COVID alert levels, tier 2 and tier 3: what do they mean for the housing market?

From 2 December, the UK Government reverts to its localised approach to managing the Coronavirus outbreak in England. It is important to understand the COVID alert level system and what the different levels mean, what new restrictions they impose and how they will impact businesses and the housing market.

Update on the new Tier 4 alert level

England: Following the UK Government announcement on 19 December, people living in a Tier 4 area in must not leave or be outside of their home except for where they have a specific purpose, or a ‘reasonable excuse'.

Moving home and associated activities within the housing sector are deemed as a 'reasonable excuse', therefore, estate and letting agents and removal firms can continue to work. Property viewings are still allowed to take place as long as the COVID-19 safety guidance is followed, which includes social distancing and wearing a face covering.

UK Government guidance on Tier 4

Wales: House moves can still take place but only if the moving date cannot be delayed until after alert level 4 restrictions are lifted. The Welsh Government strongly advise that virtual viewings are used wherever possible, but viewings of properties can take place during alert level 4, however household mixing must be avoided during viewing. High street estate agencies are required to close to the public.

High street estate agencies are required to close to the public. Associated activities, for example, removals processes, property preparation, handover of keys, surveys and valuations can take place in line with guidance on working in other people’s homes.

Welsh Government guidance on Tier 4

What are the COVID alert levels?

Important note: The guidance, restrictions and legislation surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic are constantly changing and therefore you must always refer to the Government guidance to stay abreast of the latest information.

The COVID alert levels are designed to set out information in a simple, structured way, so that local authorities, residents, and workers can easily interpret what restrictions are in place in their local area.

Each local authority is given an alert level, often referred to as ‘tiers’, tier 1 being the lowest and tier 3 being the highest. This is a brief outline of the tiers. For the full information on COVID alert levels, visit the Government website.

Tier 1 (Medium)

  • Rule of 6 applies to all socialising indoors or outdoors
  • Business and venues can continue to operate
  • Certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated and must close between 11pm and 5am.
  • Attendance to outdoor and indoor events is permitted with a cap on numbers
  • Schools and Universities remain open
  • If you travel to a tier 2 you must follow the local rules there
  • You should avoid traveling to tier 3 areas unless it's for work, education or youth services

Tier 2 (High)

  • No socialising with anyone outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting
  • Rule of 6 applies if socialising outside
  • Businesses and venues can continue to operate
  • Pubs and bars must close unless operating as restaurants.
  • Attendance to outdoor and indoor events is permitted but with a cap on numbers
  • Schools and Universities remain open.
  • You can still travel to venues or amenities that are open, but should look to reduce the number of journeys
  • If you live in a tier 2 area and travel to tier 1, you must still follow tier 2 rules.
  • You should avoid traveling to tier 3 areas unless it's for work, education or youth services

Tier 3 (Very High)

  • No socialising with anyone outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting and most outdoor settings
  • Rule of 6 applies if socialising outside
  • Pubs, bars, hospitality, indoor entertainment and attractions must close
  • Accommodation such as hotels must close unless those who use the venues use it as a main residence or it is necessary for work, education or training
  • Avoid traveling outside.
  • Avoid traveling overnight in another part of the UK if you are a resident in a tier 3 alert level

What happens with the housing market in tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 alert levels?

The current guidance is that house moves and the activity supporting house moves can continue in all the COVID alert level tiers.

However, it is increasingly important that all safety guidelines are followed strictly. Propertymark has produced best practice guidance, designed to work alongside the guidance from the Ministry of House, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), to ensure that all safety requirements are met.

In all cases, estate and letting agencies should:

  • Operate on an appointment only basis with a locked door policy
  • Always wear face masks when dealing with the public or visiting a property
  • In Scotland, wearing a face mask is mandatory when moving around the workplace and while in the canteen.
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Adhere to social distancing rules

It is vital that the property sector take guidance seriously and ensure that policies on PPE are being followed without exception.

We recommend reviewing your policies and working practices and ensure that they are robust as there will be fines up-to £10,000 for businesses breaking COVID-19 rules.