Tenants and home buyers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are free to move home, despite lockdown measures being imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Movers in England are allowed to proceed during the current month-long lockdown, and estate agents in Wales are now reopening after its two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown ended today.
Here, Which? explains the latest rules around the UK for people looking to buy or rent a home.
What are the current COVID-19 rules?
COVID-19 measures vary across the UK, with each country setting its own rules. The current restrictions are as follows:
- England is under lockdown measures until 2 December. After this time, further measures will be decided on a local basis.
- Scotland launched a five tier system last week, where each of the country’s 32 local authorities were given a tier based on risk levels. Tiers will be reviewed on a weekly basis.
- Wales imposed a 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown between 23 October and 9 November. The Welsh government has now introduced a series of new rules on working, travelling and meeting other households, and hasn’t ruled out another lockdown if necessary.
- Northern Ireland is currently under a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown, which includes pubs and restaurants being closed. This will end on 13 November.
Can I move home?
The government says the lockdown in England won’t affect home moves, with the property market remaining open throughout.
The following are all allowed during the lockdown, subject to all parties adhering to social distancing measures:
- Renters and home buyers are allowed to move
- Estate agents and removals firms can continue to operate
- Construction sites can stay open
- Tradespeople are allowed to enter homes
In Wales, renters and buyers are free to move home, after the ‘firebreak’ lockdown ended. Estate agent branches can reopen and in-person house viewings are allowed. During the lockdown, moves were only allowed if they couldn’t reasonably be delayed.
House moves and in-person viewings are permitted in Scotland and Northern Ireland, subject to social distancing rules.
- Find out more: how virtual house viewings work?
How will house viewings work?
Where in-person house viewings are allowed, they should be arranged by appointment and be accompanied by an agent.
During viewings, social distancing measures must be adopted and all parties must wash their hands immediately upon entering the home. Viewers are advised to bring their own hand sanitiser and avoid touching surfaces. If social distancing isn’t possible, viewers and agents should consider wearing a face mask.
If possible, the current occupants should vacate the property during viewings to minimise contact with other households. They should allow access to hand-washing facilities and ideally provide separate towels or paper towels.
After the viewing, the property owner or tenant should clean surfaces and door handles, and wash towels.
- Find out more: house-viewing checklist
What’s happening to the property market?
The property market has been flourishing since the government cut stamp duty rates back in July, but the latest uncertainty caused by COVID-19 could see the brakes being applied.
First-time buyers and home movers have been facing significant delays to the home buying process, with soaring demand putting pressure on conveyancers, mortgage brokers and lenders. Many buyers have also seen their mortgage options cut by COVID-19.
The graph below shows how average house prices have risen slightly across the UK since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Can I get a mortgage payment holiday?
Back in March, the government announced that homeowners could take a three-month mortgage payment holiday if their finances were affected by COVID-19.
Applications for payment holidays were due to close last Saturday (31 October), but the new lockdown rules mean they’ve been extended by a further six months.
If you haven’t already taken out a payment holiday since the COVID-19 outbreak, you can request a break of up to six months.
If you already have a payment holiday, you can extend this until you reach the six-month limit.
During the deferral period, interest will continue to accrue, so you should only apply for a payment holiday if you definitely need one.
- Find out more: how to apply for a mortgage payment holiday
Which? coronavirus advice
Experts from across Which? have been compiling the advice you need to stay safe and to make sure you’re not left out of pocket.
- Coronavirus: what it means for house prices
- Coronavirus: what it means for rent, mortgages, savings, loans, banking and benefits
- Coronavirus: how to apply for a mortgage payment holiday
- Coronavirus: how to protect your pensions and investments
- Coronavirus: what it means for your travel insurance
- Coronavirus scams: how to spot them and stop them
Keep up to date with all the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?.