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What qualifies as an essential move?

  1. 14 April 2020
  2. By Daisy Stephens

The government has said that ‘essential’ home moves can still go ahead – but does this apply to you?

The official government advice regarding home moves is as follows:

“Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.

“If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.

“In line with government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.”

It sounds pretty clear-cut – unless you’re moving into a vacant property then your move should be delayed – but the government later states that there is also an exemption for ‘critical’ moves.

What counts as a critical move?

Determining what counts as a critical move is actually quite complicated, with no official clarification.

The government guidance does state that moves can go ahead if agreeing an alternative completion date proves impossible. As a result, if your completion day cannot be moved, your move counts as critical and it can go ahead. However it is still essential that you follow social distancing measures on the day.

It’s important that you and your solicitor work hard with the seller’s solicitor to try and agree an alternative date. Remember that the move going ahead should be a last resort.

Whether there are other scenarios where a move might count as ‘critical’ is unclear from the government advice. If not going through with the move would leave you homeless or vulnerable, then it is likely that it is a critical move.

What does the industry say?

The British Association of Removers (BAR) issued a statement to its member companies stating that moves should only go ahead if they were already underway. It says that all other moves should be immediately cancelled and makes no reference to ‘critical’ or ‘essential’ moves.

However there are removal companies that are not a member of the BAR, who are free to interpret the government’s advice slightly differently. For example, Charles Rickards, finance and marketing director for the Master Removers Group, told The Times that they were operating as normal for essential moves. He stated that ‘essential moves’ included:
  • Frontline staff who need to relocate during the lockdown
  • Situations where somebody would end up homeless should the move be cancelled
  • Victims of domestic abuse
  • People relocating to look after elderly parents

What does this mean for me?

As there is little government guidance for what clarifies as an essential move, if you were planning a move then it’s up to you and the companies you employ to decide whether the move counts as essential.

Although it can seem tempting to push on with your move, remember that it will carry risk to everyone involved including you, your movers, and most likely the sellers as well. Your move is likely very important to you, but don’t confuse that with ‘critical’ – consider very carefully the impact of delaying your move by a few months, and if postponing won’t jeopardise your health, the health of others, or your ability to carry out key work, then it’s probably best to wait.

If you do believe your move is vital and must go ahead, it’s essential to follow social distancing rules and practise good hygiene in order to keep you and your movers safe.
Whilst it’s frustrating having to press pause on your move, at the moment it’s a key part of keeping the population safe from COVID-19. If you’re move is not critical then you should delay it, and use lockdown as an opportunity to prepare. If you’re in doubt as to whether or not it’s critical, your conveyancing solicitor may be able to advise you.
Please note: This information regarding the moving industry and Covid-19 was accurate at the time of publication (14.04.20 at 16:00 hrs). Government recommended action is changing constantly, and we will endeavour to keep these articles up to date, but please continue to check the government site for updates on home moving during lockdown.

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