Three-tier COVID-19 rules: what do they mean for agents?

The government’s three-tier system in England means that COVID-19-related restrictions are applied on a local basis depending on the severity of outbreaks. But how exactly does this impact you?

As things stand, estate agents remain open and physical property viewings are still allowed. And the government has issued comprehensive advice for estate agents on how to operate in a COVID-19-secure way.

NAEA Propertymark’s chief executive, Mark Hayward, said: “The new three-tier COVID-19 restriction approach has not changed the guidance for estate agents.

“All agencies should strictly adhere to all guidance previously issued by the ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and NAEA Propertymark, unless instructed otherwise in future.”

But the three-tier system may deter appetite for property viewings in parts of the country.

Here’s more detail on what the rules could mean for you in England:

Tier 1

  • Property viewings can continue to take place as long as there are no more than six people in the property at one time and anti-coronavirus measures are taken

On property viewings, these measures include wearing of face coverings, regular hand washing, keeping doors and windows open for good ventilation, and only two prospective buyers/renters from the same household entering a property at a time.

  • If the estate agent, or any member of either the household being viewed, or the household viewing, shows symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then the property viewing should be delayed
  • Open house viewings are not allowed

Tier 2

  • Anyone living in a tier two area must follow all of the tier one rules, and also not meet with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, including their home or a public place
  • But government advice states that property viewings can still take place, with appropriate precautions (see details in Tier 1)
  • Nevertheless, the ban on meeting people outside of their household or support bubble indoors may deter some estate agents and their customers from carrying out physical property viewings

Tier 3

  • People living in these areas are not allowed to meet anybody outside of their household or support bubble in an indoor or outdoor setting, apart from open public spaces such as parks and beaches, where the rule of six will still apply
  • Although government guidelines don’t currently state that property viewings are banned in tier three regions, it can be assumed that in many cases estate agents and their customers will decide against them while restrictions are in place
  • People are advised against travelling in and out of these areas, other than for work, education, accessing youth services or caring responsibilities, which could also lead to delays in property viewings

For more information, check out NAEA Propertymark’s 29-point list as well as the government’s latest official guidance.

What about other countries?

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that a new five-tier system will come into force in Scotland on 2 November. Tiers two to four will largely match the English system, with tier one for lower risk areas and tier five imposing tougher restrictions.

In Wales, the Welsh government is introducing a nationwide ‘firebreak lockdown’, which will see a series of new restrictions put in place from 23 October until 9 November. They include the closure of estate agencies and a ban on property viewings. However, removals and other services required for moving home will be permitted, but should be avoided if possible.

For the wider impact of coronavirus on the property market, check out the latest from our Research and Insights team