The government has left open the option of completely shutting down the housing market to manage the spread of coronavirus if the pandemic worsens, government guidance has confirmed.

Published yesterday, the guidance said the housing market currently remains open, but it could still be shut down similarly to what happened in the first national lockdown which saw house moves and sales frozen for nearly two months. It also called for greater flexibility from those moving homes, in the event of one of the parties contracting the coronavirus.

It said: “We encourage all parties to be as flexible as possible and be prepared to delay moves in necessary, for example if someone involved in the transaction becomes ill with COVID-19 during the moving process or has to self-isolate.

“It may become necessary to pause all home moves locally or nationally for a short period of time to manage the spread of coronavirus.”

The warning comes after prime minister Boris Johnson introduced a new national lockdown on 4 January which closed schools, restaurants and most shops.

The guidance also said that social landlords must consider how to carry out their activities – including property inspections, viewings and re-lets – in line with the current advice to reduce transmissions.

“Some applicants and tenants may be anxious about moving at this time. It will be important to ensure that they are not put under undue pressure to move if they are not ready or able to do so,” it said.

The government said it recognises that measures put in place to tackle coronavirus will make it difficult for councils to process Right to Buy applications within the statutory timescales.

It said: “Landlords will want to consider how best they can manage the application process to ensure tenants are able to take up their Right to Buy within a reasonable timescale, while acting in accordance with government guidelines on social distancing.”

In response to the first national lockdown in March last year, the government moved to freeze the housing market by advising people to delay moving into new homes. This lasted between the 27 March and the 12 May.


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