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Housing market to remain open despite second lockdown

Whilst Boris took his time last weekend delivering the news of a second national lockdown, Robert Jenrick, the Housing Minister, was quick to react on social media to confirm that the housing market would remain open throughout.

 The following news was welcomed by the property sector via Twitter:-

  • Renters and homeowners will be able to move
  • Removal firms and estate agents will be able to operate
  • Construction sites can and should continue to build
  • Trades people will be able to enter homes

However, more than ever, the above businesses need to ensure that rigorous and robust policies are in place to keep people safe and protect them from the ever present danger from Covid-19.

Further, mortgage payment holidays are to be extended for homeowners financially affected by the pandemic.  Borrowers who have not yet applied for a holiday can do so and this can last up to 6 months.  For those who have deferred payments, they can also extend their holiday up to a 6 month limit.

After the famine of March to May, and the feast which followed, a further pause would have been very damaging and detrimental to the housing sector.  Despite property lawyers being under immense pressure with volumes of work, a temporary pause would have created further delays, set-backs and business interruption – and would have been thoroughly unwelcome.

With the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday due to end in March 2021 too, it’s great that momentum on completing cases will not be lost. However, is it not time to reconsider whether imposing such a strict deadline is right?  Sales will fall off a cliff-edge next Spring – surely an extension or phased approach be better, bearing in mind where we are now.

It’s likely that Lockdown 2.0 will be a different experience for those involved in, and working with, the property sector.  Working from home, as much as possible, has been adopted widely and seems to be working well.  At long last, technology has been embraced across the spectrum of businesses involved in home moves, to find solutions in these challenging times. Finally, there is more familiarity with the Covid rules and an industry ‘understanding’ of the problems faced.

Ultimately, no one wanted a second national lockdown but the numbers have been going in the wrong direction for some time now.  Perhaps instead of focusing on what you ‘can do’, we should all focus on what we should do – stay at home as much as possible. We all have to play our part in helping to reduce the spread of the virus.

So, good news for the property market but changing the SDLT deadline would be the cherry on the cake!

For further information, please contact Melanie Carroll or one of the other experts in our Residential Real Estate team.

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