The government has now issued guidance on moving into a new home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the guidance is titled for buyers and sellers, it equally applies to renting.
This is welcomed because guidance was unclear up to this point.
Parties are urged to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes during this period. But does then confirm:
There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.
Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals. Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.
In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.
The advice to the public in respect of moving home during this period is:
- Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.
- If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
- In line with Government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.
In addition to this guidance, the legislation for stay at home rules contains a specific exemption allowing an individual to leave their home to move house where reasonably necessary.
From a landlord or agents perspective, travelling to the property or wherever to hand over the keys is permitted under the lockdown guidance.
travelling to and from work, but only where you cannot work from home.
… even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
Therefore, as long as the two meter rule and other public health guidance is followed, there is no problem handing over keys. There is also no problem with an inventory clerk doing a check-in as long as the two meter rule is applied (it would ideal if the inventory can be done by the clerk on their own).
What we’ve done in the past (not due to coronavirus but perhaps if we were weren’t going to be available) is to leave the keys before any meeting time in a secure gas meter box. As long as the tenant has a meter box key, this would be an option to avoid contact. On the rare occasion we’ve done this in the past, the keys can be placed high up on the shelf holding the meter in place. The keys are not visible by someone just opening the meter box. The recipient would need to place their hand high up and feel for the keys.