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Coronavirus and your renovation project

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Building works such as renovation projects do not sit well with the current rules on social distancing during the coronavirus crisis. Is it acceptable for builders or tradesmen to disturb your careful self-isolation?

Essential work

The best test is to ask yourself whether the proposed work is essential. If your renovation project has reached a stage where certain work needs to be done to ensure the health and safety of the building’s occupants, then, you are likely to consider the work essential.

All work which is non-essential, suggests the online property listing site Rightmove, may be postponed until the work is safe to restart.

If you decide to postpone the work and complete your renovation project at a later date, of course, you may need to double-check that suitable home renovation insurance remains in place at that time.

What is essential work?

The definition of essential work is necessarily imprecise. In an article dated the 26th of March, however, House Beautiful quoted the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) to help clarify the issue.

According to the FMB, any building work may be considered essential if it is needed to make a site safe and secure, weatherproof, and with supplies and materials safely stored.

An example of such critical work includes the repair or maintenance of heating systems and the escape or ingress of water.

An article in Letting Agent Today on the 25th of March also clarified government advice on balancing the need for emergency or essential building works and the demand for social distancing.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has said that such work may be carried out provided the builders or tradesmen are well and free from any symptoms of Covid-19. They must continue to maintain the established social distancing rules of keeping at least two metres apart from other people.

No builder or tradesman with any symptoms at all should be engaged in such work.

Where a household is maintaining self-isolation or where any member of the household is shielded (because of their age or vulnerability), says the Ministry, building work or repairs should be carried out only in an emergency, where required for the health and safety of the building’s occupants.

The reasonable case

The official advice reflects the fact that many decisions may need to be taken in the light of whatever is reasonable.

If you are in the middle of a renovation project, therefore, talk to your builder about the state of progress and whether any further work might be described as essential for the security of the works or the health and safety of residents.

If essential work is required – the builder is free from illness and members of your household are neither shielded nor in self-isolation – the work may go ahead to make the building safe. Completion of the renovation works may be delayed until a later date.

You may need to establish where you stand with respect to any financial penalties for delayed or cancelled work. Once again, however, the key may lie in the exercise of understanding and flexibility by both parties. Your builder and his team may also have the need to self-isolate at some stage of the current building works.