How to keep your house hunt going during the COVID-19 crisis
This article was last updated at 10.50am on 11 September 2020.
If your contract is coming to an end and you were hoping to move house soon, the COVID-19 pandemic could be slowing things down. While you can move house now, there are things to keep in mind.
First off: if you or anyone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19 (a fever and/or a new, continuous cough), you must all stay at home for 14 days from when their symptoms start. You shouldn't go to or host in-person viewings during this time, and if you're meant to be moving house you should delay the process where possible.
As of May 13, the government have amended regulations so that people can now move house if they wish to. However, this doesn't mean a return to normality. Everyone involved in the moving process will now have to adapt normal practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of COVID-19 is reduced as much as possible. This means conducting virtual viewings initially, keeping a safe distance from others outside your household if you do have to meet in person, and making sure properties are thoroughly cleaned before new tenants move in.
Moving house is still not appropriate if you are clinically vulnerably, shielding (i.e. those who have received a letter advising them they are in this group) or if you have been diagnosed with coronavirus, or are self isolating with someone who has it.
There is still government legislation in place to protect those who need to delay their move.
On 10 September it was announced that notice periods must be increased to six months until at least the end of March 2021. The same legislation has also brought in a "truce on enforcement over Christmas" – meaning that landlords can't evict their tenants in the run up and over Christmas, unless it's in serious circumstances (e.g. the tenant/s have demonstrated anti-social behaviour or committed fraud).
The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick also confirmed that evictions cannot be enforced by bailiffs in any area in a local lockdown that includes a restriction on gatherings in homes.
While we're all trying to keep to safe social distancing measures, it's not advised to attend face to face viewings. But that doesn't mean your house hunt has to come to a standstill. There are still ways you can start the process without being there in person.
If you can’t be there in person, a viewing via video call can be a great option. It can be a good way to get a sense of the property, but also to meet any potential flatmates. A five minute video chat can tell you way more than any number of messages, and give you a good sense of whether you click. Try FaceTime, Zoom, Skype… whatever works for you.
How to add a video to your ad
If you’ve got a room up for grabs, you can also add a video to your ad – this gives potential tenants a real feel for the space, or can be a great way to introduce yourself as a potential flatmate.
Posting a video on SpareRoom is really simple, and can be done straight from your mobile, tablet or laptop. If you click on “My ads” within your Account page, you’ll be able to click “video” underneath any of your live ads – which will take you to a box that you can drag and drop your video file into.
Obviously it’s important to show the room or property in the video, but it’s just as important to include the people that live there too – so potential new flatmates can get an idea of the personalities they’ll be sharing a home with. Talk about what life in the flatshare is like, keep it short and sweet with as much natural light as possible, and always shoot in landscape!
You can also add a video to a “wanted” ad too – a good way to introduce yourself and talk about what you’re looking for from your next flatshare.
We promote video ads in our listings pages (as long as they have housemates in) – meaning that your ad will also appear supersized and is likely to get more views and enquiries than normal ads. Find out more here.
Securing a room
Our number one rule on SpareRoom still stands through this very different time – don’t hand over a hefty deposit for a room until you’ve seen it in person. If COVID-19 is preventing you from being able to see a property in person, we'd suggest using the time to attend video viewings and compile a shortlist of properties you're definitely interested in – ready to view once you're safe to.
If you’re asked to pay a small holding deposit in order to secure the room, this is worth considering (if you can afford it) – this should only be the equivalent of one week's rent though, as per the Tenant Fees Act. Remember, you can talk to our customer services team at any time if you’ve got any questions or concerns.
Right to Rent checks
Right to Rent checks have also been temporarily adjusted during the coronavirus outbreak. This means that your landlord no longer needs to see original documents - you can now submit scanned documents or photos of the documents (via email etc), rather than originals. Landlords can complete the check via a video call with you.
You can find more information about these changes on gov.uk.
If you’re worried about your rights as a renter during the COVID-19 crisis, check out our blog post here – with updated government advice about rent holidays and evictions.
Although we endeavour to keep our coronavirus (COVID-19) content as accurate and as up to date as possible, the situation is rapidly changing, so please ensure you refer to gov.uk for the latest advice and information.