Despite the daily briefings, it still feels unclear how the lockdown will affect renters. If you’ve already signed a rental contract and paid your fees or if you were looking to move out, below I’ve outlined the key information for renters.
Does moving count as an ‘essential’ activity?
It is a bit unclear. In some circumstances, yes. This includes if you have already signed a contract or are needing accommodation where moving is essential and there is no way to avoid it.
What are the government and key people recommending?
The government is recommending people put any housing changes on hold. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove suggests you should postpone your house moves, but noted that there are specific circumstances where this will not be possible. When questioned a government spokesperson outlined “If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus."
The British Association of Removals (BAR) is strongly recommending its members to complete any moves then cancel or suspend any that they haven’t begun.
Will property agencies be open during this time?
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have outlined that real estate agents are not 'essential businesses' and should close their offices.
Physical branches should be closed at this time as it is considered ‘non-essential’ however your agent or landlord may be remotely working as listings are still being put up on property sites.
What if you have already paid your deposit and signed the contract?
The steps you should take:
- Get a clear idea of your contract and what areas you will need to negotiate
Even though you may have just signed a tenancy, there is no ‘cooling off period’. Tenancies agreed in advance are usually binding whether you move in or not.
As outlined by Shelter, if you already have a tenancy agreement, you can only end the fixed term contract if:
- you have a break clause which is an agreement of when you can change your contract. There may be conditions you have to meet, contact Citizen’s Advice if you want to go through your contract.
- Negotiate an early termination with your agent or landlord
Due to the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19, it’s about negotiating. You don’t want to be paying double rent or to not have a home.
Review what makes you feel comfortable and is essential under your own circumstances, you’ll need this before you approach negotiating with your agent or landlord.
2. Talk to both your new and old property agency or landlord.
When you have this information, it’s time to have an open discussion with both your current and potentially new agent or landlord. You’ll want to discuss compromises including move in dates.
The Law Society recommends the following points to structure a discussion on if there can be delays to your move:
- request for properties be decontaminated
- refuse to vacate on completion because you are currently in isolation
- outline if you are experiencing delays with banking, staff absences, problems with removal companies or difficultly in obtaining witnesses to check and sign contracts due to self-isolation
Keep in mind you have the right to rent a safe home and to be treated fairly. If you need help with templating emails, we have some available here.
3. If you are needing further assistance, contact Shelter for support
Shelter can provide further guidance to your unique situation.
What effect is this having on property listings?
SpareRoom has reported seeing a 15% increase in adverts from agents and a 12% uplift from landlords which is being driven by short-term Airbnbs changing over to longer term rents. With the lockdowns in place, the decrease in tourism is meaning that property owners are looking for long term security.
It’s worth thinking about your long-term budget and all the costs associated with moving house. If you’re needing support or deposit options, sign up to our waitlist here.
If you still need to move or find a property, what can you do?
Physical viewings and house moves have been banned following Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement. To find a property during the coronavirus social distancing, you may consider:
- Organising video tours of properties to prevent the spread
- If moving in with new flatmates, arrange a hangout with everyone
- Consider if there is any way that you can delay moving including if you are moving for work, can you work from home and readjust your move until after confirmation the lockdown laws have been lifted
- We'll have a moving guide up soon but be sure to ask about COVID-19 precautions. This may include cleaning or allowing changes to your contract if there are extensions to lockdown
It’s a tough time for renters and I hope that you are staying safe. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I’ll try and find the answers.