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 the public

Advice to the public

This guidance applies to moving home in all circumstances, including buying and renting in the private or social sector. 

If you are buying or selling a property we recommend that you speak to your solicitor. 

Where you are moving to or from a rented property the local authority, housing association, letting agent or landlord will be able to give you advice. Specific advice in relation to renting is set out below but the following still applies.

Local restrictions

If you, or anyone in your chain, is affected by additional COVID-19 restrictions imposed in your, or their, local area, you must comply with these restrictions.  You are also advised to have regard to any relevant guidance in relation to your, or their, local area.  How this affects your plans will depend on the restrictions and guidance applying to the area.  For example, local restrictions may make it advisable to postpone viewings of properties or delay a home move, where this is possible.

Information for people who are at high clinical risk

Those who are at high clinical risk from COVID-19 will need to carefully consider their personal circumstances and may wish to seek medical advice before deciding whether to commit to or go ahead with a move. You can keep up to date with the most recent advice at Coronavirus (COVID-19): shielding advice and support.

We recognise people who have been identified as being at high clinical risk from COVID-19 may also have pressing needs to move home. 

All parties involved in home buying and selling should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals at high clinical risk, or where someone in a chain is at high clinical risk. This includes where a home move involves tenants who may be living in a property or moving as a result of the sale of a property.

Individuals at high clinical risk will need to carefully consider their personal situation and the circumstances of their own move and may wish to seek medical advice before deciding whether to commit to or go ahead with a move. Some moves are likely to be lower risk, for instance where the home is empty, all travel can take place in their own transport and contact with others can be avoided. We would encourage individuals at high clinical risk who are intending to move to be clear about their status to all of the professionals involved in the process. They will be able to discuss this with you and may be able to implement additional precautionary measures to protect you more.

People self-isolating or having tested positive for COVID-19

Moving home is not appropriate whilst you pose a direct risk of transmitting COVID-19.  People who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating should not leave their home either to move home or to undertake property viewings.  This includes people who are self-isolating as part of the Scottish Government’s Test and Protect strategy.

If you have symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19, or you live with someone that has symptoms, you should follow current guidance on staying at home and self-isolating.

Anyone with COVID-19 or self-isolating, should delay their move until all members of the household have come to the end of their self-isolation period.  All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for households with individuals in this group.  This includes where someone in the chain of those involved in the proposed move is in this group,

Employers

As an employer, you must protect people from harm. You must specifically protect workers who are high risk for COVID-19 or living with an individual who falls within this category. Individual health circumstances and protected characteristics should be considered and discussed with employees before prioritising who is asked to return to work and when. This should recognise the protective measures required to minimise health risks to shielded workers or those at increased risk from COVID-19, exploring how these staff can work from home whenever possible.

Property moves while measures to fight COVID-19 apply

You are allowed to move home. However, the process of finding and moving into a new home is likely to be different, as all of those involved in the process will need to adapt practices and procedures.  

In order to minimise public health risks and allow home moves to happen as safely as possible, the following measures should be followed:

  • initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible and property agents (estate agents) and landlords should help you to do this
  • all physical viewings should be arranged by appointment only and open house viewings should not take place.  You should not view any properties if you have COVID-19 symptoms or are self-isolating
  • when physically viewing properties, where possible, you should avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands with soap and water before entering the property or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser)
  • the number of people attending a viewing at one time should be restricted so that physical distancing can be practised.  You should only be accompanied to viewings with members of your current household and/or your property agent, social landlord or private landlord or representative.  If you need to be accompanied by young children, you should try to stop them touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly
  • if people are being shown around or working in your current home, while you are still living there, you should open all internal doors and ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned before and after each viewing with standard household cleaning products
  • where possible, we recommend that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place, unless you are conducting the viewing.  This is in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household
  • when moving between properties, you and those in your household should try to do as much of the packing yourself as you can.  Where this is not possible, you should speak to removal firms in advance. There is further advice about this below
  • If you are particularly worried about the risk of infection, then speak to the professionals involved, your landlord, letting agent, property agent or removers as they may be able to put in place extra measures

Everyone involved in any aspect of the moving process must follow government guidelines on physical distancing, handwashing and the use of face coverings to minimise the spread of the virus. You should also keep up to date with current advice on keeping yourself and others safe.

Face coverings

We recommend that you consider wearing a face covering when in contact with other people from outside your household involved in activities related to buying or selling your home.

A face covering is a non-medical covering of the mouth and nose, usually made of breathable fabric, for example a scarf. It is not a hospital face mask. Read more: guidance on face coverings  

Use of face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing practices, which must be maintained wherever possible.

Travel

Necessary travel involved in moving home, and associated activities is allowed. You should check the advice on how-to-travel-safely before undertaking any journeys in connection with moving home. See also the specific advice below on moving your belongings. 

Students

This advice also applies to students who may be moving into or out of student accommodation, including returning to accommodation to collect belongings.  Please also read Student Accommodation - guidance on visits home  

Steps in the moving home process

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/videos of the property, in accordance with public health guidelines. If any member of the household being viewed is showing symptoms or is self-isolating, then property agents should not physically visit the property
  • to help prevent the spread of infection, we encourage you to do the majority of your property searching online and only physically view those properties which you believe you are most likely to want to move into
  • as usual, you can also start to bring together the documentation necessary to sell your property. Read more: buying and selling homes on mygov.scot
  • surveys, and Home Reports, can also be carried out. You should continue to follow health advice and physical distancing while a survey is being carried out. The surveyor should also contact you before any home visit to let you know what you should expect and what steps they will be taking to ensure the visit meets health requirements.  In relation to custom and self-build projects, surveyors can visit and undertake valuations of plots you wish to purchase
  • if you are buying a new build property, you should make contact with the housebuilder in the usual way. You should be able to view the show home or visit the particular plot you are interested in purchasing, by appointment only and in accordance with public health guidelines. The developer or builder may also have their own procedures and you should check with them before viewing

Viewings

People should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person where possible, in order to minimise public health risks.  

If any member of either the household being viewed or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then a physical viewing should be delayed. If you are a tenant who is at high clinical risk from COVID-19, you should not be compelled to allow viewings and your landlord or letting agent should check this with you beforehand. 

All viewings should take place by appointment and only involve members of a single household.

  • we encourage people to do the majority of their property searching online. Initial viewings should be done virtually wherever this is possible. Physical viewings should only be conducted where people are seriously considering making an offer on, or renting, a property, or where a prospective tenant is being offered a rental property and a virtual viewing is not possible. 
  • to support this, agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings. This will help reduce the number of properties people need to visit before finding their future home.
  • viewings should be conducted by appointment only and no open house viewings should take place.
  • if your property is being viewed, while you are living in it, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing.
  • where possible, we encourage all members of the household to vacate the property whilst viewings are taking place, unless you are conducting the viewing, in order to minimise contact with those not in your household.
  • landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are showing symptoms or self-isolating. If tenants are at high clinical risk from COVID-19, they should not be compelled to allow viewings to take place in the property.
  • before viewing a property, all parties should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) and avoid touching surfaces where possible. Access to hand washing facilities should be provided, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely. In rental properties, the landlord/seller should be responsible for providing these. We also recommend that you consider using a face covering (see above). You should restrict the number of people who accompany you on a viewing so that physical distancing can be practised. Only those in your immediate household and/or your agent should accompany you.  If you need to be accompanied by young children, you should try to keep them from touching surfaces and ensure they wash their hands regularly
  • where viewings are unaccompanied by an agent, social housing or private rented sector representatives; viewers and home occupiers should comply with physical distancing and health advice.
  • all surfaces, such as door handles, should be cleaned with standard household cleaning products before and after each viewing and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate. In rental properties, the landlord/seller should be responsible for providing the cleaning products and towels

Making offers or reservations

You are free to make or accept an offer or reserve a property as normal.

  • there is a greater risk that parties may need to delay their move because someone is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. When buying a property, your solicitor will be able to advise you and help make any contracts or agreements as flexible as possible to accommodate this risk.
  • prospective purchasers may wish to visit a property again once they have agreed a sale, for example to measure up. Where this has been agreed, the above advice on prioritising virtual visits, hygiene measures, maintaining physical distancing at all times and mitigating contact should be followed.
  • 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 COVID-19 or self-isolating. Where a tradesperson is visiting the property, the occupier should maintain physical 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 current guidance.
  • when renting a property from a social housing or private sector landlord the landlord, or property agent, will usually make contact by phone to establish that you are in a position to accept an offer and are able to move in by the date of entry agreed. They will also explain the process for viewing the property and signing the tenancy agreement.

Surveys

Surveys of properties can be undertaken.

  • surveyors should not enter a property where a member of the household is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating.
  • where possible, we encourage inspections to take place by appointment only, with one person visiting the property at any time. Surveyors should follow relevant guidance on physical distancing and the use of face coverings.
  • surveyors should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) before entering the property. You should also allow access to hand washing facilities, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely afterwards. In rental properties, the landlord/seller should be responsible for providing the cleaning products and towels
  • if a survey is being carried out in your home, you should ensure the surveyor has access to all the parts of the property they need to inspect, and that external access is not restricted, where possible. During the survey, you should either vacate the property or seek to minimise contact with the surveyor, for example by staying in another room whilst they are inspecting your home.

Agreeing to buy or rent a property

Once you have agreed to buy or rent a property by concluding missives or signing a tenancy agreement, you have entered into a legal agreement and a moving date will be set. We encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible over this period and be prepared to delay actual moves if needed, for example if someone is at high clinical risk, becomes ill with COVID-19 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, or before it has been properly cleaned.

  • when buying a home you and your solicitor should discuss the possible impact of COVID-19 on any contract and, where needed, your solicitor will be able to advise you and help make such contract as flexible as possible to accommodate these risks.
  • we encourage you to be as flexible as possible if you are asked to delay your move and speak to your solicitor, letting agent or landlord about this.
  • it may also not be possible for home moves to take place on the same day. We encourage you to think about the scheduling of any move, and where you might stay in between moves, taking into account the relevant health guidance. You may also wish to discuss this with your solicitor or letting agent or landlord.
  • after accepting a tenancy in either the social housing or private rented sector, you should notify the landlord immediately if you subsequently become ill with COVID-19 or anyone in your household is self-isolating and is unable to move into the rented property by the date of entry agreed. This is so that the landlord or letting agent can agree a way forward with you.

Moving your belongings

Removal firms are able to operate. You may also wish to make your own arrangements to move belongings. Adjustments will need to be made to usual procedures in order to ensure moves happen as safely as possible. If you are not using a removal firm but have asked other people to help you, everyone involved should still follow all relevant advice. 

  • we encourage you to contact removal firms, and others including van rental firms, as early as possible in advance of your move
  • you and your household should also try and do as much of the packing yourself as possible. However, where this is not possible, and you are using a removal firm, you should speak to your removal firms in advance
  • we ask that, where possible, you clean your belongings with standard domestic cleaning products before they are handled by others, including removal firms
  • whilst the removers are in your home, you should ensure any internal doors are open and seek to minimise your contact with the crew by following government guidelines on physical distancing
  • all parties should regularly wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub (hand sanitiser) and avoid touching surfaces where possible to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. We also recommend that you consider using a face covering
  • you should not provide refreshments but you should ensure removers have access to hand washing facilities, using separate towels or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely afterwards.  In rental properties, the landlord/seller should be responsible for providing these and carrying out the cleaning, unless the tenant objects, in which case they must take responsibility
  • if you are moving into or out of a property which has common areas and/or shared access, physical distancing and relevant public health advice should be followed
  • you should avoid asking friends or relatives from a different household to come into your home to help you move, where at all possible

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