We moved home last summer into a house that we consider a project and needs totally refurbishing and extending.
It’s not quite a Grand Design but we intend to completely transform the house.
Our plan was to get a small selection of architects round in the New Year to give us their thoughts on what could be done and draw up some plans.
Can we still do this in the new lockdown, as they would obviously need to visit our home? Are architects among the property professionals still allowed to work?
We will also need to work on finding a builder and put in for planning permission, is this likely to be harder?
Builders and architects can still come to your home in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Helen Crane, of This Is Money, replies: You will be pleased to know that your project can still go ahead – if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
The Government has been clear that the planning system should keep moving, and councils are still accepting applications.
Architects are allowed to carry out site visits in people’s homes, because this is an essential part of their job that cannot be done remotely.
According to industry regulator the Architects’ Registration Board: ‘Where it is necessary to work in other people’s homes, such as a site visit, then [architects] may do so. Social distancing must be maintained at all times.’
And builders and tradespeople are also allowed to continue working throughout lockdown too, as long as they carry out their jobs in a Covid-secure way.
If you live in Scotland, though, the rules on construction work are stricter.
The Scottish Government has said that tradespeople are only allowed in homes ‘to carry out repairs and maintenance that would otherwise threaten the household’s health and safety’.
Guidance for England, Wales and Northern Ireland says that construction workers should social distance, and try to work in the same groups every day to limit their contact with other people.
Be prepared for higher costs
The Government rules also say that workers should wear face masks, keep spaces well-ventilated, clean shared tools and equipment regularly, and use the NHS Track and Trace system.
Complying with Covid protocols means that fewer workers may be able to be in your home at any one time.
As in almost every industry, the practicalities of working from home, social distancing and people needing to self-isolate might slow things down – so your project might take longer than usual, and therefore cost more.
An architect will still be able to visit your home and draw up plans for your renovation project
This could apply to both the cost of the architect drawing up the plans, and the building work being done.
The Federation of Master Builders published the following guidance: ‘Consumers should not pressurise their builder to cut corners in relation to protecting health and safety in order to get their building project completed.
‘It is highly likely that working in accordance with current coronavirus guidance, which is over and above the existing health and safety law, will mean that building projects take longer to complete, and will therefore cost more.
‘This requires collaborative and open discussion between the parties to agree a plan to get the work completed safely.’
Watch out for rogue traders
It also said that homeowners should beware of rogue builders who offered to get their project finished more quickly or cheaply during the pandemic.
‘The coronavirus crisis has unfortunately created conditions where fraudsters and people who are not skilled or professional builders will seize the opportunity to make money from homeowners who want to get work completed.
‘If you are approached by anyone offering to finish work quickly and cheaply, be very careful of this. Trading Standards are reporting increased levels of such activity. It is better to be patient than to risk using rogue builders.’
As well as the Government guidance, industry bodies have issued guidelines to builders, tradespeople and architects that outline the best practice around working in other people’s homes during the pandemic.
If they do not follow these rules, and they are registered with a body such as the Architects Registration Board or the Federation of Master Builders, you can contact that body and make a complaint.
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