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Government says ‘it may become necessary to pause all home moves’

Boris Johnson has warned that the government “may have to do more” if ministers feel current lockdown rules are not enough to stem the current spike in coronavirus cases, and that could include a halt on people moving into homes in England, whether as owner-occupiers, private or social renters.

The government has faced calls for a tightening of the restrictions in recent days in order to help reduce Covid-19 infections.

Labour leader Keir Starmer yesterday called for property viewings to be stopped during the current lockdown, but ministers are already understood to be considering how to achieve greater enforcement, and that includes, among other measures, property viewings and all home moves being stopped “locally or nationally for a short period of time”, according to government guidance.

Speaking during a visit to a mass vaccination centre in Bristol yesterday, Johnson said: “We’re going to keep the rules under constant review, where we have to tighten them, we will. ”The prime minister last week announced a set of new national restrictions for England, similar to those in place in March last year, but unlike the first lockdown, the housing market remains open for business, with people permitted to move and estate agents allowed to operate by going inside homes.

“Of course, if we feel things are not being properly observed, then we may have to do more,” Johnston added. “But, far, far better for people to obey the rules that we have, than to simply promulgate new rules.”

Updated government guidance provides useful advice on the impact tighter restrictions could have on moving home, and in turn sales and lettings activity.

Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus outbreak states: “It may become necessary to pause all home moves locally or nationally for a short period of time to manage the spread of coronavirus. We will let you know if this needs to happen.”

Agents need to make those who are about to enter into a legally binding contract aware that they should, according to the latest government advice, “discuss the possible implications of Covid-19” with a legal professional “and consider making contractual provisions to manage these risks”.

The guidance adds: “You should not expect to immediately be able to move into any home where people have Covid-19 or are self-isolating”.

Those renting a property, letting agents and landlords should be aware of and follow the government guidance on coronavirus and renting which contains further advice that may also be applicable such as on possession proceedings, repairs, maintenance and health and safety.

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