Although many coronavirus restrictions have eased, regulations and guidance remain in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and caution and restraint are still necessary. While the virus continues to circulate, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious.
General advice to industry and those moving home
We urge everyone involved in the home buying and selling process to continue to follow good hygiene practices, including regular hand-washing, ventilation, cleaning and considering the use of face coverings, in particular, circumstances such as short periods in enclosed spaces. These measures will help prevent the spread of infection.
Property agents, conveyancers and other professionals may choose to retain some modifications to how they work to reduce the risk from COVID-19. These changes could impact your move and may include initial virtual viewings before in-person viewings, asking you to vacate your current property during viewings, and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else views it or moves in. We would ask that you cooperate with these measures where they are in place.
How businesses involved in the home moving process can mitigate risk
All businesses should follow the government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses. As well as government guidance, we encourage all professionals and tradespeople to speak to their professional or representative bodies and familiarise themselves with any up to date guidance that these bodies have prepared for their specific sectors.
Current guidance remains that you should continue to work from home where you can.
Employers are encouraged to consider the risk within their workplace and begin planning a gradual return to the office, or other place of work, for employees.
As workers return to their workplaces, employers should continue to follow the Staying safe at work guidance.
While offices are open to the public, businesses should advise customers that it is mandatory to wear a face covering when going into or inside the public areas of any enclosed publically-accessible premises. People who work in the public areas of any enclosed publically-accessible premises must also wear a face covering, unless they are separated from members of the public by a partition.
Please read the information on requirements for face coverings and exemptions.
Private rented and social housing sectors
The Department has produced a guidance document setting out general advice and information predominantly for tenants and landlords in the private rented sector which can be accessed at COVID-19 Guidance for Private Sector Landlords and Tenants.
The Department has also produced a guidance document to support tenants and landlords in the social housing rented sector which can be accessed at COVID-19 Social Sector Guidance.
Self-isolating and quarantine
For full details on the requirements around self-isolation, quarantine and close contacts please read Coronavirus (COVID-19): self-isolating and close contacts | nidirect
All parties involved in home buying and selling should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change completion dates where someone in a chain or their family member is self-isolating or has tested positive for coronavirus.
Once you have exchanged contracts or signed a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase or rent the property. We continue to encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves if necessary; for example if someone involved in the transaction becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process, or has to self-isolate.
If you are about to enter into a legally binding contract, you should discuss the possible implications of COVID-19 with your legal professional and consider making contractual provisions or other necessary measures to manage these risks.
You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have COVID-19 or are self-isolating. There is a greater risk that home moves may need to be delayed if someone in the transaction shows symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating.
Coming into close contact with other people
While most legal restrictions on contact with others are no longer in place, we still urge caution and personal responsibility in situations involving physical contact with others.
As noted above it remains a legal requirement to wear a face covering when going into or inside the public areas of any enclosed publically-accessible premises. In other circumstances, you should also consider wearing face coverings in enclosed areas, such as when viewing or attending a property. Please read the information on requirements for face coverings and exemptions.
Aside from self-isolation rules as detailed above, there are currently regulations in place requiring a risk assessment where an indoor gathering of more than 15 people takes place. We would, however, continue to recommend that buyers take advantage of any opportunities to view homes remotely in the first instance before committing to view in person and then only to physically inspect properties they have strong interest in.
It is important that everyone continues to follow the safe hygiene practices as described above, and you should let in fresh air if people are viewing your property.
Tradespeople in the home
Tradespeople can continue to work in other people’s homes unless customers or tradespeople are self-isolating, as detailed above.
Members of the public should ensure their homes are clean and safe before tradespeople enter. This may involve cleaning items being carried by removals firms, wiping surfaces such as worktops and door handles, letting fresh air into rooms, and seeking to delay work if either party is showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Going further than this guidance
The above guidance describes the minimum best practices you should follow to help keep yourself and others safe.
If you want additional measures or reasonable conditions in place for your move, please talk to the appropriate business about how to proceed.
These measures could include, for example, placing a cap on the number of visitors viewing your home at any one time. These measures are at the discretion of the homeowner and we would ask you to accommodate their wishes.
Agents and other industry professionals should ensure their clients are aware of and comply with these additional requirements, where they do not discriminate against protected characteristics.