Tenants and home buyers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are allowed to move home, despite lockdown measures being imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
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 at least mid-February.
- Scotland is in lockdown until at least the end of January.
- Wales has been under lockdown measures since 29 December. The restrictions are set to be reviewed on Thursday 7 January, but are likely to be extended.
- Northern Ireland has been in lockdown since 26 December. The restrictions were imposed for a six-week period, with a review taking place after four weeks (23 January).
You can find out more about the restrictions in our full story on the current lockdown rules.
Can I move home?
Home buyers and renters are allowed to continue to move home during the lockdown in all parts of the UK, subject to adhering to social distancing measures.
The current rules are as follows:
- England: buyers and renters can move home, and removals firms will remain open. Estate agents and letting agents can continue to operate and conduct house viewings. People outside of your household or support bubble should only help with a move if ‘absolutely necessary’.
- Scotland: house moves and viewings are permitted, as well as activities in connection with purchasing, selling, letting or renting properties (such as removals, house surveys, valuations and handover of keys).
- Wales: house moves are permitted if the moving date can’t be delayed until after the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Associated activities (such as those listed above) are permitted subject to social distancing.
- Northern Ireland: house moves and associated activities are allowed during the lockdown.
How will house viewings work?
In-person house viewings are allowed across the UK. 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.
To minimise the number of in-person viewings taking place, you should view properties virtually in the first instance.
- 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 buyers and sellers have found it difficult to get moves over the line.
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 across the UK since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Can I get a mortgage payment holiday?
Homeowners in the UK can apply for mortgage payment holidays up to 31 March.
How long a deferral you’ll qualify for depends on whether you’ve already had a payment holiday since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you haven’t already taken out a payment holiday, you can request deferrals up to a maximum of 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.
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Keep up to date with all the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?.