Housing industry COVID-19 guidance updates
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has issued further advice for those working within the home buying and selling process and those moving home.
Latest Government guidance has been issued in accordance with the transition in England to step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown, which came into effect on 19th July.
How businesses can mitigate risk
MHCLG has advised that property agents, conveyancers and other professionals may choose to retain some modifications to how they work, to reduce the risk from COVID-19. These changes could impact home moving and may include initial virtual viewings before in-person viewings, asking people to vacate a property during viewings, and ensuring properties are thoroughly cleaned before someone else views it or moves in.
Self-isolating and quarantine
While much of step 4 involves voluntary guidance, MHCLG is keeping a few key protections in place. This applies both to those moving home and those working in the industry, and is as follows:
- Those with symptoms should get tested.
- You must still isolate when you have tested positive for coronavirus, when contacted by NHS Test and Trace, or when advised to by the NHS COVID-19 app.
- This means you should not view or work in other people’s homes or offices for the duration of your isolation. Home moves can continue to take place virtually, if possible.
- There are some legal exceptions which still allow you to leave home. Read the guidance for those with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection.
- You must follow the quarantine rules when entering England from countries rated as red, amber or green. Read the guidance on entering England.
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.
Once contracts are exchanged or a tenancy agreement signed, although a legal agreement to purchase or rent the property has been entered in to, all parties should 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.
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. Vulnerable people may require additional measures to help keep them safe. These could include, for example, a limit on the number of visitors or the wearing of face coverings.
Coming into close contact with other people
While most legal restrictions on contact with others are no longer in place, MHCLG still urges caution and personal responsibility in situations involving physical contact with others.
When viewing a home for sale, the occupier may be asked to wear a face covering. Some businesses such as estate agents may also ask for face coverings to be worn when entering their premises.
Aside from self-isolation rules as detailed above, there are no legal limits on the households which may view a home in person. MHCLG does however, continue to recommend that buyers take advantage of any opportunities to view homes remotely before committing to view in person.
It is also important that everyone continues to follow the safe hygiene practices as described above. For example wearing a face covering while viewing a property. If sellers would like people to wear a face covering when they view a property, this should be made clear to the estate agent.
Tradespeople in the home
Tradespeople can continue to work in other people’s homes unless customers or tradespeople are self-isolating.
Members of the public should ensure their homes are clean and safe before tradespeople enter. This may involve cleaning items being carried by removals firms, wiping surfaces such as worktops and door handles, ensuring rooms are well ventilated and seeking to delay work if either party is showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Private rented and social housing sectors
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.
The above guidance describes the minimum best practices you should follow to help keep yourself and others safe. In addition to the this, MHCLG urges everyone in the home buying and selling process to continue to follow good hygiene practices Including regular hand-washing, sanitising, and cleaning. These measures will help prevent the spread of infection.
The full guidance can be accessed here.