Can I still move house? Are mortgage holidays ending? Can tradesmen enter my home for refurbishments and more? Here are the Covid-19 second lockdown facts property professionals need to know.
Although the property market had been one of the industries to remain open in Tier Three restricted-affected communities, it was a big relief for property market professionals nationwide when we learned via Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, on Twitter late Saturday night that the property market would be one of the industries to remain open during the second lockdown of England announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday night.
Housing market update ahead of Thursday’s measures:
🏡 Renters & homeowners will be able to move
📦 Removal firms and estate agents can operate
👷🏻♀️Construction sites can and should continue
🔧Tradespeople will be able to enter homes
📋But all must follow the Covid safety guidance
— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) November 1, 2020
After a major leak breaking news of the impending second lockdown on Friday, PM Boris Johnson was forced to bring forward the lockdown announcement the whole country had been dreading – but expecting.
Covid-19 case numbers had been rising rapidly across the whole of the UK – and according to the data, without a significant intervention, the country was heading for a second peak with death rates predicted to be far higher than than the first wave of the Coronavirus which swept through the country killing tens of thousands of people earlier in the year.
There was really no choice but to implement wider measures to control the spread of the virus.
In his speech on Saturday night, the Prime Minister announced a countrywide lockdown (in England) to begin first thing Thursday (5 November) morning for a period of up to four weeks – to Wednesday 2 December. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own country restrictions).
To reduce social contact, the Government ordered certain non-essential businesses and venues to close, including:
- all non-essential retail
- indoor and outdoor leisure facilities
- entertainment venues
- personal care facilities such as hair, beauty and nail salons etc.
- hospitality venues
A notable difference to the lockdown at the end of March however is that schools and universities will remain open this time around and the NHS will continue offering as much of its services as possible.
Johnson specifically mentioned that construction and manufacturing industries would remain open but he didn’t mention the property market at this point.
So it was a relief when approximately four hours later, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government Robert Jenrick released a series of tweets clarifying many questions property professionals were eager to hear, including:
Can I still move house?
“Yes – the housing market will remain open throughout this period. Everyone should continue to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by following the current guidance,” Jenrick tweeted.
Are the mortgage holidays ending?
“No – the mortgage payment holidays will no longer end today and there will be further information published by the FCA on Monday.”
Can a tradesman or women come into my home?
“Tradespeople like electricians, plumbers, repairers of domestic appliances can enter your home. They will need to follow social distancing guidance that has already been published.”
Can hardware stores and builders merchants remain open?
“Hardware stores and those selling building supplies will be able to operate.”
Tier Three guidelines for moving home will now also become national guidelines. Some key features include:
- Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever possible
- All physical viewings where prospective buyers or renters will be entering the property should involve no more than 2 households inside the property at any one time. This includes any agent accompanying either party
- ‘Open house’ viewings should not take place.
- When viewing properties in person, you should avoid touching surfaces wherever possible, wash your hands regularly and/or use hand sanitiser
- If people are being shown around your home, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned after each viewing with standard household cleaning products
- Everyone involved in the moving process must follow social distancing to minimise the spread of COVID-19
The Government also advises buyers and sellers to be as flexible as possible and be prepared for delays even if they have exchanged contracts or signed a tenancy agreement, in particular, in cases where someone involved in the transaction becomes ill with Covid-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate. The advice is for sellers to also try and do as much of the packing themselves.
Obviously, if anyone is suffering symptoms of Coronavirus they should get a test and self-isolate as per current regulations.
Additional Points to Note
As with the previous lockdown, the new guidance states that people can still travel to work if they can’t work from home, which many property professionals need to do in the course of their work.
Other good news for the employed is that the furlough scheme will continue and revert back to the highest level covering 80 per cent wages.
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant covering the six-month period from 1 November 2020 to April 2021 had recently been revised – upped to 40 per cent from 20 per cent of profits. However, in the light of the furlough scheme being increased back to levels seen at the beginning of the first lockdown, there is a possibility the grant may well be raised further in line with furlough payments.
So, now we can only now hope that these latest lockdown measures will stop the exponential growth of the virus and pause its spread for long enough for a vaccine or more effective treatments to be developed, saving thousands of lives. Only then will life return to something more normal.
In the meantime, as the PM says “The single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus is to stay at home, to protect the NHS and save lives.”
How will the second lockdown impact your business? Let us know…