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Can I move house during the coronavirus pandemic?

Yes unless you are self-isolating, infected with Covid-19 or within a vulnerable group.

The Government has issued updated guidance on 13 May providing comprehensive advice to reflect the move to relax lock down restrictions and encourage house sales. The advice can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

Key points to note

Unless you are self-isolating, infected with covid 19 or vulnerable, the guidance states that you can move house, provided you comply with social distancing measures at every stage, whether visiting a seller’s house or accepting visitors or professional for viewings, surveys and removals.

All businesses such as surveyors, estate agents and removals, linked to the housing market may now operate, provided that social distancing measures are observed and safe working procedures (see link below) are followed.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes

House viewing should be conducted virtually wherever possible, and open-house viewings should not be conducted. Houses should be cleaned before and after visitors come, and home owners should vacate during viewings and surveys to minimise the chance of contact. Doors and windows should be left open, and sinks made available for hand washing.

Agents can supervise, provided they maintain social distancing.

New homes show houses should be operated on an appointment basis, and cleaned between viewings, with hand washing facilities made available. Staff should adopt safe working procedures. Housebuilder sale-staff, tradespeople, fitters and NHBC inspectors can all attend to facilitate viewings, fit out, commission equipment and inspect completed homes.

Solicitors and Estate Agents remain unable to open their premises to members of the public, for the time being. Government guidance advises that solicitors adopt special covid 19 clauses to permit flexibility on completion dates where parties become unable to move or complete for reasons connected with the pandemic.

The Law Society in conjunction with other trade and professional bodies in the sector, has published links to pan-industry guidance on the re-opening of the housing market:

https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/press-releases/industry-issues-guidance-kickstart-housing-market/

Related FAQs

Which products and services are affected?

Initially, the relaxation applied to supermarkets and food suppliers. This was subsequently widened to apply to other businesses, permitting them to collaborate where necessary to respond to the crisis in the interests of consumers.

What does the guidance suggest?

The guidance asks parties to act responsibly and fairly in performing and enforcing contracts. They are encouraged to act in a spirit of cooperation to achieve practical, just and equitable outcomes. In essence, rather than sticking strictly to the contract as agreed, they are encouraged to give each other leeway to deliver performance differently than they are required to do under the contract.

Do I need Planning Permission to change the use of a warehouse or factory unit to a temporary mortuary?

Mortuaries are a sui generis use, unless ancillary to some other use of land, a hospital for example.

Sui generis uses are not within any Use Class. Consequently planning permission is required for the:

  • Change in the use to a sui generis use
  • Subsequently for the change in the use to an alternative use, whether that be another sui generis use or a use within a Use Class

Acknowledging the above, if the scale of the use is above de minimis, planning permission is likely to be required to change the use of a warehouse or factory unit into a temporary mortuary.

Should planning control be breached, a local planning authority must decide whether to take enforcement action or not. That enforcement is discretionary was recently reiterated in a Ministerial Statement issued on 13 March 2020 a link to which is below.

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2020-03-13/HCWS159/

Depending on the form of the enforcement action, there could be a right of appeal.

What do I do if I have been endorsed for a Global Talent, Start-up or Innovator visa but my endorsement is due to expire?

Endorsing bodies are still processing applications for these visa types and endorsements are still being issued. You usually have to apply for your visa within 3 months of receipt of your endorsement. In most cases you will still be able to submit your application online within this timeframe however it will not be completed as visa application centres across the world are closed. If you cannot apply because you haven’t been able to travel and your endorsement has expired, you may still be eligible for a visa. You should make your application as planned and UKVI will consider all applications on a case by case basis.

What can suppliers of goods and services do to minimize risk?

If suppliers still wish to terminate the contract, they must contact the directors or the officeholder dealing with the insolvency process and obtain their approval to terminate the contract – which, of course, might not be given.

If the continued obligation under the contract to supply goods/services to the customer would place the supplier in financial hardship the supplier can apply to court for permission to terminate the contract.  This will involve time and legal expense.