What to do if you want to move home, arrange a viewing or allow estate agents, surveyors and removal workers into your home.
When you can move home
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 4) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (‘the regulations’) came into force on 9 November 2020 and set out the new national rules to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. You may now:
- move home
- market a residential property for sale or rent and prepare a residential property for persons to move into
- visit estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes for the purposes of the purchase, sale, letting or rental of residential property
- view a residential property
This guidance provides important public health information to ensure that key activities associated with moving home, such as viewing properties, happen safely. A home includes residential park homes and this guidance also applies to custom and self-builders looking to acquire a plot or a property to renovate or to demolish. This guidance also provides some recommendations to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible.
This guidance was accurate at time of publication. It will be updated to reflect changes in restrictions made through amendments to the regulations.
The process of finding and moving into a home will need to be approached differently than before the coronavirus outbreak, given that those involved in the process will have to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible.
This will include doing more of the process online, such as virtual property viewings initially, and ensuring the property is safe to enter prior to any in person viewings being carried out. This will include increased cleaning processes before, during and after property viewings being carried out.
One of the simplest steps you can take when moving home is to wash your hands frequently and, wherever possible, stay at least 2 metres apart from people who are not members of your household. It is vital that everyone takes appropriate measures to stay safe and follows government advice on social distancing. Everyone involved in the moving process must follow government advice and maintain social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus. No one should attend at any property or meet with anyone outside their household or extended household if they have symptoms, or are a contact of someone who is self-isolating, or have been told to self-isolate.
We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay home moves, where, for example, someone becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process or has to self-isolate.
You should consider whether you need to make provisions in contracts to manage these risks. More detail on progressing the individual elements of the home buying and selling or rental process, plus how this applies to different groups, is set out in the next section.
People self-isolating or having tested positive for coronavirus
Moving home is not appropriate whilst you pose a direct risk of transmitting coronavirus. People who either have coronavirus or are self-isolating with their family member, household or extended household should not leave their home to either move home, or undertake property viewings and should strictly follow the self-isolation guidance and apply for a test where required.
If you are contractually committed to move home, you should delay your move until all members of your household have come to the end of their self-isolation period as set out in the guidance. All parties involved in home buying and selling should seek to agree amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals where someone in a chain or their family member is self-isolating or has tested positive for coronavirus. Should a move be essential for people in this category, for instance due to an urgent health and safety risk, please contact your relevant public health teams for advice.
Preparing to buy, sell or move home
You can put your home on the market and start to look for properties you want to move into.
- you can begin to market your home and property agents are able to visit in order to take photos or videos of the property, but they should do so in accordance with workplace guidance for employers and employees: COVID-19 and the physical distancing in the workplace guidance. All reasonable measures must be taken in workplaces and premises to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus
- to help prevent the spread of infection, you should do the majority of your property searching online.
- you can offer viewings of your own property, but we recommend that you clean it thoroughly before viewings take place. You can get more information about cleaning in non-healthcare settings on GOV.UK. If you are a tenant, the landlord or agent may also advise you of the recommended cleaning process
- as usual, you can also start to bring together the documentation necessary to sell your property (more information on these documents is available in the government’s guidance on how to sell homes)
- if you wish to buy a new build property, you should make contact with the developer in the usual way. You should be able to view the show home online or in person or visit the particular plot you are interested in purchasing, although there will likely be appointment systems in place. You should follow all instructions given by the developer or selling agent carefully and follow social and physical distancing rules at all times
Physical viewings can take place of occupied and unoccupied properties. The following advice on prioritising virtual visits, hand washing and respiratory hygiene measures, maintaining social distancing at all times and avoiding contact where possible should be followed.
You should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person, in order to minimise public health risks, by ensuring you are visiting only those properties that appear to be most suitable to meet your needs and preferences. Physical viewings can take place, but there are ‘key points to consider,’ which are further explored below, to do so safely.
If you are a tenant, your landlord or their agent can arrange physical viewings of your home whilst you are occupying that property, with your consent. The landlord or agent will be in touch with you to agree how the property viewing can take place safely. You should tell your landlord or agent if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. No one should visit the property whilst you are self-isolating. You should also discuss with your landlord or agent if the property viewing will cause you concern in relation to your health or for other reasons. Again, landlords or their agent should seek your consent to a physical viewing.
If you are a property owner selling your property, your agent will advise on the process, and how to sell your property safely including how property viewings will be carried out safely.
If you are selling your property privately, and managing viewings yourself, you should refer to the guidance contained within this document and the housing sector guidance.
Key points to consider are:
- you should search for properties online in the first instance
- initial viewings should be done virtually and property landlords and agents should help you to do this
- all physical viewings of properties should be by appointment only and social distancing rules should be followed by everyone involved
- physical viewings of properties should be limited to members of the same household, and ideally, where possible, the adult members of that household only (or one member from each household if the home move involves the household and extended household), thereby limiting the number of visitors including children, viewing a property at any one time
- Any work in someone’s home should be carried out in line with guidance on working in other people’s homes
- the agent or landlord can accompany the viewing
- social distancing measures must be adhered to at all times
- no open house viewings should take place
- whilst viewings are taking place we recommend those living at the property vacate it, to minimise their contact with those not in their household who are viewing the property. If the current occupiers of the property remain on the grounds of the property, i.e. in the garden premises, they should maintain social distancing whilst other people are shown around the property
- whilst viewings are taking place where the current occupiers of the property cannot vacate the property, even for a short time, they should make efforts to minimise contact with those viewing the property, for example, by being in a different room from these individuals and maintaining social distancing at all times
- the agent or landlord must travel to the property separately from the household viewing the property; car sharing is to be avoided
- when physically viewing vacant properties you should still avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands at the earliest opportunity following the visit and bring and use your own hand sanitiser
- viewings of empty rooms in houses of multiple occupation or shared accommodation can take place. Where the current occupiers of the rooms cannot vacate the rooms, even for a short time, they should make efforts to minimise contact with those viewing the rooms, for example, by being in a different room from these individuals and maintaining social distancing at all times. If the occupiers of a house in multiple occupation have been advised to self-isolate, no viewings may take place, even if the person displaying symptoms lives in a different part of the property and will not be encountered
- once the viewing has taken place, the landlord or agent responsible for accompanying the viewing should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate
- when you enter someone else’s home, or if someone enters your home, the guidance on entering other people’s homes should be followed
Houses of multiple occupation
Property viewings of rooms in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and other shared accommodation settings that share a bathroom, kitchen or both
Viewings of empty rooms in otherwise occupied HMOs or shared accommodation settings can take place, but additional precautions are necessary.
In addition to the areas outlined above in relation to property viewing your landlord or agent should:
- wherever possible, agree with other residents who live in the accommodation a time for the property viewing to take place
- where feasible, it should be agreed for the other residents to avoid being in shared spaces e.g. kitchens, bathrooms, living areas etc. whilst the property viewing is taking place
- if the occupants of the property have been advised to self-isolate, viewings should not take place until the period of self-isolation is complete for all of the occupants
Property home moves into HMOs and other shared accommodation settings that share a bathroom, kitchen or both
Home moves into HMOs and shared accommodation settings are allowed, but Government advice should be followed:
- you should not move into an HMO or other shared accommodation settings if any of the current tenants are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or self-isolating. Before you plan your move, you should check to make sure that this is the case. Your landlord or letting agent may able to help you with this
- you should not move into an HMO or other shared accommodation settings if you yourself are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or self-isolating
- if you are shielding, you should consider whether moving home into an HMO or other shared accommodation is appropriate based on your medical needs, and seek medical advice if necessary
Where a home move into an HMO or shared accommodation setting is necessary and other people already reside at the property, additional precautions are necessary:
- good hand washing and respiratory hygiene practices should be followed, and you should wash your hands regularly
- all hard surfaces should be cleaned with normal disinfectant, especially high touch areas such as door handles, window handles, WC handles, taps, basins and work surfaces
- you should refer to the advice on cleaning and disinfection
Making offers or reservations
You are free to make or accept an offer or reserve a property as normal.
- there is a risk that parties may need to delay their move because someone is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating. Where needed, your legal adviser should advise you and help make sure that any contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk
- there a further visit to a property is required by the prospective new owner, guidance provided in the property viewings section should be adhered to
- purchasers may also want to send in tradespeople to carry out inspections. Where possible these should be scheduled with one person visiting the property at any time. No tradespeople should enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating, or where they or a member of their household has symptoms or is self-isolating
- where a tradesperson is visiting the property, the occupier should maintain social distancing, wash their hands regularly and minimise contact as far as possible, for example by staying in another room. These visits should be carried out in line with workplace guidance for employers and employees: COVID-19
Property searches and surveys
Your legal representative should be able to carry out searches on your property online in order to progress your transaction and you can contact them to discuss likely timescales.
Surveyors including valuers can undertake surveys of the property you wish to purchase in line with the guidance below. There are no restrictions on the types of survey that can be carried out and you should talk to your surveyor to understand the most appropriate type of survey for the home you intend to purchase.
On custom and self-build projects, surveyors can visit plots you wish to purchase and undertake valuations to support the release of staged payment mortgages.
- surveyors should not enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating, or they or a member of their household has symptoms or is self-isolating
- inspections should take place by appointment only, with one person visiting the property at any time, where feasible. The Welsh Government has adopted five principles for workplace safety, with full details available in workplace guidance for employers and employees: COVID-19. Surveyors should follow the physical distancing in the workplace guidance to minimise contact with the household
Agreeing to move
Once you have agreed to move home by exchanging contracts or signing a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to move. We encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay moves if needed, for example, if someone becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process or has to self-isolate. You should not expect to move into any home where people are ill or self-isolating.
- we recommend that the property you are moving should have been thoroughly cleaned before you move in. You can get more information about cleaning in non-healthcare settings on GOV.UK
- your legal adviser should be able to help you to ensure that any contract you enter into has sufficient flexibility to allow the purchase to be delayed in the event that an individual in one of the parties contracts coronavirus or has to self-isolate
- we encourage you to be as flexible as possible if you are asked to delay your move, and in turn, you can speak to your legal advisor about this
Moving your belongings, including through removal companies
When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing as you can. Where possible, you should clean your belongings with standard domestic cleaning products before they are handled by others, including removal companies.
Removal companies are able to operate, although they may need to adjust usual procedures in order to ensure moves happen as safely as possible. If you are using a removal company, you should contact them as early as possible in advance of your move.
Whilst the removal company crew are in your home, you should ensure any internal doors are open and seek to minimise your contact with the operatives. Anyone involved in any aspect of the home moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.
All parties should wash their hands or use hand sanitiser and avoid touching surfaces where possible to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus. You should not provide refreshments but you should ensure they have access to hand washing facilities, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely afterwards. Towels should not be shared. If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the removal firm as they may be able to put in place extra measures.
Make sure that you tell the removal company if you or a member of your family are shielding or self-isolating as they will not be able to progress with the home move and it will need to be rescheduled. Ask them how they will maintain the social distancing requirements, make sure that you know what to do when they arrive to keep you and your household safe. You should ask what measures the removal company will take to adhere with Government guidance, and what protective equipment they will use.
If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the professionals involved, your landlord or removers as they may be able to put in place extra measures.
Moving out of your home
If you are purchasing a home, starting or ending a new tenancy agreement, you should check the agreed process for leaving the property you are moving from as there might be new requirements on cleaning and dropping keys off, for example.
If you are a social or private sector tenant, your landlord or agent will be able to give you more information.
If you are purchasing a property, you should agree the process before completing on the property to ensure all parties are clear on what is expected.
Moving from Wales to England
Anyone who is in Wales, whether resident or travelling here, is bound by the rules in Wales. However, travelling to move home, or other related activity, is a reasonable excuse to enter Wales. Similarly, people living in Wales can travel to England for the purposes of moving home or other related activity. Where this is the case, the new national restrictions from 5 November may be applicable to you elsewhere in the UK and will also need to be followed.