- 1 Coronavirus Lockdown Rules Now Allow Viewings
- 1.1 Visiting Letting Agents
- 1.2 Viewing Residential Properties to Look for a Property to Buy or Rent
- 1.3 Preparing a Residential Property to Move In
- 1.4 Moving Home
- 1.5 Visiting a Residential Property to Undertake Any Activities Required for the Rental or Sale of That Property
- 1.6 Conducting Viewings Safely
The The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 which are the lockdown rules have been amended with effect from today.
Before today, a person could travel to a place of work (e.g. to a rental property) if that work was not possible from home (e.g. to carry out a gas safety inspection) but, in reality, conducting viewings under this provision didn’t occur because moving home was only permitted if “reasonably necessary”.
From today, the “reasonably necessary” element for a person to be allowed to move home is removed and now viewings are specifically allowed to be conducted under the amendments.
There is no change to the allowance of someone travelling to work where that work cannot reasonably be done from home (e.g. a landlord/agent travelling to work to conduct a viewing). In fact, from today it is “encouraged”. But, any individual may now leave their home to undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property:
- visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;
- viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent;
- preparing a residential property to move in;
- moving home;
- visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property;
Visiting Letting Agents
According to the guidance published, estate agents can open:
Estate agents can open for business but should consider how and when to reopen their premises given government guidance on safer working
However, from what we can see, the regulations at this moment state any shop offering goods for sale or hire must remain closed (except some shops listed in the rules) and must not admit any person to its premises who is not required to carry on its business. Any business operated from such a shop may continue to operate by providing those goods or services:
- through a website, or otherwise by on-line communication,
- by telephone, including orders by text message, or
- by post.
There is therefore conflicting information and in our view, letting agents with a shop shouldn’t open the shop to the public without taking legal advice first.
From today, a person is allowed to leave home to visit a letting agent but there is no change to the regulations about letting agents being allowed to open their shops to the public. Until there is clarity on this provision, they should remain closed in our view.
Viewing Residential Properties to Look for a Property to Buy or Rent
As previously mentioned from a landlord or agent’s perspective, they can attend rental property as long as it’s work which cannot be reasonably done from home. This new provision now allows any individual to attend to view a property and there is no essential nor necessary requirement.
Preparing a Residential Property to Move In
This provision simply allows a person who may have taken a tenancy but not yet moved in, to leave their current home and attend to prepare the new residential property for moving in.
Importantly, this provision changes the previous position by removing the “reasonably necessary” element meaning it’s now acceptable for any person to move home regardless of necessity.
Visiting a Residential Property to Undertake Any Activities Required for the Rental or Sale of That Property
The purpose of this point seems confusing at first glance because it was always acceptable for a person to travel to work if that work cannot be done from home. Therefore, a landlord was always allowed to travel to undertake these activities. However, now individuals not operating as a business can do the same and attend. For example, a person may have been trying to sell a second home that had to be put on hold during lockdown. That person can now attend even if it’s not for the purpose of a business. For the avoidance of doubt, that’s not to say any person may attend a second home for a holiday. They can only attend for the purpose of renting or selling that residential property. This provision also confirms energy assessors and surveyors (for example) may attend if it’s required for the rental or sale of that property.
Conducting Viewings Safely
The government has updated the Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and Everyone needs to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19. In addition, detailed guidance for conducting viewings and generally the property industry has been published.
The main crucial provision which everyone must obey is to keep at least 2 metres apart.
Where the property being viewed is currently empty, the position will generally be fairly straightforward. What we are personally doing is opening up the property several minutes before a viewing and then either waiting outside or driving away and returning 20 – 30 minutes after the viewing time to lock up. There is no need in our view to go inside the property with the viewers. Any questions can be dealt with outside 2m apart or even better, over the telephone or via email after the viewing. There should be no block viewings.
As the amended rules make clear, viewing residential property is permitted. However, where the property is currently occupied, the position becomes more difficult.
The government guidance linked earlier has specific guidance which should be consulted and a risk assessment will be required.
Things you may want to consider-
- Is the viewing essential? Can viewings wait until the property becomes empty?
- Don’t do any block viewings – just one household at a time
- Communicate with the current occupiers and explain what is happening and try to get their prior consent.
- If occupiers are self-isolating or shielded, viewings must not take place.
- Viewings should be undertaken when the current occupiers are out if possible. Individuals may now leave their home to take unlimited exercise.
- Consider wearing a face covering (but not a surgical mask)
- Washing hands before and after any viewings
- Always maintain at least 2m distance.
- Is it possible to stay outside during the viewing?
Further things to consider:
- Consider travelling to sites alone using your own transport, where insurance allows.
- Discussing with households ahead of a visit to ask that a 2m distance is kept from those working, if possible.
- Asking that households leave all internal doors open to minimise contact with door handles.
- Identifying busy areas across the household where people travel to, from or through, for example, stairs and corridors, and minimising movement within these areas.
- Employers and agencies should introduce fixed pairing to have the same individuals allocated to a household where jobs are repetitive in nature.
- Using remote working tools to avoid in-person appointments.
- Only absolutely necessary participants should attend appointments and should maintain 2m separation where possible.
- Avoiding transmission during appointments, for example, from sharing pens and other objects.
- Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible.
This is not an exhaustive list and the guidance should be consulted.