.
Can I have property searches and surveys done?
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 inspections are encouraged 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.
Will I have to delay my move if I or a member of my household becomes ill with coronavirus?
Once you have agreed to move home by exchanging contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to move. All parties are encouraged 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 should 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.
- It is encouraged that you 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.
How do I move my 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.
- It is encouraged that 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.
- It is asked, where possible, that 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.
Will the professionals I instruct put procedures in place to keep me and my family safe?
As well as government guidance, it is encouraged that all professionals engaged during the property move process speak to their representative bodies and familiarise themselves with the guidance that these bodies have prepared for their specific sectors.
It is also important that all businesses work together to ensure anyone involved in the property moving process is safe and that spread of infection is minimised. All professionals should consider how they can operate in a way which minimises the need for face to face contact.
How can Richard Reed Solicitors help?
We have remained open for business throughout the lockdown period and our highly experienced team of conveyancing professionals are on hand to help you with your home purchase and/or sale.
To keep you and our employees safe, our aim is to conduct as much of our work as remotely as possible (i.e without the need for face to face appointments).
Where face to face appointments need to take place, measures will be put in place to ensure appropriate social distancing and hygiene requirements are met.
For a competitively priced quote for our conveyancing services, contact our team today on 0191 567 0465 or you can obtain a no obligation, no hidden costs quote here.