Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on moving home

Published: 9 Jul 2020
Last updated: 1 Oct 2020 - see all updates

Guidance on housing (sales and rental) in Scotland during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Contents
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on moving home
Advice to businesses

Advice to businesses

All businesses should follow the Scottish Government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19 and other relevant guidance including Health Protection Scotland (HPS) COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settingsRemote working remains the default position for those who can.

This is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Businesses may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.  

We are working with the UK Government to align our approach and guidance, where possible and on the basis of scientific evidence on the levels of infection in Scotland. This guidance is intended to work alongside UK Government guidance and aims to assist employers, businesses and their workforce ensure a safe working environment and readers will recognise consistent themes within this guidance with the UK Government’s Working Safely during COVID-19 publications.

Scottish Government has engaged with industry and trade unions on the basis that both have essential roles to play in planning for restart. Protecting the health of employees has been at the heart of this joint approach which is fundamental to establishing shared confidence around the safety of returning to places of work and supporting a recovery.

Our minimum expectations across five key areas will need to be considered as part of planning for a restart while minimising the transmission of the virus:

  • assessing risk - involving the workforce in a risk based approach to a safer workplace
  • workforce planning - supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not
  • changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce
  • protecting your workforce and those who come on-site
  • training, communication and compliance

Companies should ensure their health and safety professionals and representatives have the skills, training and knowledge to understand the risks associated with COVID-19. Where companies and their workforce do not have access to these skills in-house, they should together explore external support options to put in place appropriate mitigation measures, for example through their trade association, health and safety consultancies or trade union health and safety representatives.  All can help companies understand the risks associated with different activities and situations within individual companies and offer the support managers and workers may require. 

Keeping safe

It is important that businesses should undertake a robust and ongoing risk based assessment, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe. Each business is different and should consider how best to apply this guidance in their circumstances.

To help you decide which actions to take, you should carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. As a minimum, we expect a risk-based approach to be followed to protect health and safety of employees and ensure the longer-term economic viability of the business and employees to be fully engaged in that process, through trade union or workforce representatives.

HSE is a key regulator for the control of COVID-19. You can find further information on the HSE website to help you work safely (be COVID-secure) and manage the risk associated with running your business at this time. HSE has published a short guide to working safely during the COVID-19 outbreak.

You should make a full risk assessment and consider all measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19, including revised cleaning schedules, altered working patterns and physical distancing. Consideration of health circumstances and protected characteristics should be given as part of the risk assessment process. Permission should be sought from individuals before collecting any information on health conditions of those within their household.

You must take all reasonable measures to introduce work practices that ensure 2 metres of physical distancing between workers.  Where this is not possible and work is essential, your risk assessment should identify and use other measures to keep yourself and other workers safe. Examples include:

  • assigning one person per work area
  • reducing the number of people in the work area
  • assigning and keeping people to shift teams (a cohort)
  • keeping the number of people working less than 2 metres apart to a minimum
  • using screens to create a barrier between people
  • avoid people working face-to-face, for example working side-by-side; and
  • providing additional PPE, see below

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Routine (business as usual) PPE must continue to be worn for health and safety where appropriate.

PPE is not expected to be needed outside of health care settings for purposes of controlling the risk of COVID-19. However, if a risk assessment indicates a higher level of contamination or transmission, then the need for additional PPE should be considered.

Health Protection Scotland guidance offers advice on the use of PPE, confirming workplaces should use PPE consistent with local policies and in line with measures justified by a risk assessment. Read more: COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings.

Both the Scottish Government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend a risk-based approach focused on a hierarchy of control which seeks to:

  • mitigate risks
  • address risks at source
  • adapt workplaces to individual needs
  • ensure adequate staff training around processes to manage the risk
  • use PPE, where required

Where PPE is deemed necessary, an adequate supply and quality must be maintained which is provided free of charge to workers and which must fit properly. 

Use of PPE is not a substitute for physical distancing practices, which must be maintained.

Transport

People can travel for work. If not possible to walk or cycle to work, then ideally people should only travel in a car either alone or with members of their household. Wherever possible, workers from different households should not share vehicles.

If a shared vehicle (minibus, coach etc.) has to be used to transport workers, the number of workers in each vehicle should be minimised. Keep everyone safe by maintaining the 2 metre physical distance rule. Where impossible to maintain 2 metre distancing, avoid physical contact and face away from others, keep the time people spend within 2 metres of others as short as possible.

Shared vehicles should be kept well ventilated and should be cleaned properly after each trip, e.g. handles and key touch points disinfected. The occupants should not touch their face and should wash their hands with soap and water, immediately before and again after each journey.

Employers

As an employer, you must protect people from harm. An individual risk assessment guidance and tool has been developed help staff and managers consider the specific risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. It is relevant to all staff, but will be particularly relevant to those who are returning to work after shielding, those who are returning to normal duties after COVID-19 related restrictions, those who are returning to the workplace after working from home or anyone who has a concern about a particular vulnerability to COVID-19.

Given that there is some evidence which suggests that COVID-19 may impact disproportionately on some groups (Minority Ethnic communities), employers should ensure that Occupational Health Service provide practical support to Minority Ethnic staff, particularly where they are anxious about protecting themselves and their families. All Minority Ethnic staff with underlying health conditions and disabilities, who are over 70, or who are pregnant should be individually risk-assessed, and appropriate reasonable or workplace adjustments should be made.

You must put safe systems of work in place and review them regularly. When the advice or guidance from the Scottish Government changes, you should quickly inform workers of the impact and change things accordingly in the workplace. 

You must consult all your workers on health and safety. It is a two-way process, allowing workers to raise concerns and influence decisions on managing health and safety.

It is more important than ever to ensure workers are treated fairly. The Scottish Government and STUC have agreed a joint statement about this.

You should regularly provide workers with information, training, instruction and supervision so that they can work safely. 

You should check the health status of each worker before they start work each day.

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) have provided COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings which reiterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. HSE has produced guidance about talking with your workers about COVID-19.

As well as government guidance, we encourage all professionals to speak to their representative bodies and familiarise themselves with the guidance that these bodies have prepared for their specific sectors. These are listed in the related links section.  For public health and infection prevention and control, the HPS guidance (above) should be followed.

It is important that all businesses work together to ensure we minimise the spread of infection and we expect all sectors to consider how they can operate in a way which minimises the need for face to face contact.

We would also encourage businesses to ensure that customers and their staff are familiar with relevant guidance and what may be involved in marketing properties and moving home.

Property agents

Property agents can continue to support clients in the marketing of properties and can now open premises for business. They should consider how and when to reopen their premises and follow the Scottish Government Guidance for businesses and employers. Property agents should inform customers and their own staff about their safer working procedures, in order to minimise the public health risk as far as possible.

You might find it helpful to refer to our sector guidance for easing lockdown. Although not aimed at the housing market per se, it sets out how physical distancing and good hygiene can be delivered in a range of circumstances. A link to guidance issued by Propertymark is included in the related links page.

  • agents should check whether any party is at high clinical risk, showing symptoms of COVID-19 or has been asked to self-isolate before going ahead with any visits to properties or offices. If they are, visits should be delayed.
  • agents should operate using an appointment system for visits to their offices and when conducting viewings
  • agents should not carry out any open house viewings
  • agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically visit properties which they have a serious interest in
  • agents can accompany clients on physical viewings but should seek to minimise contact with clients and home occupiers at all times and follow government guidelines on physical distancing and the use of face coverings
  • where agents are not required to accompany the client, they should make sure that both buyers and sellers clearly understand how the viewing should be conducted safely.
  • agents should not drive clients to appointments
  • all parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the properties, with internal doors opened and surfaces also having been wiped down before they enter. If agents or clients need to wash their hands in the property, separate towels or paper towels should be used if possible and washed or disposed of safely after use.

Housebuilders

Housebuilders can continue with sales during this period but should ensure that they follow the latest Scottish Government and construction industry guidance, and refer to industry guidance including on sales and marketing, see the related links page.

Housebuilders can continue to take online reservations during this period and can work with their customers to line up sales for completion in the future.  Sales teams should follow the Scottish Government and industry guidance.  Housebuilders should inform consumers and their own staff about their procedures, so that they are safe throughout the sales process.

  • where possible, housebuilders should promote virtual viewings
  • where physical viewings do take place, including visits to show homes, these should be by appointment with one household visiting one property at a time
  • housebuilders should clean surfaces between viewings
  • for new reservations and sales, developers should work with solicitors to ensure contracts take account of the risks posed by COVID-19, including building in flexibility in case move dates need to change as a result of someone being at high clinical risk, falling ill with COVID-19 or needing to self-isolate.
  • housebuilders should do what they can to support anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, self-isolating or at high clinical risk, and those they are in chain with, to agree a new date.

Tradespeople

Moving home is often a time when people want to undertake work to improve their new home or prepare their old home for sale.  This work can involve redecorating, and other home improvement work.  It is a key way for households and landlords to improve the home environment and address poor quality accommodation while also providing important work for tradespeople whose businesses have been affected by the virus.

Tradespeople should follow the latest guidance on physical distancing and hygiene.  Companies should ensure employees understand how to operate safely and communicate this to customers.

  • tradespeople should contact the household in advance to check that no member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating.  If they are, works should be delayed.
  • tradespeople should disinfect their equipment between visits.  They should also encourage households to ensure all internal doors are open and relevant surfaces have been cleaned with standard household cleaning products prior to them entering the property.
  • no work should be carried out by a person who has COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, or anyone who has been asked to self-isolate.
  • tradespeople should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the property.  If tradespeople need to wash their hands in the property, separate towels or paper towels should be provided at the property and washed or disposed of safely after use
  • tradespeople should seek to minimise contact with home occupiers at all times and follow government guidelines on physical distancing and the use of face coverings
  • tradespeople should implement a buddy system and ensure that the same people work together where this is needed
  • tradespeople should bring their own refreshments
  • see also the specific advice on transport (above)

Solicitors

Solicitors can continue to take on new instructions. They should make sure their clients are aware of the differences in completing transactions during this period, particularly where any documentation requires to be physically signed (and/or witnessed), including dispositions and standard securities. Solicitors should refer to the Guidance and Practice notes issued by the Law Society of Scotland and the Keeper’s up-to-date guidance on registration.

Solicitors who are opening premises should consider how and when to reopen their premises and take into account the most up to date Scottish Government guidance on safer working. Home working should be the default where possible. They should inform clients and their own staff about their safer working procedures, in order to minimise the public health risk as far as possible.

  • solicitors should aim to conduct as much of their business remotely as possible

  • where face to face meetings with clients are required, steps will need to be taken to continue to prevent transmission of COVID-19.  This includes keeping a physical distance of at least 2 metres from other people wherever possible and ensuring that any surfaces you and your clients come into contact with are cleaned and disinfected regularly

  • solicitors should do what they can to promote flexibility making provisions for the risks presented by COVID-19

  • solicitors should continue to prioritise support for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolating or at high clinical risk to agree a new date to move

Warranty assessments and building standards

All new home require a completion certificate to be accepted by the Building Standards Verifier at the local authority prior to occupation. An alternative would be to obtain a temporary occupation certificate, although this will be valid for a limited period of time. A final inspection is normally required by verifiers before the completion certificate is accepted. However, guidance has been produced to allow alternative evidence or remote inspections to be used as an alternative for a site inspection when the circumstances allow and during the period affected by COVID-19. Building owners and developers should contact the relevant local authority building standards verifier to discuss options.

 Inspectors can carry out warranty assessments on new build properties.  Inspectors should follow the latest Scottish Government guidance on physical distancing.  Businesses should also ensure employees understand how to operate safely and communicate this to customers.

  • new build warranty providers can provide a normal service to homebuilders and consumers, including site visits and inspections as required. Any site inspections should be undertaken only in accordance with the industry’s physical distancing and hygiene guidance
  • no inspection work should be carried out by a person who has COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, or anyone who has been asked to self-isolate
  • where residents are making a claim against their new build warranty, in the first instance they should speak with the warranty provider.  Where possible the warranty providers should investigate claims remotely using video or photo evidence. If this is not possible and an inspector needs to visit an occupied property, this should be done by appointment and measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit
  • inspectors should contact the household in advance to check that no member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. If they are, works should be delayed

Surveyors

Surveyors are free to visit properties to carry out the Home Report and any additional survey reports that may be required.  Surveyors should follow the latest the Scottish Government’s guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19 and the more specific guidance issued by RICS (see the related links page). Similar considerations apply to any energy assessors involved in preparing the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the Home Report.

  • surveyors should contact the household in advance to check that no member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. If they are, surveys should be delayed

  • surveyors should also make sure property occupiers understand which areas will be surveyed, including external areas, and ensure that all doors and access panels are open and surfaces have been cleaned with household cleaning products in line with public health advice

  • surveyors should disinfect their equipment between visits. They should also encourage households to ensure all internal doors are open and surfaces have been cleaned with standard household cleaning products prior to them entering the property

  • no work should be carried out by a person who has COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, or by anyone who has been asked to self-isolate

  • during a visit, members of the household should vacate the property where possible. If not, surveyors and home occupiers should follow government guidelines on physical distancing and the use of face coverings

  • surveyors should wash their hands using soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the property. If surveyors need to wash their hands in the property, separate towels or paper towels should be provided at the property and washed or disposed of safely after use

  • surveyors should be clear in any reports about areas which they weren’t able to inspect due to public health limitations

Removals

Removal firms are able to operate and should follow the latest Scottish Government guidance on physical distancing and for businesses and employers on COVID-19. Reference should also be made to industry guidance (see the related links page).  Businesses should ensure employees understand how to operate safely and communicate this to customers. (For people moving their belongings themselves, similar considerations apply.)

  • removers should contact the household in advance to check that no member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. If they are, works should be delayed

  • they should also encourage households to ensure all internal doors are open and surfaces and possessions have been cleaned with standard household cleaning products prior to them entering the property

  • no work should be carried out by a person who has COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, or by anyone who is self-isolating

  • removers should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the property. If removers need to wash their hands in the property, separate towels or paper towels should be provided at the property and washed or disposed of safely after use

  • removers should seek to minimise contact with home occupiers at all times and follow government guidelines on physical distancing and the use of face coverings

  • removers should implement a buddy system and ensure that the same people work together when moving bulky items and furniture

  • removal equipment and vehicles should be cleaned between each removal

  • removers should bring their own refreshments

  • see also the specific advice on transport (above)


First published: 9 Jul 2020 Last updated: 1 Oct 2020 -