For anyone working in the travel industry, the past few months have been a whirlwind of ever-changing rules and regulations. While governments do everything they can to contain COVID-19, businesses are adapting their strategies to stay afloat.
As a holiday homeowner, knowing the latest updates on national restrictions in the UK will allow you to plan ahead in these times of uncertainty. Unfortunately, the United Kingdom is currently facing stricter regulations than the US, and therefore, it’s absolutely necessary to stay up to date at all times.
With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, you might be eligible to claim cover wages for employees that are on temporary leave because of COVID-19. This scheme will continue until 31 March 2021, giving up to 80% of an employee’s usual salary.
Find out if you can use this scheme, which employees you can put on furlough, and how to claim for wages online here.
Restrictions on Holiday Homes across the UK
To minimize the spread of the virus, the government has imposed temporary restrictions on businesses like holiday homes and other guest accommodations.
Regardless of the country, holiday rental owners should take the necessary steps to protect themselves, their staff, and their guests. Enforce face coverings, follow the proper cleaning procedures, complete a COVID-19 risk assessment, increase ventilation in your properties, and keep track of customers with the NHS Test and Trace.
Remind guests of laws regarding social groups and use online booking and contactless payments to avoid interaction.
Restrictions in England for Holiday Owners
The government in England has asked people to stay at home unless they have reason permitted by law.
These exceptions include: work and volunteering, essential activities (such as buying groceries, picking up food, going to the bank, etc.), moving homes, fulfilling legal obligations, childcare, visiting people in your support bubble, education, any medical reason, events (religious worship, funerals, etc.), and exercise. Keep in mind that many indoor settings require a face covering by law.
Holiday homes (which include hotels, hostels, B&B’s, holiday apartments, cottages, bungalows, campsites, canal boats, and caravan parks) must close in England unless specific exceptions apply to them.
Accommodation providers may stay open if they’re hosting people who cannot return to their main residence, permanently live there, need accommodation while attending a funeral or moving houses, have been required by law to self-isolate, are elite athletes who need accommodation during training or competitions or are visiting abroad on holiday or for work.
If guests were staying in your holiday home at the time in which the restrictions were set in place, they have permission to finish their holidays and return home when possible.
International visitors are still able to enter the country but must follow the Travel Corridor rules during their stay.
Holiday homeowners should ensure that their guests follow government regulations and provide flexibility in terms of cancellations. While guests have rights, so do holiday homeowners. Accommodation providers are allowed to refuse or cancel bookings but they are encouraged to provide refunds or offer alternative dates to their guests.
If your holiday rental has a restaurant or bar, only room service ordered by phone or online is permitted. Food cannot be served in common areas like lobbies or lounges and guests must follow social distancing measures if using these spaces.
While national regulations supersede local regulations, for the time being, we also recommend staying updated on the local COVID alert levels.
Follow official holiday home restrictions and regulations here.
COVID-19 Restrictions in Scotland for Holiday lettings
Scotland has introduced a system of local protection levels based on COVID-19 cases. Check out the COVID-19 protection levels in your area here.
Depending on which country your guest is travelling from, they may be required to self-isolate. If travelling around Scotland, protective measures are in place depending on the local protection level.
Some exceptions for travel include: work, voluntary services, education, essential shopping that is not possible in your area, healthcare, to provide assistance or care to a vulnerable person, shared parenting, legal obligations, animal welfare reasons, events, and moving houses. Check out the full list here.
The Strategic Framework Business Fund is for Scottish businesses in sectors like Tourism, Creative, Hospitality, Leisure, Retail, and Third Sector. If your business has been affected by COVID-19, whether it has had to close or drastically change its operations, you may be able to apply for grant funding. This funding covers any closures or restrictions, with 2 November 2020 being the earliest claim date (you may still get funding if your business has been affected for less than 4 weeks). Grants are paid every 4 weeks.
If your business has had to close by law due to COVID-19, you can apply for the Temporary Closure grant:
If your business has a rateable value of up to £51,000, you can be granted £2,000
If your business has a rateable value of £51,001 or above, you can be granted £3,000
For every 4 week period, there is a limit of £15,000 for businesses operating multiple premises.
If the law has required your business to modify its services because of the pandemic, you can apply for the Business Restrictions grant:
If your business has a rateable value of up to £51,000, you can be granted £1,400
If your business has a rateable value of £51,001 or above, you can be granted £2,100
For every 4 week period, there is a limit of £10,500 for businesses operating multiple premises.
Your eligibility depends on the area in which you are located. To apply, your business must be directly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, have a business bank account, and be registered for non-domestic rates.
Find out if your business is eligible for these funds here.
Restrictions in Wales for Holiday Homeowners
After the national “firebreak” lockdown that ended in Wales on 19 November 2020, many restrictions were lifted. Luckily for holiday homeowners, all accommodation can now resume normal business if following the reasonable safety measures.
However, make sure your guests know that they will only be able to share holiday accommodation with the people they live with or their care providers. The law states that people should not enter each other’s homes or gardens if not necessary, the maximum number of people gathering from different households is four, face coverings must be worn in indoor public places, and self-isolation must be followed through if required.
Similar to England’s support bubble, Wales allows an extended household. When two households join to create an extended household, they are allowed to visit each other’s homes, stay overnight, and meet up in outdoor spaces in groups larger than four.
There are currently no restrictions on travel within Wales. If one must travel outside of Wales, they will need a reasonable excuse permitted by the law. This can include travelling for work, education, medical appointments, legal requirements, and compassionate grounds such as funerals.
Restaurants, bars, and pubs can all open as long as they follow the required measurements and provide table service. Businesses that don’t sell alcohol, such as coffee shops, are not limited to table service. All visitor attractions can open if social distancing measures are maintained.
For a complete guide to coronavirus regulations in Wales, click here.
Restrictions in Northern Ireland for Holiday rentals
Accommodation establishments, including hotels, guesthouses, and B&B’s, can open for people who are already residents, in emergency situations, vulnerable, restricted from returning to their main home, and those experiencing work-related situations. Members of one household or a bubble are allowed to stay together.
Bubbling is limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households. If not from the same bubble, there’s a maximum of six people when gathering in a private garden.
Unlicensed premises, like coffee shops and cafes, must close at 20:00. Licensed premises can open for delivery and takeaway. Takeaway services must end at 23:00.
Galleries, indoor museums, and other indoor visitor attractions must stay closed for the time being. Outdoor attractions may open and retail stores can continue to stay open. On Friday 20, close-contact services such as hair salons may also resume business.
Take a look at the complete COVID-19 guide here and check out the updated restrictions here.
Tips for Holiday Rentals in the UK
Despite the current restrictions, there are still many people who are legally looking for housing during these times. These groups include but are not limited to:
Students whose universities have shut down
Isolated healthcare workers
Because these audiences might be unconventional compared to your usual guests, you might have to step outside of your comfort zone when finding them. Facebook groups are a great way to find people looking for housing, especially when it comes to university students.
Consider offering discounts for mid-term renters (30 days or more), offer a flexible cancellation policy, and update your vacation home depending on the guests you will be targeting.
What To Take Away
With the existing exceptions for holiday rentals and the demand for accommodation, your business can continue to generate revenue despite the pandemic. By changing your target audience and adapting your strategy as needed, not only will you be helping the community but you will also keep your holiday home afloat. However, remember to always precisely follow government guidelines and stay safe while doing so.
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