I've received a number of queries from tenants as to whether they are able to move house during Level 4 of lockdown. The short answer at the moment: No.
An example would be where a tenant had planned to move out of a property by 1 April 2020, and move to a new residence (where he/she had already signed a new lease), but is uncertain whether he/she may move in the circumstances. This leaves tenants in an awkward position, because they cannot move out a property, but are contractually obliged to start paying rental at a new residence, and are probably liable to pay rental to the existing landlord (and thus have to pay rental to two landlords). This also leaves the landlord in a position where he/she expected the tenant to vacate by the 1st of April, but the tenant by law cannot leave. If the deeds office re-opens next week, a new property owner might find that they are not able to move into their new property, and the seller is unable to vacate. What can be done in such a situation?
It remains clear that there is a restriction on movement. In the circumstances, moving residences would at the moment not be lawful, nor are moving companies able to operate during level 4.
For now, it appears that movement may only be eased at level 1, meaning people may possibly move house only at level 1. In the circumstances, keep tabs on the latest developments in the regulations, and seek legal advice if you are uncertain, to ensure that you comply with the regulations.
The way forward
It is difficult to provide a solution to a tenant/ person who finds himself/herself in such a situation. The Covid-19 outbreak has been completely unprecedented, and many unique situations and complex legal issues are arising. Each tenant in such a situation should seek legal advice on what his/her rights are before taking uninformed steps, and should try to negotiate with their landlord(s) in view of the Covid crisis and the resulting implications on the lease agreement. Given that we are in unique and trying times, everyone should try to work together as much as possible, and try to be as understanding as possible. It is possibly the only way we will be able to get through this crisis, is if we work together, and if we are able to help others who find themselves in a very difficult position because of the lockdown regulations.
We are still waiting to find out when the deeds office will re-open-unfortunately for now, it seems that even if registrations are permitted, moving house won't be.
This article is the view of the writer based on available regulations or drafts at the time of writing. It should not be regarded as legal advice, and the reader should seek legal advice in all circumstances.