Can I still move house? Everything you need to know about moving to a new home in Tier 5 lockdown

Wednesday, 6th January 2021, 1:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th January 2021, 4:06 pm

People can continue to view properties and move home despite the new national lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has imposed a national lockdown in the face of soaring coronavirus cases – but the government has said people “can still move home”, although people outside your household of support bubble should not help, “unless absolutely necessary”.

A government spokesman said: “Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work. If you are looking to move, you can go to property viewings.”

The spokesman urged people to follow the national guidance on moving home safely – published following the introduction of the tier system in December – which includes advice on social distancing, letting fresh air in, and wearing a face covering.

It says: “The housing market in England will remain open in all tiers. This means people looking to move home will be able to both continue with planned moves and view new properties to move into in the future. Estate and lettings agents, removers, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes will be able to continue working.”

Preparing to buy, sell, or move home

You can put your home on the market and look for properties to buy or rent.

You can market your home and estate agents can visit in order to take photos/videos of your property. As usual, you can also start to bring together the documentation necessary to sell your property.

The Government recommends you carry out initial property searches online, and only visit a property in person when you are seriously considering making an offer on it.

If you wish to buy a new-build property, you should contact the developer. You should be able to make an appointment to view the showhome, or visit the plot you are interested in purchasing.

The housing market remains open during lockdown.

Viewing a home

Where possible, you should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person in order to minimise public health risks.

The Government encourages buyers and renters to do their initial property searches online wherever possible. Initial viewings should also be done virtually, and in-person viewings should only take place when buyers are seriously considering 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.

All viewings should be by appointment only and no open-house viewings should take place.

Members of the public viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering.

If your property is being viewed, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing and allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.

The Government recommends you vacate your property while viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.

Once the viewing has taken place, the occupant should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned.

Making offers or reservations

You are free to make or accept an offer or reserve a property as normal.

There is a greater risk home moves may need to be delayed if someone in the transaction shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating. You should ask your legal adviser to consider any necessary measures to help ensure contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.

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 should contact them to discuss timescales for this work.

Your surveyor can undertake surveys of the property you wish to purchase.

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 minimise contact with the surveyor, for example by staying in another room.

Agreeing to move

Once you have exchanged contracts or signed a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase or rent the property. Government advice encourages all parties to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves if necessary, for example, if someone involved in the transaction becomes ill with Covid-19 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 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 COVID-19 or has to self-isolate.

Moving your belongings

Removal firms are able to carry out work, but their usual procedures may be different to ensure moves take place as safely as possible.

If removal firms are unavailable, another household can help you move your belongings, but social distancing guidelines and hygiene measures should be followed.

You and your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as possible. However, where you are using a removals firm, you may wish to get its advice on packing, in particular for fragile items.

Where possible, you should clean your belongings with standard domestic cleaning products before they are handled by others, including removal firms.

While the removers are in your home, you should ensure any internal doors are open and try to minimise your contact with the removers, maintaining a distance of at least two metres where possible.

All parties should wash their hands regularly and/or use hand sanitiser and should avoid touching surfaces where possible to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.

You should not provide refreshments but you should ensure removers have access to hand-washing facilities.