The UK’s housing market has been given permission to begin returning to normalcy after weeks of lockdown – with measures to allow house viewings to resume and provisions to ensure builders return to work with social distancing measures in place.
Under the measures, estate agents will be allowed to return to work by reopening offices and show homes, while removal companies and other services deemed vital for house moving are also urged to return to operation.
In turn leaving the house to go to a viewing or move home will be deemed a viable excuse for prospective tenants and homeowners in the eyes of the law.
The housing market has nearly ground to a halt in recent weeks. According to property website Zoopla, around 373,000 property transactions across the UK, with a total value of £82bn, have been put on hold due to lockdown measures.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the measures covered “each aspect of the sales and letting process from viewings to removals”.
He added: “Our step-by-step plan is based on the latest guidance to ensure the safety and protection of everyone involved.
“This critical industry can now safely move forward, and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”
Recent research by Savills found that, while prospective buyers at the top end of the market have become less committed to moving in the near term, the experience of Covid-19 has made them more determined to move within the next couple of years.
Meanwhile, builders will be given the freedom to negotiate start times with local authorities to ensure workers can head to a site at a staggered pace, while local councils and developers will be able to publicise planning applications through social media instead of having to rely on posters and leaflets.
In addition, smaller developers will be allowed to defer payments to local councils in a measure designed to ensure local infrastructure continues to be built.
Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “Over the past week or so many house builders have commenced a gradual return to work, in a structured way that ensures the safety of its workforce and the general public.
“The industry sustains hundreds of thousands of people in numerous roles and associated sectors, boosting local economies across the country. A resumption of work will play a major part in helping the economy recover as well as delivering the homes the country needs.
“It should also provide the supply chain with the confidence it needs to accelerate its own restart. The charter is the public-facing evidence which supports the very detailed protocols individual builders now have in place to ensure safe working on sites.
Additional reporting by PA.