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:
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.
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:
Employees with visas should be treated consistently with the wider workforce. When their furlough leave ends, they should return to work and their pay should be reinstated. If you agree a pay cut or reduction in working hours, you need to ensure that sponsored workers are still earning above the minimum salary for their role and working in excess of the minimum number of hours (see above).
The flexible furlough scheme is now in place and can be used for employees who have previously been furloughed for a consecutive period of at least three weeks. The flexible furlough scheme remains in place until 31 October 2020.
The guidance is helpful and is likely to be useful to businesses as they seek to respond to the crisis and to restart their business activities as lockdown is eased. However, there remain outstanding questions. For example, can collaboration to prevent widespread insolvencies be viewed as in the interest of consumers? Businesses need to remain aware of the extremely high stakes involved in relation to competition law. Businesses contemplating collaboration with competitors should take legal advice before doing so.
£370 million will be available to support small and medium-sized charities who are at the heart of local communities and which are making a big difference during the outbreak, including those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice. These monies will be distributed by organisations including the National Lottery Community Fund for those in England. It is understood these monies will need to be applied for. The application system for the National Lottery Community Fund grant pot is expected to be operational within a period of weeks.
As mentioned earlier, if an agency is involved you must send them a copy of the status determination statement for each contractor, and they will also have the right to dispute the outcome.
If the agency pays the contractor, they will be responsible for the operation of PAYE and NIC’s deductions and any apprenticeship levy. The agency may try to recover these costs from the end user client.
If workers are supplied by an agency or umbrella company and are already treated as employees by the agency, they will remain unaffected by IR35.
If your 30-day visa to travel to the UK (vignette) has expired or is about to, you can request a replacement free of charge until the end of 2020 by contacting the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. This can be granted with new and extended validity dates to allow travel once you are able to.