As of 13th May, the Government announced that restrictions in England will be eased for the property sector, meaning people wishing to move, can now do so. Before you rush off to Rightmove to book viewings on all the latest offerings, we should warn you that things are still a far cry away from normality. The safety and wellbeing of all parties involved in a home move must remain the highest priority, and it is important that social distancing rules, public health advice and government guidance are followed to ensure this. But how does that affect you and your home move?
Now more freedom has been given, there is a responsibility of all parties involved in home moves to act sensibly. If anyone is self-isolating or showing symptoms of coronavirus they should not move or allow anyone else to move into their house. Therefore, increased adaptability to move dates, and an understanding of the situations of the individuals throughout the chain need to be given. More care and flexibility should be given to anyone that is classed as a vulnerable person and this may mean moves may need to be put on hold. People need to be understanding, and transparent of anything that may put other people at risk.
I’m sure many agencies will be doing things slightly differently, but in general, these are the rules that should be followed:
· Initial viewings should be done virtually, and only those who are genuinely interested in a property should then be allowed a physical viewing
· Viewings should be done by appointment only, and limited to as few people from a household as possible
· Before a viewing, the occupier should open all windows and doors and leave the property for the duration of the viewing
· All parties should wash/sanitise their hands before the viewing and handwashing facilities should be made available, but people are advised to not use the same towel.
· Strict social distancing measures should be adhered to throughout the viewing, keeping 2 meters apart throughout
· No surfaces should be touched during the viewing. We will be asking viewers to keep hands in pockets.
· Viewings should be kept as short as possible and focused on looking at the house, with questions ideally being asked after the viewing over the phone/email, or kept until all parties are out of the house to discuss
· At Aquarius Homes we will be wearing face masks during any viewings and will also ask all viewers to do the same.
Getting your Home on the Market
Agents can now visit new property listings to take photos and videos as long as they are fully adhering to public health guidance. Agents will have their own procedures of working, and many may still want to do the majority of the listing virtually. If an agent is visiting, and any member of the household is showing any symptoms of coronavirus, no matter how mild, or are self-isolating, then the physical meeting should be postponed.
Many people may decide, or have been advised, that due to the current situation they want to put their move on hold. All parties are encouraged to be patient and flexible, allowing time for a move to be conducted safely. This is obviously a lot easier said than done when there are many contractual elements that need to be considered. The government has tried to ease this pressure by:
· Asking banks and building societies to extend the period prior to the expiry of a mortgage offer
· Developing a standard legal process with conveyancers for delaying completion dates
· Enforcing sector specific guidelines.
With these ‘new normal’ practices in place a sale may naturally take longer whilst the professionals involved adapt to this new way of working, along with trying to catch up with the backlog of sales that can suddenly complete.
Even during lockdown, offers were continuing to be made and accepted. Now many of these will be able to progress as all professionals involved in the process such as conveyancers and surveyors are able to visit properties again.
In general, the lettings market has been less affected by the pandemic as many people were more willing to sign up to a new tenancy without physically seeing the property. In many instances, agents may still ask potential tenants to do a lot of the ‘admin work’ before a physical viewing of the property and keep contracts ‘subject to a physical viewing’.
An important part of the property sector are the removal firms, who are again able to operate. There are strict guidelines the government have put in place to ensure how work can be carried out safely in people’s homes. If you have a removal firm booked, make sure to follow the policies they have in place, and if you’re not sure of anything, ask beforehand.
Tradespeople may again enter your home, as long as they are keeping to the public health guidelines. For many tenants this will mean all those niggling issues that have built up over the past few weeks of lockdown can now be tended to. Letting agent and landlords first priority must always be tenant’s safety. Therefore, as a tenant, expect your agent or landlord to ask you to answer some questions prior to any tradesperson visiting your home. This is to protect both the tradesperson, and your household. All parties need to be honest and transparent, even if it does mean another 2 weeks until that irritating issue gets fixed.
Be assured that agents and landlords still have obligations to keep their properties in a good working order, and safety checks still need to take place in the correct timescale, unless this compromises anyone safety. If at any point a tenant decides they do not want anyone to visit their property, even if it is for a maintenance purpose, they can say no and not allow access.
The legislation, that delays when landlords can start proceedings to evict tenants, is still in place. This means until 30 September 2020, landlords will not be able to start possession proceedings unless the tenant has been given at least three-months’ notice. Come September this may be extended, but this has not yet been announced.
It is important to remember that the property market being allowed to re-open is only the first step in easing restrictions. Safety needs to be the main priority above anything else, and if everyone keeps this in the forefront of their mind and acts responsibly, hopefully we will see a lot more sectors gradually following suit and re-opening.
To read the full Government guidance, please click here.