The latest Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 relating to the second lockdown in 2020 will be of interest to landlords and property professionals throughout the UK property industry.
Participants will remember the regime in the first lockdown when there was virtually a total shut-down for sales and lettings – buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants had months in which they could not view houses and building sites or change tenancies, and all this added to complications for exchanging contracts, completing transactions and moving in and out of homes.
However, this time the new regulations allow significantly more exemptions across the board, including for the main property market, which should mean there is a lot less disruption this time around.
As was the case previously, the new Regulations include a general prohibition on leaving your home ‘without reasonable cause’, but this time there is a list of exceptions and exemptions to the prohibition on leaving your home. Regulation 6(2) includes a list of activities connected with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property.
The exempted activities permitted include;
- visiting estate agents,
- viewing properties,
- preparing a property for a move,
- moving house
- visiting a property to ‘undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property’.
The list is quite comprehensive and offers a broad scope for activities around residential property. These exemptions should allow landlords, agents and property professionals to continue working and earning with the least amount of disruption under the present circumstances.
The regulations refer exclusively to residential property and there is no mention of commercial property, so the general leaving home prohibition will still apply. However, those involved with commercial property transactions may be permitted to leave their home under other wider exceptions.
Regulation 6(4)(a) according to legal information providers Lexology, permits a person to leave the house for work where it is not reasonably possible for them to work or provide their services from home.
Obviously, most physical aspects of commercial property work such as sales and letting agents’ viewings, surveyor’s inspections, repairs, refurbishments and fitting outs, cannot possibly be done from home.
Businesses which have been forced to close for the duration of the lockdown such as hospitality businesses and non-essential shops will however find themselves barred from working or carrying out works in the premises.
The Government has been keen to stress the importance of construction to the economy and this work can continue as before. The Prime Minister specifically mentioned construction and manufacturing in his statement as workplaces which can remain functioning.
The regulations will be in force for the four weeks of the lockdown ending on the 2nd of December, after which time the government will have to produce a new set of regulations dependent on the situation at that time.
It does appear that the government intends to encourage the property industry generally to carry on with as little disruption as possible whilst still observing the general precautions placed on the general public namely, maintaining social distancing, mask wearing where appropriate, and personal hygiene measures such as regular hand washing.