Four tier Covid-19 restrictions: which tier am I in and what does it mean if I want to move home?

Four tier Covid-19 restrictions: which tier am I in and what does it mean if I want to move home?

Zoopla

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We give you a list of regions in full and explain what impact the government's tiered system could have if you’re looking for a new property.

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England is now under four tiers of coronavirus restrictions, with three-quarters of the population having now been instructed to "stay at home" under the toughest Covid-19 measures.

The good news is that under the government’s new advice, the housing market remains open for business, whether you’re buying, selling, renting or letting.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed via Twitter that renters and homeowners in England will be able to move and removal firms, tradespeople, and estate agents can still operate in all tiers, including tier four.

“Housing market update: the sales and rental markets remain open in all tiers. All associated activities can continue as before," writes Jenrick.

“Please follow the Covid secure guidance. And use your judgment as to whether it’s necessary right now.”

Across the board, estate agents remain open and physical property viewings are allowed, with comprehensive advice on how to follow social distancing guidelines inside homes.

Others in the housing market, such as conveyancers, tradespeople, and professional movers, can continue to operate, too.

What the different tiers mean and which regions are in them:

Tier 1 - medium alert

Tier 2 - high alert

Tier 3 - very high alert

Tier 4 - stay at home

Tier 1 - medium alert

In tier one areas, all businesses and venues can continue to operate in a Covid-secure way, other than those that are currently closed by law, such as nightclubs. 

Schools, universities and places of worship can remain open, and indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place. People must not meet in groups of more than six either indoors or outdoors, other than where a legal exemption applies, such as for a wedding or funeral

Find full details and the latest government guidance here.

What does tier 1 mean for the property market? 

Tier one essentially means business as usual for the property market, but with as many safety restrictions in place as possible.

Can I view properties in a tier 1 area?

Yes. 

Property viewings can continue to happen with Covid-secure measures in place. 

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

Sellers and estate agents may choose to wait outside the property or decide not to be present while viewings are undertaken.

Open house viewings are not allowed at this time.

If any member of either the household whose home is being viewed, or of the household viewing the property, shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed. 

The government is encouraging the use of virtual viewingsbefore visiting properties in person in order to minimise public health risks.

Are estate agents in tier 1 open?

Yes.

However, the toughened tier system means more people are being encouraged to work from home where possible under tier one.

This might mean some agents may choose to work from home, continuing to work digitally and remaining open at branch-level by appointment only.

Can I move house under tier 1?

Yes.

Estate and lettings agents, removers, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes can continue to work under the tiered system as they did during the most recent national lockdown.

Meeting with people outside your household or bubble “to facilitate moving home” is listed as one of the government’s exemptions from gatherings limits across all tiers.

Advice from the government encourages everyone involved in a home move to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves if, for example, one of those involved becomes ill with Covid-19 or has to self-isolate.

Which English regions are in tier 1?

South West

  • Isles of Scilly

Tier 2 - high alert

Tier two is for areas with a higher or rapidly rising level of Covid-19 infections. 

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 building.

Meetings of up to six people from outside the same household or bubble can take place outside in public spaces and gardens.  

Find full details and the latest government guidance here.

What does tier 2 mean for the property market? 

Under tier two, the majority of businesses can continue to operate as usual and this includes estate agents and other services related to moving house, such as conveyancers and removers.

Can I view properties in a tier 2 area?

Yes.

In-person property viewings can still take place, with appropriate precautions. 

The same advice applies to tier two property viewings as it does in tier one. 

This means property viewings can continue to take place with Covid-secure measures in place.  

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

Sellers and the estate agent may choose to wait outside the property or decide not to be present while viewings are undertaken.

Open house viewings are not allowed at this time.

The government is encouraging the use of virtual viewings before visiting properties in person to minimise public health risks, and socially distant viewings.

If any member of either the household whose home is being viewed, or of the household viewing, shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating, then in-person viewing should be delayed.

For the latest government advice in full check here

Are estate agents in tier 2 open?

Yes.

However, as with tier one, the toughened tier system means more people are being encouraged to work from home where possible.

This might mean some agents choose to work from home, continuing to work digitally and opening their branch by appointment only.

Can I move house under tier 2?

Yes. 

The government has been clear that the property market is staying open even as restrictions are toughened, and during the second national lockdown moving services continued with Covid-secure measures in place.

This means estate and lettings agents, removals, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes can to continue working under the tiered system.

Meeting with people outside your household or bubble “to facilitate moving home” is listed as one of the government’s exemptions from gatherings limits across all tiers.

Advice from the government encourages everyone involved in a home move to be as flexible as possible and to be prepared to delay moves, for example if one of those involved becomes ill with Covid-19 or has to self-isolate. 

Which English regions are in tier 2?

There are currently no English regions in tier two.

Tier 3 - very high alert

Tier three is reserved for areas in England where transmission rates of Covid-19 are high.

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.

The public are also advised not to travel in and out of these areas, other than for work, education, accessing youth services or caring responsibilities.  

What does tier 3 mean for the property market?

The government has been clear that the property market is staying open even as restrictions are toughened, and during the latest national lockdown moving services continued but with Covid-secure measures in place. 

However, the government has called for flexibility among movers and sellers under these measures, should plans have to change due to any of the households involved contracting or being exposed to Covid-19.

Can I view properties in a tier 3 area?

Yes.

In-person viewings are still allowed under tier three. However, some estate agents, sellers and buyers may decide to postpone viewings  while restrictions are in place.

That said, renewed lockdown measures may also heighten people’s desire to move if they are unhappy with their current accommodation.

Virtual viewings can continue to take place and are likely to be offered by estate agents in the first instance so that any in-person viewings are given to the most interested prospective buyers.

As in the lower tiers, Covid-secure measures should be firmly in place during in-person viewings.  

Such measures include the wearing of face coverings, regular hand washing, keeping doors and windows open for good ventilation during the viewing, and only two prospective buyers from the same household entering the property at a time. Sellers and the estate agent may choose to wait outside the property or decide not to be present while viewings are undertaken.

Open house viewings are not allowed under tier three or any of the lower tiers.

You can find out more about what to expect from socially distant viewings in this article.

If any member of either the household whose home is being viewed, or the household viewing, shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed.

Are estate agents in tier 3 open?

Yes.

However, as with tiers one and two, the toughened tier system means people are being encouraged to work from home when possible.

This might mean some agents choose to work from home, continuing to work digitally and remaining open at branch-level by appointment only.

Can I move house under tier 3?

Yes. 

Estate and lettings agents, removals, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes can to continue working under the tiered system.

Meeting with people outside your household or bubble “to facilitate moving home” is listed as one of the government’s exemptions from gatherings limits across all tiers.

Which English regions are in tier 3?

East Midlands

  • Rutland

North West

  • Liverpool City Region

South West

  • Bath and North East Somerset
  • Bristol
  • Cornwall
  • Devon, Plymouth and Torbay
  • Dorset
  • North Somerset
  • South Gloucestershire
  • Wiltshire

West Midlands

  • Herefordshire
  • Shropshire, and Telford and Wrekin
  • Worcestershire

Yorkshire and The Humber

  • City of York and North Yorkshire
  • The Humber: East Riding of Yorkshire, Kingston upon Hull/Hull, North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire
  • South Yorkshire (Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotheram, Sheffield)
  • West Yorkshire (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield)

Tier 4 - stay at home

Tier four replaces tier three as the very highest level of English restrictions and is reserved for areas in England where transmission rates of Covid-19 are rising rapidly.

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 one individual may meet one person from outside their bubble.

Tier four residents have been advised to stay at home and cannot leave or be outside of the place they are living unless they have a reasonable excuse.

The public are also advised not to travel in and out of these areas, other than for work, education, accessing youth services or caring responsibilities. 

What does tier 4 mean for the property market? 

The government has been clear that the property market is staying open even as restrictions are toughened, and during the latest national lockdown moving services continued but with Covid-secure measures in place.

Leaving your home to undertake activities associated with finding and securing a new home, or moving home, are considered exemptions to the advice to stay at home.

However, people outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary.

The government has called for flexibility among movers and sellers under these measures, should plans have to change due to any of the households involved contracting or being exposed to Covid-19.

Can I view properties in a tier 4 area?

Yes.

In-person viewings are still allowed under tier four. However, some estate agents, sellers and buyers may decide to postpone viewings while restrictions are in place.

That said, renewed lockdown measures may also heighten people’s desire to move if they are unhappy with their current accommodation.

Virtual viewings can continue to take place and are likely to be offered by estate agents in the first instance so that any in-person viewings are given to the most interested prospective buyers.

As in the lower tiers, Covid-secure measures should be firmly in place during in-person viewings. 

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

Sellers and the estate agent may choose to wait outside the property or decide not to be present while viewings are undertaken.

Open house viewings are not allowed under tier four or any of the lower tiers.

You can find out more about what to expect from socially distant viewings in this article.

If any member of either the household whose home is being viewed, or the household viewing, shows symptoms of Covid-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed.

Are estate agents in tier 4 open? 

Yes.

However, as with tiers one, two and three, the toughened tier system means people are being encouraged to work from home when possible.

This might mean some agents choose to work from home, continuing to work digitally and remaining open at branch-level by appointment only.

Can I move house under tier 4?

Yes.

Estate and lettings agents, removals, valuers and people in sales and lettings offices and show homes can to continue working under the tiered system.

Meeting with people outside your household or bubble “to facilitate moving home” is listed as one of the government’s exemptions from gatherings limits across all tiers.

The government advice is to follow the national guidance on moving home safely, which includes advice on social distancing and wearing a face covering.

Which English regions are in tier 4?

East Midlands

  • Derby and Derbyshire
  • Leicester City and Leicestershire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Northamptonshire
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

East of England

  • Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Essex, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock
  • Hertfordshire
  • Norfolk
  • Peterborough
  • Suffolk

London

  • All 32 London boroughs plus City of London

North East

  • North East Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of County Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland)
  • North of Tyne Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland)
  • Tees Valley Combined Authority (this area includes the local authorities of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees)

North West

  • Cumbria
  • Greater Manchester
  • Lancashire, Blackburn with Darwen, and Blackpool
  • Warrington and Cheshire Region

South East

  • Berkshire
  • Brighton and Hove, East Sussex and West Sussex
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Hampshire, Southampton and Portsmouth
  • Isle of Wight
  • Kent and Medway
  • Oxfordshire
  • Surrey

South West

  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
  • Gloucestershire (Cheltenham, Cotswold, Forest of Dean, Gloucester City, Stroud and Tewkesbury)
  • Somerset (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, and South Somerset)
  • Swindon

West Midlands

  • Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton
  • Coventry
  • Solihull
  • Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
  • Warwickshire

What about Scotland?

Scotland’s government has imposed a five-level system of coronavirus measures. 

Currently, there are 11 areas in west and central Scotland now in the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions, which go from zero (lowest) to four (very high risk).

Can I view properties in-person in Scotland?

Yes. 

The Scottish government’s guidance on property viewings emphasises a virtual-first approach. 

This means in-person property viewings are permitted, but it is recommended that you view properties virtually in the first instance if possible and only proceed to a physical viewing if you are interested in offering on the property.

Can I move house in Scotland?

Yes.

In Scotland, people can continue to move under all five levels, and to and from areas in different levels. 

However, the government suggests people may wish to consider whether they can postpone a move and related activities in areas subject to level four.

You can read the latest guidance from the Scottish government on moving home here.

What about Wales?

Wales recently imposed a four-layer tier system of Covid-19 restrictions.

The country is currently at level three. Here are the explanations of the four tiers:

  • Level one (low risk): Level of restrictions closest to normality while infection rates are low and other preventative measures, such as social distancing and working from home, remain in place.
  • Alert level two (medium risk): Additional controls to limit the spread of coronavirus, complemented by more targeted local actions to manage specific incidents or outbreaks.
  • Alert level three (high risk): The strictest restrictions short of a firebreak or lockdown.
  • Alert level four (very high risk): Equivalent of full lockdown. 

People living in Wales may:

  • move home
  • market a residential property for sale or rent and prepare a residential property for persons to move into
  • visit estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes for the purposes of the purchase, sale, letting or rental of residential property
  • view a residential property.

Looking for a new home?

It’s worth remembering that Zoopla, like other property portals, is open 24/7. That means you can do a lot of your property search online, from exploring our news, guides and insights, and checking out the prices of recently sold properties, to registering to get instant alerts for exactly your type of property - and save as many searches as you want.

Richard Donnell, our head of research and insight, said: “We’ve already seen how the first lockdown led to people carrying out a once-in-a-lifetime re-evaluation of their homes and lifestyles, with a focus on prioritising space. And the latest restrictions will continue to support this trend – particularly for those who are more financially secure.” 

Meanwhile, the stamp duty holiday is continuing to act as an incentive for buyers to complete a purchase before the tax break ends on 31 March 2021.

However, with different regions in different tiers, it’s a good idea to find out how your local housing market is operating in a Covid-19-secure way.

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