The latest guidance for property viewings and moving home
This article has been published in accordance with updated advice as of 22 July, 2021
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has issued new guidance to home movers and estate agents in England following the changes to restrictions on 19th July.
While most legal restrictions on contact with others are no longer in place, the government has emphasised the ongoing “need for caution and restraint” amid step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown.
“While the virus continues to circulate, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. We will continue to manage the virus and provide guidance over the coming months. We urge everyone involved in the home buying and selling process to continue to follow good hygiene practices, including regular hand-washing, sanitising, and cleaning,” states the advice on gov.uk.
Can I view a property in person?
Yes you can, as long as you’re not self-isolating. However, the guidance continues to recommend virtual viewings wherever possible, before you commit to view a home in person.
Should I wear a face mask at a property viewing?
The latest guidance suggests that you should consider wearing a face covering while you’re viewing a home for sale, or to rent. The home owner may specifically request this. The guidance states that these measures are “at the discretion of the homeowner and we would ask you to accommodate their wishes.”
Some estate agents may also ask you to wear a face covering when entering their offices. You can read the guidance on when and how to wear face coverings here.
Can I ask potential buyers to wear a face mask while viewing my property?
If you’d like people to wear a face covering when they view your property, or if you’d like to place a cap on the number of visitors you have at any one time, make sure you let your estate agent know.
What happens if I need to self-isolate on our completion date?
The guidance recommends that buyers, sellers and renters should be prepared to delay moves if necessary, for example if someone involved in the transaction becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process, or has to self-isolate.
If you’re about to sign a contract, speak to your solicitor about making contractual provisions to manage the risks and possible implications of a delay.
The advice states that “you should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have Covid-19 or are self-isolating. 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.”
Buyers and sellers 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.
Can tradespeople come inside my home?
Yes they can, unless they, or anyone in your home, is self-isolating. But there are precautions you can take to make sure your home is 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 anyone has developed symptoms of coronavirus.
Self-isolating and quarantine
While much of step 4 will involve voluntary guidance, there are still key protections in place which apply to home movers:
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.
There are some legal exceptions which still allow you to leave home. You can view them here.
Quarantine rules still apply when entering England from countries rated as red, amber or green. Read the guidance on entering England.
What’s the latest guidance on moving home in Scotland?
All home moves are permitted, provided they can be carried out safely. Virtual viewings are recommended, and the guidance suggests that you should only physically view a property which you or the person on whose behalf you are acting is very likely to want to move into. You can view the current guidelines here.
Different levels of restrictions apply to locations in Scotland and each has a different set of rules. Find out the level and rules for an area using the postcode checker. Guidance is reviewed regularly, so check for the latest updates on the Scottish Government website.
And in Wales?
Key guidance for home moves in Wales also includes using virtual viewings where possible, however it is also suggested that residents should leave the property before viewings take place. ‘Touch free’ viewings are also recommended.
Home movers are asked to follow government advice on social distancing during viewings and use face coverings indoors.
You can view the full set of current guidelines here.
Where can I find the guidelines for Northern Ireland?
The guidance for home movers in Northern Ireland can be viewed here. Again, virtual initial viewings are strongly recommended, as well as vacating your property, where possible, during viewings.
If you’re viewing a home, you should avoid touching surfaces and maintain social distancing at all times. The guidance also strongly advises using face coverings in enclosed spaces or where social distancing is not possible.