Advice to the public (updated 12 April 2021)

More detail on the steps of buying, selling, or renting a home and how this applies to different groups is set out in the next section.

What does this mean for my property move or purchase which is scheduled to take place while measures to fight COVID-19 apply?

You are free to move home. However, you may find the process of searching for and moving into a new home is different, as property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19.

  • Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible. Property agents should be able to help you with this.
  • Members of the public who are visiting an agent’s office or viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering as described in government guidance unless they are exempt from this requirement. Anyone with concerns should contact the agent in advance of their visit to discuss appropriate measures. The agent may require you to arrange an appointment before visiting the premises, but this is at the agent’s discretion.
  • Viewings of occupied homes should still be arranged by appointment only and ‘open house’ viewings with multiple households in attendance at the same time should not take place. When viewing properties in person, you should avoid touching surfaces wherever possible, wash your hands regularly and/or use hand sanitiser. If you need to be accompanied by small children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly.
  • You can stay overnight in self-contained accommodation (for example hotels, hostels, campsites, caravan parks, members’ club, boarding house or bed and breakfasts), where indoor facilities for access, catering, sleeping and bathing are not shared between households. You must still ensure you stay only within your household and/or support bubble. You should ensure your chosen public accommodation is open for your purposes before arrival. See the guidance for hotels.
  • Second homes and other domestic private accommodation can be used for overnight stays. You must still ensure you stay only within your household and/or support bubble.
  • If people are being shown around your home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products.
  • We recommend that you vacate your property while viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.
  • 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. There is further advice about this below.
  • If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to your landlord, estate agent or removers as they may be able to put extra precautionary measures in place.

Everyone involved in the moving process must follow social distancing to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

Self-isolating

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, or you have received a positive COVID-19 test result, you should immediately self-isolate at home for at least 10 full days from when your symptoms started. You may also be required to self-isolate if you are entering or returning to the UK from abroad or have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace. Everyone should follow the latest requirements to quarantine upon return to the UK.

You should follow the latest guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection. If you are contractually committed to move home, you should seek to 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 completion dates where someone in a chain or their family member is self-isolating or has tested positive for coronavirus.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people

Those who identify as clinically extremely vulnerable are able to move home. However, they should consider their personal situation and the circumstances of their 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.

Where people decide to move they should pay particular attention to maintaining hygiene and social distancing measures to protect themselves and reduce the risk presented by the coronavirus. People in this category should:

  • Only take part in property viewings if they are not showing symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Where possible, vacate their property when it is being shown to prospective buyers. Ensure all rooms are well ventilated, and clean surfaces before and after viewings, following the general principles of cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Let the agent and other parties involved in the move know that they are clinically vulnerable.
  • Carefully consider what physical contact they have with any party assisting with the home move and consider how they can either reduce this contact or appropriately protect themselves.
  • Seek advice from their GP should they have any immediate concerns around the time of any home move.
  • Follow general guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people.

1. Preparing to buy, sell or move home

You can put your home on the market and look for properties to buy or rent. However, if you or any member of your household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then estate agents and potential buyers should not visit your property in person. Everyone should follow the latest guidance for households with confirmed or possible coronavirus infection.

  • 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 (more information on these documents is available in the government’s guidance on how to sell homes).
  • To help prevent the spread of infection, we recommend that 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 show home or visit the particular plot you are interested in purchasing.

2. Viewings

Where possible, you should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person 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 COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed.

  • We encourage 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 of occupied homes should be by appointment only and no open house viewings, with multiple households in attendance at the same time, should take place.
  • There are unlikely to be physical protection measures in place in homes. In this case we would advise estate and letting agents to wear a face covering.
  • Members of the public who are viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering as described in government guidance unless they are exempt from this requirement. Anyone with concerns should contact the agent in advance of their visit to discuss appropriate measures.
  • 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.
  • We would recommend that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.
  • When viewing a property, everyone should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible.
  • We expect that, where property agents accompany clients on a viewing, agents ensure social distancing guidance is followed by all taking part in the viewing where possible. Where viewings are unaccompanied, agents should make sure viewers and the occupants of the home understand how they should conduct themselves to protect their health and the health of others.
  • Once the viewing has taken place, the occupant or agent should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.

3. Making offers or reservations

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

  • There is a greater risk that 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 make sure that contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.
  • Prospective purchasers or renters 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 arrange for tradespeople to carry out inspections in the property. Where possible these should be scheduled with one person visiting the property at a time. No tradespeople should enter a property, for these purposes, where a member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 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 safer working guidance.

4. 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. There are no restrictions on the types of survey that can be carried out and you should talk to your surveyor to understand the most appropriate type of survey for the home you intend to purchase.

On custom and self-build projects, surveyors can visit plots you wish to purchase and undertake valuations to support the release of staged payment mortgages.

  • Surveyors should not enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 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 minimise contact with the surveyor, for example by staying in another room.

5. 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. We encourage 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 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 COVID-19 or has to self-isolate.

6. 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.

  • There is no guarantee your chosen removal firm will be operating at the time you require. We encourage you to contact removal firms as early as possible in advance of your move date.
  • If removal firms are unavailable, another household can help you move your belongings, but social distancing guidelines and hygiene measures should be followed where possible.
  • You and your household should also try and do as much of the packing yourself as possible. However, where you are using a removals firm, you may wish to get their advice on packing in advance, in particular the arrangements for packing fragile items.
  • We ask that, where possible, you 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 2 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, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or safely disposed of afterwards.

For full guidance visit the Governments website: http://ow.ly/E7eu50ExHwC