Moving house in lockdown: 'I felt like I was committing a crime'

By Benita Barden
Newsbeat Reporter

Image source, Sean
Image caption,
Sean and his girlfriend Cosmina moved into a new place early into the UK's lockdown

Moving house can take days of preparation and help from loads of people - even at the best of times.

So what happens when your moving day is in the middle of a global pandemic where shops are closed and you're supposed to keep a two-metre distance from anyone around you?

"I feel like a weekend's worth of work turned into about two or three weeks" Sean, 26, tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

He began moving during the first week of lockdown, but still hasn't taken his stuff from his old house because of social distancing rules.

Stats from show a 41% decrease in new room adverts during the first month of lockdown.

The government has now said estate agents can now open and removal firms can restart operations in England. But social distancing rules still apply.

Stuck between two homes

Sean was viewing places in Cardiff when coronavirus in the UK first started making headlines, but they carried on looking.

He and his girlfriend found a flat and started moving their stuff on 21 March - two days before Boris Johnson announced the UK was in lockdown - and they decided to self-isolate together in their new home.

But they didn't know if moving their things counted as an essential journey.

"I kind of felt like I was committing a few crimes and sneaking by. I'd take some shopping bags, just in case I'd get stopped so I could say I'm going shopping," he says.

Image source, Getty Images

Sean's former housemates were cautious letting him back into the house when he was picking up his stuff.

"They basically told me off," he says.

His old housemates still need to find somewhere to move out to and the landlord needs to find new tenants to replace them when they go.

They now plan to extend the contract - meaning Sean will have to pay rent on two properties.

He's a freelance graphic designer and contracts were paused when the pandemic worsened, so recently applied for Universal Credit.

"Money-wise I'm lucky I have some savings but it's been a difficult time really," he says.

"I'm not the only one, it's been less disheartening knowing that"

'We couldn't get rid of anything'

Jack, 23, left his tenancy early because his flat in Portsmouth had a mould and damp problem.

"We were worried the restrictions might increase and there would literally be no way that we would move," he tells Newsbeat.

He found a new flat in March, and his moving in date was in April.

Image source, Jack
Image caption,
Jack found it difficult to get his utilities set up and get rid of junk after moving

Jack managed to get a removal van to move his stuff, but a lot of services were closed during the move.

"We had loads of clutter and rubbish, all the tips are all closed and charity shops aren't open so we weren't able to get rid of it."

Once he moved in he struggled to set up essential bills, like internet, electric and gas.

"I had to take annual leave until I had internet here because I just couldn't get anything done."

But he says the move felt like "a change of scenery" during lockdown.

Working from home in a new flat

Because Rachael, 23, and her housemate moved in a rush, a day after lockdown measures were introduced, she couldn't get all her utilities or furniture set up before she moved in.

"We were locked down, working from home with no internet, no kettle, no microwave, no toaster and no table to work on" she says, from her South London flat.

"For work, we were hot-spotting off our phones."

Image source, Rachael
Image caption,
Rachael and her housemate found it hard to buy even the basics for a new home online

And they didn't expect buying the basics for their new place would be so difficult.

They tried shopping online with little luck. "We thought getting a kettle or a microwave would be something that people weren't interested in, but we found that everything was out of stock."

Looking back, Rachael says she would've driven up to Liverpool with her housemate so they could stay with their families.

"It's frustrating knowing now that I could be with my parents up north," she says.

"We're both in a worse position in this little two bed flat than we needed to be during this period"

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