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Q&A: Managing your property in a coronavirus age

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Coronavirus is impacting how we are all living our lives and the housing market is no different. Since the Government opened up the housing market in mid-May, viewings for sales and lettings are now possible, plus homes can be inspected by valuers.

But how can you undertake these activities safely and minimise the risk of spreading the virus? We round-up the latest advice.

I’m interested in buying property, how will house viewings work?

There has been a sharp increase in landlords interested in acquiring new property following easing of lockdown rules and Paragon recorded a 65% increase in visits to its Intermediary Portal in the week following the re-opening of the housing market.

When looking to buy a new property, the Government advises that the majority of property searching should be done online. Most estate agents have launched sophisticated virtual viewings, with more video tours and images.

However, most landlords want to really see the property to properly assess its suitability. Here, the Government states that all viewings should take place by appointment only and only involve members of a single household; no open house views are allowed currently.

Doors should be left open within the property and it’s encouraged that surfaces are not touched where possible. The seller should restrict the number of people in the property at the time of the viewing and should report to the selling agent whether any members of the household have displayed symptoms. Likewise, the acquiring landlord should limit the number of people who views the property with them.

Individuals within the property should keep 2 metres apart and it’s advised that face coverings are worn, plus other protective equipment, such as gloves.

What about if I’m selling a property?

Landlords selling property will have to comply by the same procedures as above but will also need to consider whether there are any sitting tenants.

Tenants should be encouraged to vacate the property whilst the viewing is taking place, or stick to a single room, ensure doors are left open and clean any surfaces, such as door handles, after the visit.

Viewings must not take place in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where it has been determined that they are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding.

How do I market my property for let during this period?

The same guidance as above applies to tenants viewing property. The number of people viewing the property should be kept to a minimum, all internal doors should be kept open, surfaces should not be touched and protective equipment should be encouraged to be worn.

Landlords are advised to work with their letting agent to offer as much information online as possible to reduce the number of physical visits.

If there is a sitting tenant, again landlords and letting agents should not conduct viewings in properties where tenants are symptomatic or self-isolating, or where it has been determined that they are clinically extremely vulnerable and are shielding.

Any visits to a property must be made in accordance with the government’s guidelines on working in other people’s homes and social distancing.

Is there any guidance when a tenant moves out or a new one moves in?

Letting agents and landlords should take steps to ensure any properties are prepared ready for new tenants, this may include cleaning to minimise any potential spread of the virus in line with government advice. Plus, they should consider how best to conduct tenancy check-ins for new tenancies agreed while broader measures remain in place.

Letting agents may also want to consider obtaining landlord and tenant consent for inventory clerk appointments to also occur before a tenant moves in or after a tenant moves out during vacant periods if possible.

How do I conduct maintenance of the property?

If possible, necessary repairs, gas and electrical safety checks should be conducted in the period between a property being vacated and a new tenant moving in. If this is not possible and visits are needed to an occupied property, this should be done by appointment with measures put in place to ensure physical contact is minimised, for example with residents staying in another room during the visit.

No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Tradespeople should wash their hands on entering the property using separate towels or paper towels which need to be washed or disposed of safely after use. They should then adhere to the standard procedures, such as maintaining a 2 metre distance. They should also bring their own refreshments.

Landlords should make every effort to abide by gas and electrical safety requirements, which continue to be of great importance for tenants’ safety. This may be more difficult due to restrictions associated with the coronavirus outbreak, for example where a tenant has coronavirus symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding.

The Government says that under such circumstances, provided the landlord can demonstrate they have taken reasonable steps to comply, they would not be in breach.

Is it possible for property inspections and valuations to take place during this period?

Property inspections are an important part of the home buying process, helping both the landlord and the lender. Property inspections are now permitted and valuers will adhere to strict social distancing procedures when visiting a property, as well as wearing protective equipment, such as face coverings.

Paragon is conducting comprehensive pre-visit checks when booking its valuations to ascertain who will be in the property, whether they are shielding or vulnerable or whether they have demonstrated any symptoms of coronavirus.

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