Letting agencies can reopen their offices, viewings are permitted, show homes can reopen, removal companies can resume their activities and other essential parts of the sales and letting process can be restarted in England from 13 May 2020.
All buyers and renters will now be able to complete purchases and view properties in person, while estate agents, conveyancers and removals firms can return to work while following social distancing guidelines, confirmed the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
The updated guidance on moving home notes that "the process of finding and moving into a new home will need to be different, given 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 initial viewings; vacating your current property whilst other people are shown around; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in."
Agents should consider how and when to reopen their premises, given government guidance on safer working, and inform customers and their own staff about their procedures, so that they are safe throughout the sales process.
More than 450,000 people had to put their moving plans on hold as a result of the lockdown, according to gov.uk, and the Housing Secretary hopes that the changes will “re-start the housing market”.
“Our clear plan will enable people to move home safely, covering each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals. Our step-by-step plan is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved,” said the Housing Secretary. “This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”
The Government will “continue to listen to all parts of the housing industry to see what further support may be required”. So far, measures have included three-month mortgage holidays, including for landlords and the extended notice period on tenant evictions, both of which remain in place.