First-time buyers: how will coronavirus crisis affect our move? | Money

Q We are in the process of buying our first house, with our expected moving in date at the end of April 2020. We are wondering whether, in this current coronavirus climate, moving house counts as “essential travel”. Equally, will removal companies and cleaning companies (which we will require for our end of tenancy clean) be up and running, and classed as essential services? Many thanks, and I hope you can answer our query.

A government guidance published on 26 March 2020 is silent on whether moving house counts as essential travel. What it does make clear is that people who haven’t yet exchanged contracts on a property purchase should put off doing so. Those, like you, who have exchanged contracts can go ahead if the move is to an unoccupied house. Otherwise you should take steps to delay your completion date to which end the government is “working with conveyancers to develop a standard legal process for moving completion dates”. If moving is unavoidable because you’re not able to agree a delay, you must follow advice on social distancing when moving. For the staff of removal firms this could be easier said than done. Given the size of most domestic furniture, two people carrying a chest of drawers, for example, are going to be a lot less than two metres apart; ditto sitting together in the cab of the removal lorry.

Given that you’re not moving in until the end of April, none of the above may matter because your moving date is well after the end of the three-week lockdown on non-essential movement which is supposed to end on 13 April 2020. However, if the government doesn’t see the evidence it needs to be able to relax restrictions, the lockdown could be extended – some say for as long as six months.

If the lockdown does get extended and your removal company cancels your planned removal (because, say, it doesn’t think it is feasible to follow the government’s social distancing advice), there is one slight glimmer of hope. Car rental firms are on the list of businesses that are allowed to stay open so there is, at least, the option to hire a van and do your own removals. As far as your end-of-tenancy cleanup goes, although cleaners are not listed as “essential”, your cleaning company could still be able to go ahead with the cleanup. Work can be carried out in people’s homes provided the tradesperson concerned is well and has no symptoms of coronavirus.

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