England has entered its second national lockdown, with the restrictions being put into place from 5th November. As per the lockdown guidelines, individuals are restricted from leaving their homes, with the exception of a specific list of circumstances.
With an extension still being a possibility, it is important to look into what these changes mean for UK tenants and those looking to relocate to the UK in 2020.
As a starting point, it is worth understanding the key differences between the first and second lockdown. The major difference between the two has been the functioning of the real estate market.
In the first lockdown, estate agents were forced to close their offices. Subsequently, all sales and rentals were either postponed or abandoned for the 7-week lockdown. As a result, around 400,000 buyers had their purchases put on hold which cost the UK economy a total of £82 billion.
In order to avoid this situation in the second lockdown, the government has allowed the property market to continue operations. Estate agents, tradespeople and removal firms have been considered key workers and have been allowed to operate as usual.
While renters and home buyers can still search for and move into a new property during this lockdown, they can only do so if it will be their permanent primary address. Temporary moves are only allowed in cases of emergency.
Even though the property market is open for business, here is how the latest guidance looks for the tenants who are searching for a property to rent in the Covid-19 era:
Start your search on the property portals:
The 3 biggest and most commonly used property portals in the UK are Zoopla, Rightmove and On The Market.
Most agents tend to showcase their properties on these property portals, hence it’s a safe bet for tenants to start their search there.
Other platforms to consider are OpenRent, where private landlords or management companies advertise their portfolio of properties, and Avasa AI, being a 100% tenant-focused platform, we enable searches based on commute destinations and lifestyle requirements of the tenants. You can begin your search here: https://avasa.ai.
For doing property viewings, we will consider 2 scenarios
- One, where tenants are looking to virtually view and secure a property whilst still being abroad or while having a property reserved for their arrival in the UK.
- The second scenario is for tenants who are currently in the UK or want to carry in-person viewing at their arrival in the UK.
Your first step, irrespective of which scenario you find yourself in, should be asking the estate agent or landlord for view recordings of the property.
Based on their experiences during the first lockdown, estate agents are now more prepared. Most of them have video recordings of the property as an additional useful resource, in addition to the pictures advertised online.
Video recordings of available properties come in handy for both estate agents and tenants. The videos give tenants a better understanding of the property, layout, space, light etc. which then helps them decide whether or not to shortlist the property. Furthermore, agents are able to ensure that they are carrying out physical viewings for tenants who have a good understanding of and an interest in that particular property.
For the first group of tenants, who plan to reserve a property before their arrival in the UK, the next should be doing a live video call viewing of the property (we are no advising tenants to secure a rental property based only on seeing a video recording of the property) for the following reasons:
Doing a live virtual tour of the property gives tenants better control of the viewing, as they can dictate what parts and aspects of the property to focus on. In comparison, a pre-recorded video may not cover all the essential features that would make tenants feel comfortable and provide them with enough information, to lock themselves in a 1 year+ tenancy agreement.
When doing live virtual call viewings, here is what you should pay attention to:
- The corners of the properties and ceilings, for any cracks or leaks,
- bathroom mould,
- water pressure, and
- everything that can affect your wellbeing in the property.
In fact, when an Avasa Sherpa conducts viewings for their clients, we start the live video calls from the street, so we can also understand the noise level, check for any scaffoldings or road works around the property.
To offer full support to our tenants, we created a master checklist for viewing a property based on our experience of working with hundreds of tenants. Only if you cover the checklist in detail, you can be comfortable securing a property only based on an “online viewing”.
You are welcome! 🙂
For psychical viewings, in addition to the checklist highlighted above, you must also follow the Covid safety guidelines, described in detail on the government website at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak#:~:text=Ensure%20all%20rooms%20are%20well,that%20they%20are%20clinically%20vulnerable.
Before securing a property
Before making an offer on and securing your desired property, pay extra attention to the travel restrictions in play.
Also make sure to the possible extend that everyone involved in the rental chain, e.g: your household, the current tenants of your next rental home and the next tenants of your current home if it’s the case, are as flexible as possible in case of a covid infestation, in which case the move in date will have to be postponed and the ones carrying the virus will have to self isolate where they currently live.
This can cause delays and considering that tenancy agreements are legally binding contracts, anyone described in the rental chain can encounter extra costs by becoming liable to pay rent or by having to find temporary accommodation.
Impact of Brexit and the lockdown on overseas relocations to the UK.
Apart from England’s lockdown and various travel restrictions for different parts of the world, national insurance number services for European expats have massive delays or are completely unavailable because of the Covd – 19 pandemic.
Those people interested in applying for jobs should know that they can still benefit from UK employment by accessing an emergency tax code in order to pay taxes, until they will be able to apply and receive the NINO (national insurance number).
Find more details here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number
Pre-settled status is the hottest topic on various social media groups for expats, especially because the deadline to arrive in the UK is 31st December 2020, after which the new Brexit rules will kick in from the beginning of the new year, and new regulations will apply for those seeking to come and settle in the United Kingdom.
More details about this can be found on: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/what-settled-and-presettled-status-means
In case you are still considering travelling to and renting a property in the UK in 2020, to apply for pre-settled status, here are few tips which will help you to save money:
- Get familiar with the property market now! You only have a limited amount of time to travel to the UK, and find & secure a property.
- If you are not necessarily looking to apply for jobs now, don’t target prime center locations, focus on renting in affordable areas.
- One of the easiest ways to apply for a pressetled status is to have a bill in your name as a proof of address, unfortunately in most cases house shares and short term accommodations come with bills included and do not give you the option to put any bills in your name.
- If you are going for a long term tenancy, you should take a 1 year tenancy with a 6 months break clause ( 2 months notice after 4 months into the tenancy) so you don’t have to be locked in a 1 year lease, in case your circumstances change later.
- If you have friends in the UK, explore if you could stay with them for a while and put a bill in your name, which can serve you as a proof of address when applying for pre-settled status.
Lastly, be aware that during Christmas holidays some estate agencies are closed, hence you really need to prepare your next steps carefully as time is running out.
To bring you up to speed with the rental process and what areas may be suitable for you based on your specific needs, we are offering free consultation calls for those who are looking to move in or within the UK until the end of the year.
Register your call here https://www.avasa.ai/book-free-exploratory-call and our Avasa AI property experts will look to guide you through this challenging process.
Good luck and stay safe!