FEBRUARY 2021 UPDATE

Despite our local branches being closed to visit members of the public we still remain open for business.

Following the First Ministers announcement we advise of the following Government Guidelines and regulations (Source: www.gov.wales. Last Updated – 11 January 2021). Please be advised that these guidelines and regulations may be subject to change.

WHEN YOU CAN MOVE HOME

You may now:

  • move home
  • market a residential property for sale or rent and prepare a residential property for persons to move into
  • view a residential property


Key things to consider are:

  • Use virtual viewings of properties where possible
  • Follow the guidance when physical viewings take place
  • Follow government advice on social distancing during a viewing
  • The wearing of masks by all parties during a viewing
  • Practice good hand hygiene and ‘touch free’ viewings
  • Thoroughly clean properties before and after viewings

This guidance provides important public health information to ensure that key activities associated with moving home, such as viewing properties, happen safely. A home includes residential park homes and this guidance also applies to custom and self-builders looking to acquire a plot or a property to renovate or to demolish. This guidance also provides some recommendations to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible.

This guidance was accurate at time of publication. It will be updated to reflect changes in restrictions made through amendments to the regulations.

The process of finding and moving into a home has had to adapt to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible. In practice, this means minimising household mixing indoors and contact with surfaces.

Everyone should seek to do as much of the process online as possible, such as virtual property viewings initially, and ensuring that, where possible, any current residents have left the property prior to any in person viewings being carried out; the wearing of masks by all parties during a viewing; following government advice on social distancing during a viewing; practicing good hand hygiene; and ‘touch free’ viewings.

No one should attend at any property or meet with anyone outside their household or extended household if they have symptoms, are self-isolating because they have symptoms or have tested positive or are a contact of someone who is self-isolating, or have been told to self-isolate.

We encourage all parties involved to be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay home moves, where, for example, someone becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process or has to self-isolate.

You should consider whether you need to make provisions in contracts to manage these risks. More detail on progressing the individual elements of the home buying and selling or rental process, plus how this applies to different groups, is set out in the next section.

PEOPLE SELF-ISOLATING OR HAVING TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS

Moving home is not appropriate whilst you pose a direct risk of transmitting coronavirus. People who either have coronavirus or are self-isolating with their family member, household or extended household should not leave their home to either move home, or undertake related activities and should strictly follow the self-isolating, or have been told to self-isolate guidance and apply for a test where required.

If you are contractually committed to move home, you should delay your move until all members of your household have come to the end of their self-isolation period as set out in the guidance. All parties involved in home buying and selling should seek to agree amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals where someone in a chain or their family member is self-isolating or has tested positive for coronavirus. Should a move be essential for people in this category please contact your relevant public health teams for advice.

PREPARING TO BUY, SELL OR MOVE HOME

You can put your home on the market and start to look for properties you want to move into.

  • you can begin to market your home and property agents are able to visit in order to take photos or videos of the property, but they should do so in accordance with workplace guidance for employers and employees: COVID-19 and the physical distancing in the workplace guidance. All reasonable measures must be taken in workplaces and premises to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus
  • to help prevent the spread of infection, you should do the majority of your property searching online
  • Viewings can take place but, where possible, current residents should leave the property prior to the viewings to avoid different households coming into contact with one another inside
  • we recommend that properties are cleaned thoroughly before and after viewings take place. You can get more information about cleaning in non-healthcare settings on GOV.UK. as usual, you can also start to bring together the documentation necessary to sell your property (more information on these documents is available in the government’s guidance on how to sell homes)

PROPERTY VIEWINGS

Physical viewings can take place. The following advice on prioritising virtual visits, should be followed.

You should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person, in order to minimise public health risks, by ensuring you are visiting only those properties that appear to be most suitable to meet your needs and preferences. Physical viewings can take place, but there are ‘key points to consider,’ which are further explored below, to do so safely.

If you are a property owner selling your property, your agent will advise on the process, and how to sell your property safely including how property viewings can be carried out safely. Physical viewings cannot take place if you or any of the people you live with have symptoms or have tested positive and are self-isolating, of if you or anyone you live with have been identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive.

If you are selling your property privately, and managing viewings yourself, you should refer to the guidance contained within this document and the housing sector guidance.

Key points to consider are:

  • you should search for properties online in the first instance
  • initial viewings should be done virtually and property landlords and agents should help you to do this
  • all physical viewings of properties should be by appointment only and social distancing rules should be followed by everyone involved
  • properties should be thoroughly cleaned before and after viewing
  • physical viewings of properties should be limited to members of the same household, and ideally, where possible, the adult members of that household only (or one member from each household if the home move involves the household and extended household), thereby limiting the number of visitors including children, viewing a property at any one time
  • any work in someone’s home should be carried out in line with guidance on working in other people’s homes
  • the agent or landlord can accompany the viewing
  • social distancing measures must be adhered to at all times and face coverings should be worn
  • no open house viewings should take place
  • only the person accompanying the viewing should be in attendance; this may be the agent or landlord or a single member of the occupying household – where possible, everyone else should vacate the property to avoid mixing with member of another household indoors.
  • whilst viewings are taking place where the current occupiers of the property cannot vacate the property, even for a short time, they should make efforts to minimise contact with those viewing the property, for example, by being in a different room from these individuals and maintaining social distancing at all times.
  • the agent or landlord must travel to the property separately from the household viewing the property; car sharing is to be avoided
  • Viewings should be ‘touch free’, the person accompanying the viewing should be the only person to open doors, switch on lights etc. and should follow good hand hygiene procedures to minimise risk of spreading the virus. Everyone should avoid touching surfaces, wash their hands at the earliest opportunity following the visit and bring and use their own hand sanitiser
  • once the viewing has taken place, the landlord or agent responsible for accompanying the viewing should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate
  • when you enter someone else’s home, or if someone enters your home, the guidance on entering other people’s homes should be followed.

HOUSES OF MULTIPLE OCCUPATION

PROPERTY VIEWINGS OF ROOMS IN HOUSES OF MULTIPLE OCCUPATION (HMOS) AND OTHER SHARED ACCOMMODATION SETTINGS THAT SHARE A BATHROOM, KITCHEN OR BOTH

Viewings of empty rooms in otherwise occupied HMOs or shared accommodation settings can take place, but additional precautions are necessary.

In addition to the areas outlined above in relation to property viewing your landlord or agent should:

  • wherever possible, agree with other residents who live in the accommodation a time for the property viewing to take place
  • where feasible, it should be agreed for the other residents to avoid being in shared spaces e.g. kitchens, bathrooms, living areas etc. whilst the property viewing is taking place
  • if the occupants of the property have been advised to self-isolate, viewings should not take place until the period of self-isolation is complete for all of the occupants

PROPERTY HOME MOVES INTO HMOS AND OTHER SHARED ACCOMMODATION SETTINGS THAT SHARE A BATHROOM, KITCHEN OR BOTH

Home moves into HMOs and shared accommodation settings are allowed, but Government advice should be followed:

  • you should not move into an HMO or other shared accommodation settings if any of the current tenants are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or self-isolating. Before you plan your move, you should check to make sure that this is the case. Your landlord or letting agent may able to help you with this
  • you should not move into an HMO or other shared accommodation settings if you yourself are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or self-isolating
  • if you are extremely vulnerable on medical grounds if you catch coronavirus (previously called ‘shielding’), you should consider whether moving home into an HMO or other shared accommodation is appropriate based on your medical needs, and seek medical advice if necessary

Where a home move into an HMO or shared accommodation setting is necessary and other people already reside at the property, additional precautions are necessary:

  • good hand washing and respiratory hygiene practices should be followed, and you should wash your hands regularly
  • all hard surfaces should be cleaned with normal disinfectant, especially high touch areas such as door handles, window handles, WC handles, taps, basins and work surfaces
  • you should refer to the advice on cleaning and disinfection

MAKING OFFERS OR RESERVATIONS

You are free to make or accept an offer or reserve a property as normal, but:

  • there is a risk that parties may need to delay their move because someone is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating. Where needed, your legal adviser should advise you and help make sure that any contracts or agreements are as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk
  • where a further visit to a property is required by the prospective new owner, guidance provided in the property viewings section should be adhered to
  • purchasers may also want to send in tradespeople to carry out inspections. Where possible these should be scheduled with one person visiting the property at any time. No tradespeople should enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating, or where they or a member of their household has symptoms or is self-isolating
  • where a tradesperson is visiting the property, the occupier should maintain social distancing, wash their hands regularly and minimise contact as far as possible, for example by staying in another room. These visits should be carried out in line with workplace guidance for employers and employees: COVID-19.

PROPERTY SEARCHES AND SURVEYS

Your legal representative should be able to carry out searches on your property online in order to progress your transaction and you can contact them to discuss likely timescales.

Surveyors including valuers can undertake surveys of the property you wish to purchase in line with the guidance below. There are no restrictions on the types of survey that can be carried out and you should talk to your surveyor to understand the most appropriate type of survey for the home you intend to purchase.

On custom and self-build projects, surveyors can visit plots you wish to purchase and undertake valuations to support the release of staged payment mortgages.

  • surveyors should not enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating, or they or a member of their household has symptoms or is self-isolating
  • inspections should take place by appointment only, with one person visiting the property at any time, where feasible. The Welsh Government has adopted five principles for workplace safety, with full details available in workplace guidance for employers and employees: COVID-19. Surveyors should follow the physical distancing in the workplace guidance to minimise contact with the household

AGREEING TO MOVE

Once you have agreed to move home by exchanging contracts or signing a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement to move. We encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay moves if needed, for example, if someone becomes ill with coronavirus during the moving process or has to self-isolate. You should not expect to move into any home where people are ill or self-isolating. In addition:

  • we recommend that the property you are moving should have been thoroughly cleaned before you move in. You can get more information about cleaning in non-healthcare settings on GOV.UK
  • your legal adviser should be able to help you to ensure that any contract you enter into has sufficient flexibility to allow the purchase to be delayed in the event that an individual in one of the parties contracts coronavirus or has to self-isolate
  • we encourage you to be as flexible as possible if you are asked to delay your move, and in turn, you can speak to your legal advisor about this

MOVING YOUR BELONGINGS, INCLUDING THROUGH REMOVAL COMPANIES

When moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing as you can. Where possible, you should clean your belongings with standard domestic cleaning products before they are handled by others, including removal companies.

Removal companies are able to operate, although they may need to adjust usual procedures in order to ensure moves happen as safely as possible. If you are using a removal company, you should contact them as early as possible in advance of your move.

Whilst the removal company crew are in your home, you should ensure any internal doors are open and seek to minimise your contact with the operatives. Anyone involved in any aspect of the home moving process should practice social distancing in line with public health advice.

All parties should wash their hands or use hand sanitiser and avoid touching surfaces where possible to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus. You should not provide refreshments but you should ensure they have access to hand washing facilities, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely afterwards. Towels should not be shared. If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the removal firm as they may be able to put in place extra measures.

Make sure that you tell the removal company if you or a member of your family are shielding or self-isolating as they will not be able to progress with the home move and it will need to be rescheduled. Ask them how they will maintain the social distancing requirements, make sure that you know what to do when they arrive to keep you and your household safe. You should ask what measures the removal company will take to adhere with Government guidance, and what protective equipment they will use.

If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the professionals involved, your landlord, or removers as they may be able to put in place extra measures.

MOVING OUT OF YOUR HOME

If you are purchasing a home, starting or ending a new tenancy agreement, you should check the agreed process for leaving the property you are moving from as there might be new requirements on cleaning and dropping keys off, for example.

If you are a social or private sector tenant, your landlord or agent will be able to give you more information.

If you are purchasing a property, you should agree the process before completing on the property to ensure all parties are clear on what is expected.

MOVING FROM WALES TO OTHER PARTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM

Anyone who is in Wales, whether resident or travelling here, is bound by the rules in Wales. Under the rules that apply in Wales travelling to move home, or to view a property in connection with its purchase, sale, letting or rental, is a reasonable excuse to enter Wales. Similarly, the rules in Wales allow people to travel to other parts of the United Kingdom for the purposes of moving home or to view a property in connection with its purchase, sale, letting or rental.

If your move involves a move into or out of Wales you must ensure that you comply with the rules applicable in Wales as well as any rules that apply in the area you are moving to or from.