Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
This guidance applies to people moving into homes in England, whether as owner-occupiers, private or social renters.
Published 26 March 2020
Last updated 7 January 2021 — see all updates
- Applies to:
This guidance provides advice to industry and those moving home in accordance with the national lockdown announced on 4 January. Read the general guidance on what you can and cannot do to keep safe while the national lockdown is in force.
The housing market in England will remain open during this national lockdown. This means that 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.
This guidance provides important public health information to ensure that moving home and related activities, such as viewing property, can happen safely. It also applies to custom and self-builders looking to acquire a plot or a property to renovate or demolish.
One of the simplest steps you can take when moving home is to wash your hands frequently and keep as much distance as possible from other people who are not members of your household. Ensure you follow the latest guidance on practical steps to reduce transmission. and maintain a 2 metre distance apart where possible. It may also be a good idea to take extra precautions when in close contact with others, such as wearing a face covering. There are also certain situations in which you must wear a face covering, as described below.
The process of searching for and moving into a new home is different at the moment because property agents, conveyancers and other professionals have modified how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19. These changes could include doing more online, such as offering virtual viewings; vacating your current property during viewings; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.
We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate. It may become necessary to pause all home moves locally or nationally for a short period of time to manage the spread of coronavirus. We will let you know if this needs to happen.
If you are about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications of COVID-19 with your legal professional and consider making contractual provisions to manage these risks. You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have COVID-19 or are self-isolating.
Those renting a property, letting agents and landlords should be aware of and follow the government guidance on coronavirus and renting which contains further advice that may also be applicable such as on possession proceedings, repairs, maintenance and health and safety.
Advice to the public
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. This should be confirmed with the agent before arrival. 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.
Viewings should be arranged by appointment only and ‘open house’ viewings 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.
Hotels, hostels and other such public accommodation can be used by people while moving home or who are unable to return to their main residence There is no guarantee a particular hotel will be open to provide this service, so do check in advance. You must still ensure you stay only within your household and/or support bubble.
Second homes and other private accommodation can be used by people while moving home or who are unable to return to their main residence. 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.
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.
Letting agents and private landlords
Letting agents and landlords should be aware of and follow the government guidance on coronavirus and renting which contains further advice that may also be applicable such as on possession proceedings, repairs, maintenance and health and safety. Tenants should also be made aware of this guidance.
Tenants’ safety should be letting agents’ and landlords’ first priority. The government has put in place protections for tenants during the coronavirus outbreak, including legislation to delay when landlords are able to start proceedings to evict tenants by requiring landlords to give tenants longer notice periods than usual.
The guidance below for landlords and letting agents is to help them safely let empty properties, or properties which tenants are voluntarily vacating. Letting agents and landlords should endeavour to work with their tenants to sustain tenancies as far as possible, where the tenant wants to and is able to stay.
Landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating.
In other cases (such as where tenants have been determined to be clinically extremely vulnerable) where viewings can proceed, they should be conducted in line with the guidance on viewings earlier in this document.
If possible, necessary repairs, gas and electrical safety checks should be conducted in the period between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. If this is not possible and visits are needed to an occupied property, this should be done by appointment with measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit.
Letting agents may also want to consider obtaining landlord and tenant consent for inventory clerk appointments to also occur before a tenant moves in or after a tenant moves out during vacant periods if possible.
Letting agents and landlords should take steps to ensure any properties are prepared ready for new tenants. This may include cleaning to minimise any potential spread of the coronavirus in line with government advice.
Letting agents and landlords should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed, taking care to follow government advice on social distancing and public health advice to minimise the possible spread of coronavirus.
Letting agents and landlords are reminded of the temporary COVID-19 measures that adjust right to rent checks, temporarily allowing these checks to be conducted remotely. Lettings agents and landlords should consider other areas where in-person payments, referencing or checks can be conducted remotely instead and take further legal or professional advice if required to implement properly.
Moves into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) are allowed. However, there may be additional risks involved in moving into an HMO at this time which is why it is important that all involved take reasonable precautions. During viewings, tenants that share an HMO are advised to stay out of indoor common areas, such as kitchens, bathrooms or sittings areas, during a viewing. If it is not a tenant’s own private room that is being viewed they can also remain inside their room with the doors closed.
Moves into student accommodation are allowed. Letting agents, universities and accommodation providers should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins, following the latest public health advice and taking reasonable steps to reduce transmission.
Allocation by local housing authorities is governed by Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 and authorities must have regard to statutory guidance. Registered providers of social housing should refer to the relevant regulatory standards set out by the Regulator of Social Housing.
Landlords will need to consider how to carry out their activities in line with the latest guidance on practical steps to reduce transmission Practices should also be carried out in line with this wider guidance, including:
- property inspections for vacating tenants
- collecting returned keys
- conducting viewings
- conducting tenancy sign-ups
- preparing homes to be re-let
Some applicants and tenants may be anxious about moving at this time. It will be important to ensure that they are not put under undue pressure to move if they are not ready or able to do so.
It will also be important to discuss with applicants and tenants their state of health, level of vulnerability and their arrangements for moving (including any assistance required) before proceeding with the move.
Landlords should avoid moving tenants who are showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating. There may be exceptions to this (e.g. safety reasons) and in these scenarios landlords should speak to the local Public Health team about appropriate infection control measures before taking any action. Tenants seeking mutual exchange should be directed to the Advice to the public section above.
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.
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 should be by appointment only and no open house viewings 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. This should be confirmed with the agent before arrival. 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 property agents to accompany clients on a viewing and follow social distancing guidance. 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 should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.
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.
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.
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.
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 handwashing facilities, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or safely disposed of afterward.
Repairs, maintenance and health and safety
The purpose of this advisory guidance is to support landlords and tenants in managing property maintenance issues as we move towards an easing of lockdown measures.
Tenants have a right to a decent, warm and safe place to live. Where safe to do so, it is in the best interests of both tenants and landlords to ensure that properties are well maintained, kept in good repair and free from hazards.
Landlords can take steps to carry out repairs and safety inspections under the national lockdown which is in force in England, provided these are undertaken in line with public health advice and the relevant coronavirus (COVID-19) legislation.
As a tenant, should I stop paying rent during the pandemic?
Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. The government has made a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
In many if not most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. If your ability to pay will be affected, it’s important to have an early conversation with your landlord. Rent levels agreed in your tenancy agreement remain legally due and you should discuss with your landlord if you are in difficulty.
You can find details of support and advice available on GOV.UK.
What can I do about rent arrears?
Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
As part of our national effort to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak it’s important that landlords offer support and understanding to tenants who may start to see their income fluctuate.
An early conversation between landlord and tenant can help both parties to agree a plan if tenants are struggling to pay their rent. This can include reaching a temporary agreement not to seek possession action for a period of time and instead accept a lower level of rent, or agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date. Where a landlord does choose to serve notice seeking possession for rent arrears or has done so already, the notice period and any further action may be affected by legislation lengthening the notice period (see Section 1.8).
Where appropriate, if disputes over rent or other matters persist, landlords and tenants are encouraged to consider mediation. Mediation allows an independent third-party to assist those involved to try to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their dispute, without the matter needing to go to court (see Section 1.22-1.25).
If a landlord and tenant agree a plan to pay off arrears, it is important they both stick to this plan, and that tenants talk to their landlord immediately if they are unable to do so.
We have put in place a major package of financial support to enable people to continue paying their living costs, including rental payments. This includes support for businesses to pay staff salaries through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme and we have strengthened the welfare safety-net by billions of pounds.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of April with employees receiving 80% of their current salary for hours not worked and further economic support announced.
Further information on government support for employers and employees.
If tenants fall into financial difficulties due to a change in their employment or earnings, for example, they may qualify for Universal Credit. Property Guardian licence agreements are a valid tenancy arrangement for receiving housing costs support in Universal Credit. Students are also able to claim Universal Credit under certain circumstances. Find more information about Universal Credit.
Local authorities can provide support for tenants to stay in their homes. If tenants are experiencing financial hardship, they may be able to access new funding; we have made £500 million available to fund households experiencing financial hardship and are determined to take action to support people in need.
For those renters who require additional support, there is an existing £180 million of government funding for Discretionary Housing Payments for councils to distribute to help people with rent payments in the private and social rented sectors. You should contact your local council to see if you are eligible for this support.
If a tenant is worried about being unable to pay their rent, or if landlords become aware of tenants who may be in difficulty, advice is available from specialist providers such as Shelter, Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service. If they are eligible for Legal Aid, they can also contact Civil Legal Advice for free and confidential advice.
If tenants are worried about being evicted and not having anywhere else to go, they should speak to their local authority. They can find information on how to contact their local council on GOV.UK.
I’m a landlord. What can I do about mortgage repayments?
The mortgage holiday has been extended, with applications open to 31 March 2021. Borrowers, including those with a Buy to Let mortgage, who have been impacted by Coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a 6-month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to 6 months without this being recorded on their credit file.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been clear that for borrowers who have taken 6 months’ holiday and continue to face ongoing financial difficulties, firms should continue to provide support through tailored forbearance options. This could include granting new mortgage payment holidays. Mortgage customers in this situation should speak to their lender to discuss their options.
If a landlord is concerned about their financial situation they should discuss this with their lender.
There is currently a moratorium on the enforcement of lender repossession, except for in exceptional cases (such as a borrower requesting proceeding continue).
Norman Galloway Lettings are happy to discuss any concerns that you may have and answer any questions that may have arisen from the new guidelines. We are here and happy ti help where we can.