Moving House During Lockdown 2021
Moving house is often described as one of the most stressful events anyone can go through. However, this is even more so for those trying to buy or sell property during a COVID-19 lockdown.
The latest government advice will differ depending on the area of the UK you live in but we are slowly seeing restrictions being lifted thanks to the vaccine. The housing market remains open across the entirety of the UK, ensuring homeowners can still move house. During the process, safety precautions and social distancing must be adhered to, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But, unlike the first lockdown in March 2020, removal companies, estate agents, property surveyors and tradespeople can continue working.
Compare My Move has created this article to answer all your vital questions concerning this latest lockdown period. From whether it’s safe to move house to what you can do to prepare for the future, we have the necessary answers you need if you’re in the process of buying or selling property during the 2021 lockdown.
Can You Move House During the Latest Lockdown?
Yes, you will be able to move house throughout the latest lockdowns all across the UK. However, people outside of your household or those in your support bubbles should not help you move unless “absolutely necessary”. This restriction highlights the importance of hiring a trusted and reputable removals company to help you through the process. If you cannot find a removal company in time, then another household is allowed to help as long as social distancing guidance is followed.
Many of the rules and restrictions continue to mirror the guidance set out in March 2020. However, one major difference is that the housing market has remained open throughout 2021 and the process of buying and selling property has been able to continue.
Whilst January 2021 brought another strict lockdown for the nation, we are now starting to see the restrictions slowly being lifted thanks to the gradual rollout of the vaccine. However, it's important to note that what is lifted and when will greatly depend on where in the UK you live or are moving to. England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales each have their own lockdown restrictions and deadlines, but local house moves are still permitted in each country.
This means that you are able to view properties in each area and that estate and lettings agents, removal companies, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices can continue working. There will be noticeable differences in the moving process as professionals have had to modify how they work to help reduce the the risk.
However, if you or anyone in your household have displayed symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently tested positive, you must self-isolate immediately for at least 10 days, starting from when the symptoms began. You may also be required to self-isolate if you have recently returned to the UK from abroad or have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace. If anyone involved in the transaction or someone in their household is self-isolating, the move must not go ahead and all parties involved must agree on a new completion date.
When moving house, it’s vital you follow social-distancing rules, wear a mask and continue to wash your hands to prevent the spread of the disease, even if you have been fully vaccinated. Only professional movers can aid you in the move - you should not ask family or friends for physical help unless absolutely necessary. Every individual throughout the property chain must adhere to these rules. You can read the government’s latest advice for home movers here.
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What are the Rules for Moving House in Scotland?
Whilst the rules for moving house during lockdown are similar throughout the UK, there are a number of differences to consider if you’re moving house in Scotland.
As of 5th January 2021, mainland Scotland switched from Level 4 to a temporary lockdown due to COVID-19 cases per 100,000 rising by 65%. This means that you must not leave your home unless absolutely necessary. Some restrictions will slowly begin to ease but if you live in a Level 4 area, you must stay at home except for essential purposes.
It’s important to note that some islands will remain at Level 3 restrictions. These include:
- Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
- The following islands within Argyll and Bute: Coll, Colonsay, Erraid, Gometra, Iona, Islay, Jura, Mull, Oronsay, Tiree, and Ulva
- All islands in Highland (except Skye) which come within the national restrictions.
- Na h-Eileannan an lar (Western Isles)
However, it was recently announced that the 'Stay at Home' regulations will be lifted in Scotland on 2nd April 2021. This rule will be replaced by 'Stay Local' guidance, with more services including hairdressers, garden centres and non-essential click and collect services able to open from 5th April. The Scottish Government is then hoping to lift all restrictions on journeys in mainland Scotland on 26th April, but this has not yet been confirmed.
One of the examples considered as a “reasonable excuse” to leave the house during the temporary lockdown is moving house. As with the rest of the UK, this means that you are allowed to move house in Scotland but there will be some changes to the process. It will also be possible to move to and from areas with different levels, but the government advice is to conduct viewings virtually before doing so.
The Scottish Government’s guidance states that it is acceptable to leave your property “for activities in connection with moving home (including viewing a property), or for activities in connection with the maintenance, purchase, sale, letting, or rental of residential property that the person owns or is otherwise responsible for.” However, you must conduct certain matters remotely, when possible, to minimise travel and reduce the spread of the virus.
It was also stated that you should expect delays during the buying and selling process as professionals are constantly modifying their work to adhere to the new restrictions. Whilst Home Reports, property surveys and limited house viewings can continue in Scotland, they must be done safely and social distancing rules must be followed. If any individual in the property chain is self-isolating, the move must be delayed.
Buying and Selling a House During the Coronavirus Lockdown
The government’s advice for those in the middle of buying or selling a property is “to adapt and be flexible” in order to follow the current emergency measures. The process will likely be delayed due to professionals having to modify how they work, but you can continue the transaction.
All parties involved must increase communication, follow social distancing rules and work together to reschedule important dates should anyone test positive or show symptoms of COVID-19.
If the property is now vacant and thoroughly cleaned, the move can continue once the correct safety measures are put into place. However, homeowners should only ask professional removal firms for help, you should not ask someone outside of your household (i.e. family members or your support bubble) to aid you on your moving day. The only time you are able to ask another household for help is if you do not find a removal firm in time or if they are unable to work.
Estate agents, property surveyors, conveyancers and removal companies will still be working throughout the lockdown. Should someone within the property chain test positive for coronavirus, you must work alongside your solicitor to correctly delay the conveyancing process.
If You’re Buying
For those buying a home during this period, delays will be expected and many of the steps involved will now be conducted online. It’s advised that you be flexible and patient throughout the transaction and discuss the possible COVID-19 implications with your conveyancing solicitor before beginning. Many residential sale contracts now include what we call ‘Covid Clauses’ for further protection, so this would be a topic to discuss.
Property viewings can continue but they must be pre-arranged with no open houses being permitted. It’s important to note that many viewings are now being conducted online for maximum safety - but if you choose to attend a physical viewing, you must:
- Wear face coverings
- Go alone or with someone within your household
- Refrain from touching anything in the property
- Follow social distancing rules
- Ensure it is unoccupied
- Cancel a viewing should you display symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive
It’s advised that you mainly search for properties online and only arrange viewings with homes you’re seriously considering purchasing. If you’re looking to view a new-build property, you must arrange a date with the developer and adhere to all safety instructions.
Once you’ve found a suitable home, you are free to make an offer at any time. The mortgage holiday has been extended, with applications open to 31 March 2021, but you should discuss this with your conveyancer and mortgage lender to understand how it’ll affect you personally. You must wear face coverings when meeting with your solicitor, mortgage lender or any other professional.
Once your offer has been accepted, you will be allowed to visit the property one more time to measure up the rooms or organise repair work. You must arrange this in advance and ensure the correct safety measures are in place. You can then arrange for the relevant tradespeople to carry out inspections.
You can arrange for a property surveyor to assess the home if you wish, as there are no restrictions on the type of survey that can be conducted. The surveyor must adhere to all safety measurements and they can not enter the property if the current tenant is self-isolating.
Once the contracts have been signed and exchanged and the completion date is set, you can begin preparations to move in. It’s advised that you hire a removal company as early as possible to ensure the right safety precautions can be arranged. The company will not be able to help you pack so it’s vital you do this task alone or with the other members in your household. Whilst the movers are in the home, you must open any and all doors to minimise contact and increase ventilation. You should also refrain from providing refreshments and ensure the removers have access to hand washing facilities and use separate towels or paper towels if possible.
You will not be able to move into any property where people are self-isolating. If this occurs, the completion date must be rearranged.
If You’re Selling
If you’ve recently put your house up for sale, you can expect the process to be delayed as many professionals have had to modify how they work. However, you are still able to market your property and arrange either virtual viewings or pre-agreed physical viewings. Whenever you agree to visit your estate agent, conveyancer, surveyor or anyone else involved in the process, you must wear face coverings and follow social distancing rules.
Open houses are no longer allowed but you can arrange viewings with potential buyers if the property is thoroughly cleaned and there are no members in the property chain that are self-isolating. During the viewings, you must leave the property and ensure all surfaces are properly sanitised. You must also ensure there are paper towels and hand wash stations within the home for buyers to use. Once the viewings are complete, you must sanitise and wash any handles, doors and surfaces to avoid contamination.
Once you accept an offer, the legal process can continue as normal. You should expect delays, however, and ensure the contract has a ‘Covid Clause’ to provide you and the buyer with further protection. Property surveys can still be arranged, but the proper safety precautions must be met and you should not be at the property once the surveyor arrives.
When the contracts have been signed and exchanged, you must give the property a thorough deep clean so that the buyers can begin moving in. If you or someone else within the household contracts COVID-19, the move must be delayed and you will have to self-isolate for 10 days. However, if the coronavirus does not delay the process, you can begin moving out and either find accommodation locally or move into your new home. Removal companies can continue working throughout the lockdown so you can receive professional help should you require it.
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Information on Renting Property During Lockdown
Part of the regulations for letting out a property in the UK includes a variety of home visits and contact with other workers like electricians and gas workers, as well as the tenants themselves. Landlords are usually required to carry out certain repairs and maintenance, which can sometimes include visits from contractors.
If these visits are considered ‘urgent’ or ‘vital’, then they can still go ahead, as long as the right health and safety precautions are met. These visits must not be carried out, however, on homes containing self-isolating tenants or those who have tested positive for coronavirus.
Tenants are still expected to pay rent throughout the pandemic, but the government has made financial support available to those who require it. They will also be expected to “abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability.” Communication between landlords and tenants should be increased as, understandably, personal circumstances and income may fluctuate.
What Can’t You Do During Lockdown?
To summarise, these are the things you can not do when moving house or buying and selling property during the latest coronavirus lockdown:
- Visit or view a property without wearing proper face coverings.
- Attend any ‘open houses’.
- Break social distancing rules by attending the viewing of the property you’re selling.
- Remain in the same room as the surveyor when a property survey is being conducted.
- Sell or move into a property without it first being thoroughly cleaned.
- Move house if you or someone in your household exhibits signs or symptoms of coronavirus.
- Move house if you or someone in your household has tested positive for COVID-19.
- Visit or move into another property before the 10 day isolation period ends.
- Ask family or friends to help you on your moving day. You can only ask another household for help if you've failed to book a removal company in time.
Our Top Tips to Help You Plan Ahead During Lockdown
Even though many of us are still confined to our homes, it doesn’t mean you can’t use this time to plan ahead and start preparing for your future move. To help you get started, Compare My Move has created a list of top tips to help you plan, prepare and even save money on your future house move.
1. Clean and Declutter - If the process is delayed, it would be a good idea to deep clean your home and start decluttering each room whilst you wait. Fewer items mean less money spent when you can eventually book your removal. With less moving boxes and fewer items for the removal team to handle, you’ll be saving yourself time and money.
2. Research and Prepare in Advance - Now is the time to get organised and prepare what you can whilst at home. Research some of the things you’ll need before your future move and start gathering them together. See if you can find any vital documents, plan your moving essentials bag, anything that is deemed essential to the move. Whilst researching, you could even look at some décor and furniture ideas for your new home to inspire you.
3. Start Packing - Once you know what items will be going to the new house with you, start packing what you can. Don’t pack everyday essentials, but see what you can do whilst you’re waiting. Don’t forget to label the boxes.
4. Compare Quotes - No matter when you move house, it’s important to shop around and compare quotes from trusted professionals. Whilst in lockdown, it’ll be a good idea to compare conveyancing quotes, surveying quotes and also compare removal companies ready to beat the post-lockdown competition. Ensure you’re connected with the best in the business and compare quotes ready for your move.
Saving Time and Money on Your Future Move
Despite the current emergency measures affecting the buying and selling process, there are still ways you can plan ahead. Whether you’re comparing conveyancing, surveying or removal quotes, Compare My Move is still working hard to connect you with the best in the business.
By following the government’s advice and social distancing rules, you can still make progress whilst also staying safe at home. Only move house if the correct safety measures are in place and do not ask family or friends for help unless absolutely necessary. Remain positive and above all else, follow the government’s advice to stay safe and reduce the spread of the virus.