So, with the House of Commons approving the November “Lockdown Law”. This release explains what the new regulations say and what they do not say, as they affect holiday homeowners and agents.
The law: paragraph 6
- A person responsible for carrying on a business consisting of the provision of holiday accommodation, whether in a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartment, home, cottage or bungalow, campsite, caravan park or boarding house, canal boat or any other vessel must cease to carry on that business.
So, that, at least, is straightforward. However, paragraph 6 is the one that lists all the exemptions, and there are quite a few.
You can continue hosting guests to provide accommodation for any person,
- is unable to return to their main residence; This could be for example because the main residence was uninhabitable due to building works, or it has been sold, or perhaps because the guest had contracted covid-19 or another illness that made them unfit to travel. They have to be unable, not just unwilling or it is inconvenient.
- uses that accommodation as their main residence; In other words, they have nowhere else to go, for whatever reason.
- needs accommodation while moving house; Sometimes people book holiday homes in between vacating one house and moving into another. There is no time limit mentioned in the regulations.
- needs accommodation to attend a funeral; This seems to be straightforward, although we doubt that holiday homes will have many bookings of that type.
- is isolating themselves from others as required by law; This will apply when the guest has tested positive for covid-19. Strictly speaking people are only required to isolate by law when asked by Track and Trace but if they are voluntarily isolating due to suspected covid-19 or advice from the NHS contact tracing app, there is unlikely to be an issue.
- is an elite athlete, the coach of an elite athlete, or (in the case of an elite athlete who is a child), the parent of an elite athlete, and needs accommodation for the purposes of training or competition.
- to provide accommodation for any person who needs accommodation for the purposes of their work
This one may be more useful to the industry. Notably, this is not limited to key workers so anyone who is, essentially, working away from home, may book a holiday home. “Work” is not defined here but the government guidance says that people can stay away from home to provide voluntary services so “work” seems to include voluntary work.
Arguably this would also cover a homeowner staying in their own property to carry out DIY work – after all running a holiday home is work, as we all know!
- to provide accommodation for any child who requires accommodation for the purposes of education,
We do not envisage that happening in holiday homes as children would not normally stay in them alone.
- to provide accommodation for the purposes of a women’s refuge or a vulnerable person’s refuge,
Unlikely to arise in the industry.
- to provide accommodation or support services for the homeless, This is an interesting one as there is no definition of “homeless” in the regulations but if your second cousin once removed has been thrown out of his marital home by his wife on account of his extramarital womanising, you can probably use this exemption to offer him a roof over his head, whilst reminding him not to entertain any guests in contravention of the regulations.
You may potentially want to make arrangements with the local authority to house homeless people, although a lot of self-caterers would not want to do that.
- to provide accommodation for any person who was staying in that accommodation immediately before these Regulations came into force,
Here lies a difficulty. The intention here is that people who were already in residence on Wednesday 4th should not be sent packing at midnight. There is no time limit mentioned.
People who are in this position must follow the lockdown rules whilst they finish their holiday, i.e. only going out for “reasonably necessary” purposes, of which the law provides a fairly lengthy list, such as care for a vulnerable person, to move house, to shop for essentials, to view property offered for sale or rent, exercise, work, and a number of others.
However, the guidance says something else. It says that “If you were already on holiday, you should return to your home as soon as practical”. Note “should” which is guidance-speak for advice that is not mandatory. So, people are advised to leave for home as soon as practical, but they are not obliged to. Given that they will have to live under lockdown conditions they probably will not want to stay but there might be exceptions such as people on walking holidays. People are allowed out to take exercise and there is no limit on how long they can be out for exercise so if your guests are hardy types who go walking all day in November and they want to complete their booking then they can do so.
Whilst it is unlikely that Matt Hancock will be giving you a call your local council might perhaps need accommodation for some purpose. So that is the list of exemptions. If you can host a guest who fits in one of these categories, you can remain in business. For most, however, it will be a month of misery with no guarantee that, although the regulations expire after 28 days, there will not be a new set of regulations to replace them.