Just when it seemed as though the pandemic was coming to an end with vaccines becoming more widely available and restrictions lifting, the Omicron variant was discovered. Now, COVID cases are at a higher level than we saw at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and are continuing to rise.
With circumstances changing and cases rising daily, it is hard to anticipate what each government announcement will mean for your business. It is important, therefore, to stay informed and prepared.
Plan B Guidance
As a result of the rising number of cases, at the beginning of the month, the government updated its guidance on Plan B safety measures when moving home.
Reassuringly, this guidance stated that the housing market will remain open for the time being. It also confirmed that all scheduled viewings and moves can go ahead as planned.
Tradespeople are allowed to work in people’s homes to carry out a range of works including routine safety inspections, essential and non-essential repairs, and planned or unplanned maintenance unless the occupants self-isolating prohibit this.
Good hygiene practices are encouraged for all those involved in the moving or lettings process, including regular hand-washing, sanitising, and cleaning. Wearing face coverings is also encouraged in enclosed spaces.
Virtual viewings are recommended and for in-person viewings thorough cleaning and showing a property when vacant is advised.
Office workers are again encouraged to work from home where they can. If a task has to be completed in the office, however, then estate and letting agents are required to wear a mask.
In addition to the moving home guidance, the government has published an open letter to landlords and agents, with advice on how to prevent the spread of COVID through good ventilation in properties.
The letter includes the following advice:
- Ensure that all habitable rooms have functioning openable windows (including providing replacement keys where these have been misplaced/lost)
- Ensure that all bathrooms/kitchens have either functioning openable windows and/or (preferably both) appropriate functioning extract ventilation
- Consider installing positive pressure or constant run ventilation systems to ensure there is adequate background ventilation and to reduce the likelihood of condensation, and ensure that such systems are operating effectively, with filters etc replaced at appropriate intervals
- Ensure that tenants have clear instructions and understand how to operate ventilation and heating systems, and are advised on the best ways to achieve a healthy and economic balance of heating, ventilation and moisture production within the home
- Ensure that problems with damp are fully investigated and addressed promptly.
This guidance does not cover single-person households, but it advises that tenants still follow the guidance if they have visitors.
The letter recognises that tenants may be reluctant to ventilate their homes in the winter months due to the current climate of rising fuel costs. Financial support available to those who may struggle to pay their energy bills is thus highlighted in the letter.
Planning for uncertainty
The government’s guidance states that all those involved in moving and lettings should be flexible and prepared for delays. For example, if someone involved in the transaction contracts COVID or has to self-isolate.
There are also concerns that further restrictions will be brought in to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. It is therefore important to allow for a certain degree of flexibility going into 2022.
Use what you’ve learnt over the past year to help you and prepare for multiple possible scenarios. Make sure that you communicate with your tenants and stakeholders to avoid misunderstandings during this difficult period.
This article is intended as a guide only. For further information, please refer to the government’s website.