Coronavirus lockdown: Am I allowed to move house?

Woman unpacking Image copyright Getty Images

England's property market has been released from some elements of the lockdown.

Many in the housing sector anticipate a surge in moving from pent-up demand. However, strict guidelines are still in place covering every aspect of buying, selling, and renting.

For now, the property markets in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland remain shut.

But if you're moving house in England, what do the changes mean for you in practice?

How will socially distanced property viewings work?

The first property viewing will not be in person, but online. Virtual viewings have become more common recently and will continue, while open house viewings will not return for a while.

When prospective buyers and tenants want to inspect a property in real life, government guidance states only one household should be shown around at a time.

Internal doors should stay open, or door handles wiped down along with other surfaces after each visit. Washing facilities should be offered, towels washed, and visitors could bring their own hand sanitiser.

Current residents are encouraged to leave the home while a viewing is taking place.

If anyone involved - including the current residents - are symptomatic, self-isolating, or shielding, then it should not take place, the guidance says.

An estate or letting agent should no longer drive anyone to a property, and must stay 2m (6ft) away from clients during the viewing.

Can my landlord evict me now?

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Protections for tenants were put in place when general restrictions on movement were introduced.

Ongoing evictions have been suspended, and there has been a temporary ban on new eviction proceedings.

So, until 30 September, most landlords will not be able to start eviction proceedings unless they have given tenants three months' notice.

Those rules still stand, even though landlords can now start showing prospective tenants around again.

Social landlords and housing associations have been told to make sure tenants are not put under undue pressure to move. Policies on returning keys, inspections, and tenancy sign-ups also need to be updated so they meet social distancing requirements.

Can I move in with someone new?

Many people would be planning to move in with a partner, or rent a home with new housemates, who are currently in different households.

Clearly, that means members of two households getting together, but the government says it is permitted.

The important caveat is that it should be delayed if anyone in either household is showing symptoms. Any period of self-isolation should also be completed by the last member of either original household before people move in together, or join a houseshare.

Will I have to move my own belongings?

No. Removals firms will now be allowed to operate more widely, but with some restrictions.

People should clean their belongings before asking movers and packers to handle them. 

They should also keep their doors open, and offer washing facilities to the removals team but should not offer any refreshments.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Removal teams will be encouraged to operate a ''buddy'' system

Any removal workers with even the mildest symptoms should not work, while if someone in the home is symptomatic the move should be delayed.

Removal staff should also operate a ''buddy'' system, so the same pairs carry bulky furniture or equipment each time.

As before, there is always the option of moving your belongings yourself.

Buyers often send in surveyors, builders and other experts to inspect a property before making an offer. They will have to practise social distancing as well.

What will this mean for house prices?

As always, that is a very difficult question to answer, and it is likely to vary depending on the area and its local economy.

Many commentators expect prices to fall sharply in the short-term, but recover fairly quickly.

It is clear many people face an uncertain outlook for their jobs and income, particularly first-time buyers.

This is likely to lead to more haggling over house prices, and the possibility of lower demand from potential buyers in the medium term until they are sure their jobs are safe.

Uncertainty tends to make prices more volatile, but it makes predictions trickier too.

Future movements of rents are also difficult to read at the moment, and will depend on the area, the type of property, and the financial situation of the landlord.

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CoronaVirus translator

What do all these terms mean?

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  • Antibodies test

    A medical test that can show if a person has had the coronavirus and now has some immunity. The test detects antibodies in the blood, which are produced by the body to fight off the disease.

  • Asymptomatic

    Someone who has a disease but does not have any of the symptoms it causes. Some studies suggest some people with coronavirus carry the disease but don't show the common symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature.

  • Containment phase

    The first part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which involved trying to identify infected people early and trace anyone who had been in close contact with them.

  • Coronavirus

    One of a group of viruses that can cause severe or mild illness in humans and animals. The coronavirus currently sweeping the world causes the disease Covid-19. The common cold and influenza (flu) are other types of coronaviruses.

  • Covid-19

    The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

  • Delay phase

    The second part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, in which measures such as social distancing are used to delay its spread.

  • Fixed penalty notice

    A fine designed to deal with an offence on the spot, instead of in court. These are often for driving offences, but now also cover anti-social behaviour and breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Flatten the curve

    Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the "curve" is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.

  • Flu

    Short for influenza, a virus that routinely causes disease in humans and animals, in seasonal epidemics.

  • Furlough

    Supports firms hit by coronavirus by temporarily helping pay the wages of some staff. It allows employees to remain on the payroll, even though they aren't working.

  • Herd immunity

    How the spread of a disease slows after a sufficiently large proportion of a population has been exposed to it.

  • Immune

    A person whose body can withstand or fend off a disease is said to be immune to it. Once a person has recovered from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, for example, it is thought they cannot catch it again for a certain period of time.

  • Incubation period

    The period of time between catching a disease and starting to display symptoms.

  • Intensive care

    Hospital wards which treat patients who are very ill. They are run by specially-trained healthcare staff and contain specialist equipment.

  • Lockdown

    Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Mitigation phase

    The third part of the UK's strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which will involve attempts to lessen the impact of a high number of cases on public services. This could mean the NHS halting all non-critical care and police responding to major crimes and emergencies only.

  • NHS 111

    The NHS's 24-hour phone and online service, which offers medical advice to anyone who needs it. People in England and Wales are advised to ring the service if they are worried about their symptoms. In Scotland, they should check NHS inform, then ring their GP in office hours or 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland, they should call their GP.

  • Outbreak

    Multiple cases of a disease occurring rapidly, in a cluster or different locations.

  • Pandemic

    An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

  • Phase 2

    This is when the UK will start to lift some of its lockdown rules while still trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

  • PPE

    PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and kit such as masks, aprons, gloves and goggles used by medical staff, care workers and others to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus patients and other people who might be carrying the disease.

  • Quarantine

    The isolation of people exposed to a contagious disease to prevent its spread.

  • R0

    R0, pronounced "R-naught", is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person. If the R0 of coronavirus in a particular population is 2, then on average each case will create two more new cases. The value therefore gives an indication of how much the infection could spread.

  • Recession

    This happens when there is a significant drop in income, jobs and sales in a country for two consecutive three-month periods.

  • Sars

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a type of coronavirus that emerged in Asia in 2003.

  • Self-isolation

    Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

  • Social distancing

    Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

  • State of emergency

    Measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even deploying the armed forces to support the regular emergency services.

  • Statutory instrument

    These can be used by government ministers to implement new laws or regulations, or change existing laws. They are an easier alternative to passing a full Act of Parliament.

  • Symptoms

    Any sign of disease, triggered by the body's immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection. The main symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

  • Vaccine

    A treatment that causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.

  • Ventilator

    A machine that takes over breathing for the body when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

  • Virus

    A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body's normal chemical processes, causing disease.

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