Now that England has emerged from the second lockdown and back into the tier system, you might think, with a sigh of relief, that the conditions resemble those we experienced before the second lockdown. But, as if to be confusing for confusion’s sake, we’re not reverting to the earlier tier system but instead entering a new one. To make things even more bewildering, the new tiers have the same names as the old ones. Tier 1 is ‘medium’, Tier 2 is ‘high’ and Tier 3 is ‘very high’. However, the strictures and rules of each tier have changed. And then there are all kinds of complex exceptions and get-outs – for example, if you’re helping someone classed as ‘vulnerable’, then you can enter that person’s property even if you and they are in the most restrictive tier. The best place to get clued up on the new tiers is at the government’s website. You can find out what tier you’re in here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/full-list-of-local-restriction-tiers-by-area and then learn more about what each tier means here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know. Alternatively, if you find government prose rather dry, then your local or national newspaper will almost certainly have published its own explanations online.
But what about moving house? Just what bearing does the all-new tier system have on your plans, whether those plans are to buy and/or sell, or to move between rented properties? The good news is that the housing market will stay active in all three tiers. Not only can you go to viewings but you can also move. All businesses associated with moving are allowed to keep operating, including removals companies and estate agents (sales and lettings). Therefore, all the advice below applies across the tiers.
Does The Tier System Affect Moving Day?
The rules for people moving house remain the same – on moving day, they should wash their hands at regular and frequent intervals and maintain distance for anyone involved in the move who isn’t from their household. The up-to-date guidance on diminishing transmission can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-two-metre-social-distancing-guidance/review-of-two-metre-social-distancing-guidance#annex-a-how-covid-19-is-transmitted-and-how-to-reduce-risks]. Face-coverings should stay in place throughout.
What If I’m Looking For A New Property?
If you’re not poised for moving day but are instead planning or considering a move and looking at options, you’ll notice that some of the processes are now markedly different. For example, some of the stages will be conducted online, including virtual viewings. There’s also new advice about vacating your current property when it’s being viewed and being even more thorough with final cleanings before the next people move in. Once arrangements have been made for your move, you’re advised to expect delays and to be flexible when they occur. It’s possible that someone, whether they’re in your moving chain or simply involved in the move in some other way, could become ill with coronavirus or simply be compelled to self-isolate because of potential contact with an infected person. The government are also advising that complete suspension of moving activities could be required at either a local or national level with little notice if there are flare-ups.
If you’re on the point of entering into a contract, raise the subject of covid-19 with your representative so that you can discuss any potential implications and even consider placing provisions in the contract in case such eventualities come into play.
The advice is to make initial viewings over the internet wherever possible and to wear masks when visiting estate agents or doing a physical viewing of a property. ‘Open house’ viewings have been suspended; only viewings by appointment are permitted. Remember not to touch surfaces when you’re being shown around – and to be even more vigilant about this if you’re accompanied by small children.
If you’re letting a property rather than renting it, then you’re instructed to keep all internal doors open when people come for viewings and to make sure all surfaces, especially door-handles, are sanitised after every viewing. You should also make available facilities for washing hands and provide paper towels for hand-drying so that contamination risks are minimised.
Much more advice can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak. Here you’ll find guidance as to the various ways in which covid can impact on: property searches; making offers/reservations; arranging surveys; moving your belongings and much more.