The Scottish Government has released information and guidelines for those who are moving home, viewing properties, and renting or mortgaging a property under current coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Whilst home moves are permitted during lockdown, these guidelines emphasise the importance of safe conduct to ensure that all home move-related activities can be carried out safely.
Moving Home and Viewing Properties
Current coronavirus regulations state that people are permitted to move homes, including between different areas/levels, provided that steps have been taken to ensure that the process can be carried out as safely and risk-free as possible. These guidelines encompass the processes and activities involved in connection with moving home and property management, including:
- Moving home
- Visiting an estate or letting agent, housing association, council office, developer sales office, or show home (where necessary)
- Visiting a residential property with the intent to potentially buy or rent the property (although, where possible, these viewings should be carried out digitally, rather than in person)
- Visiting a property to fulfil any commitments or responsibilities required for the sale or rental of that property
- Preparing a residential property to move in
Despite these allowances, guidance remains to stay as close to home as possible when viewing or visiting a residential property and, where possible, to postpone or use alternative methods, in order to protect the NHS and mitigate coronavirus risks where possible. The Scottish government has issued advice for those who work in relevant businesses or organisations, which can be found on the gov.scot webpage on creating and maintaining safe working environments during Covid-19.
Consumer Advice and Guidance
Moving home is permitted under Covid restrictions, but all those involved in the moving process (potential tenants, landlords, realtors, estate agents, etc.), must follow guidelines such as adapting practices and procedures, to make the process as safe as possible. Physical viewings should be avoided where possible; if a virtual viewing is not possible, viewings should be by appointment only and precautions such as social distancing, use of face coverings/masks, non-contact with physical surfaces, and hand washing/sanitising should be implemented.
The number of potential tenants at property viewings should be limited as much as possible in order for physical distancing and other safety measures to be carried out. Viewers should be accompanied to property visits only by other members of their household, or by a property agent, private/social landlord, or representative. If children are present at a visit, they should be prevented from touching surfaces and ensure that their hands remain sanitised. If you and your household are moving between homes, you should try to do as much of the packing/physical moving yourself as possible. If this is not possible, removal firms should be contacted in advance.
Advice for Property Owners
If members of the public are viewing your residential property while you are still living there, you should ensure that all doors are opened, and that all surfaces and door handles are sanitised before any viewers enter your property. Current guidance states that, where possible, property owners should vacate the premises while viewings take place, unless they are conducting the viewing themselves.
If you have concerns about potential risk of infection or spread of coronavirus, you should contact to the professionals involved in your property management, such as a letting agent, property agent, or house movers – they may be able to put extra safety measures into place which may make you feel more secure and safe in your home viewings.
It is crucially important that every individual involved in the process of moving (at whichever stage or level) follows government guidelines on physical distancing handwashing and the use of face coverings, in order to mitigate and minimise the risk of spread of infection. The best way to ensure that your moving process remains safe is to stay up to date with advice and regulations released by the government, on keeping yourself and others safe.
Advice for Businesses and Organisations
Property agents are permitted, under current coronavirus restrictions, to keep premises open for clients or arrangements which must take place in an office; however, business practices should be moved to a virtual setting where possible and employees should be encouraged to work from home. Specifically, the Scottish government has advised businesses to move as many roles and functions to a home environment as possible, and employees should only work in an office setting where absolutely necessary. Employers should follow current guidance issued by the Scottish government on creating a safe workplace environment, in order to be aware of any changes and stay up to date with ways to protect themselves and their staff.
Property Agents can continue to fulfil their role in supporting clients and marketing properties – working from home as much as possible – and should inform staff and customers about safety procedures and measures, in order to mitigate potential health risks. Some measures which property agents should follow include:
- Checking whether any party is shielding, showing symptoms of Covid-19, or has been advised to self-isolate before proceeding with property or office visits. If they are concerned that a party may present a health risk to themselves or others, all visits or meetings should be delayed.
- In areas under level 4 restrictions or temporary lockdown, agents should consider postponing property viewings or delaying home moves, where possible. An appointment system should be implemented for visits to property viewings or offices, and open house viewings should not go ahead.
- Clients should be strongly advised to view a property virtually in the first instance, only visiting properties which they are seriously considering in person. Agents are permitted to accompany clients to physical viewings, but should attempt to minimise contact with all clients and home occupiers at all times; government guidance on physical distancing, face coverings, and hand sanitisation should be upheld at all times.
For more guidance and support directed at property agents, either visit gov.scot’s webpage on ‘guidance on moving home’, or Propertymark’s ‘Guidance for Agents’ webpage.
Advice on Home Moves in the Social and Private Rented Sector
For landlords, tenant, staff, and contractor safety should be the first priority when managing a home move. The Scottish government has produced ‘guidance on allocations for the housing sector’, providing useful advice and guidelines which landlords are required to uphold. This guidance includes (but is not limited to):
- Viewings should not go ahead in properties where tenants may be showing Covid symptoms, or self-isolating. If tenants are considered to be at ‘high risk’ from Covid-19, landlords should avoid allowing viewings to take place in the property. Landlords should check, ahead of time, whether any tenants or household members are symptomatic, self-isolating, or shielding before going ahead with any property visits.
- Tenants must be given appropriate notice before landlords or agents visit the property and should not enter the property without the tenant’s consent, except in emergency circumstances.
- Properties should be deep-cleaned in the period of time between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. The government has issued guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings – this guide should be consulted.