Property-related travel a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave the UK under new Coronavirus rules

coronavirus covid-19 spanish property market

As of tomorrow, Monday the 29th of March, UK residents have what the British government calls a ‘reasonable excuse’ to justify foreign travel if it has anything to do with the purchase, ownership, and sale of property.

That gives all Spanish property owners, and potential buyers, a reasonable excuse to leave the UK for Spain, but unfortunately, Spain won’t let you in on these grounds.

Starting on Monday, and lasting until June 30, you risk a fine of £5,000 fine for leaving the UK without a reasonable excuse as part of the government’s plan to control Covi-19. What is a ‘reasonable  excuse’? The full list of excuses is published at gov.uk here, and the ones related to property are broad enough to cover pretty much any property-related travel to Spain.

According to Regulation 8, Schedule 5, ‘Reasonable excuses to travel outside the United Kingdom’, clause 7, you can travel abroad for the following:

Where it is reasonably necessary for P to leave the United Kingdom to undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property—

  • visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;
  • viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or to rent;
  • preparing a residential property to move in;
  • moving house;
  • to visit a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property.

So, you can leave the UK for anything to do with house-hunting abroad.

And if you own a property abroad, you have a reasonable excuse to visit it to prepare it for rental or sale.

As an owner, I imagine simply providing proof of your ownership, like a copy of your title deeds (escritura) or a land registry filing (nota simple) will enough to justify your claim of a ‘reasonable excuse’. How can any border official dispute you plan to rent or sell your property?

Anyone looking to buy abroad might want to create a house-hunting file with a property shortlist, correspondence with agents or developers, and other documentation to back up your claim to a ‘reasonable excuse’.

It sounds like good news for estate agents and developers hoping to sell to British clients this year, but it could also lead to an increase in fake enquiries and inspection-visits by tyre-kickers with no intention of buying. That all comes at a cost, so property professionals might need to be more careful than usual about qualifying enquiries from the UK this summer.

UK Government roadmap plan for international travel

Stanley Johnon Clause

The British press are calling this loophole the “Stanley Johnson clause” because the PMs father used his property in Greece as an excuse to break lockdown rules last year.

The opposition are arguing it is elitist, with Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP, telling The Guardian: “For hardworking families facing the prospect of missing out on summer holidays, it will stick in the craw that the government has inserted a ‘Stanley Johnson clause’ to Covid rules that allows people to come and go if they have property abroad. It seems it’s one rule for them and another for the rest of us.”

The truth is though, anyone who can afford a holiday abroad can use the property clause as a reasonable excuse if they don’t have any qualms about doing so.

Will Spain let you in from the UK?

Will you be allowed into Spain? Only if you comply with another set of rules at the Spanish end, explained at the Spanish government Spain Travel Health website, and have a reason accepted by the Spanish authorities as explained by the British FO here and by the Spanish foreign office here. At the Spanish-end, property related matters are not an acceptable reason for now.

Article updated with Spanish entry requirements 29-mar-2021

SPI Member Comments (8)

Thoughts on “Property-related travel a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave the UK under new Coronavirus rules

  • You are so right to warn property agents in Spain. We are led by an instinctive rule breaker who appears to enjoy tempting others to break rules. If not, the travel related to property could have been limited to,say, 5 days. Now it will be all too easy for holidaymakers to come back with two week’s tan and a carry-on full of property particulars.
    Of the 400,000 non-resident second home owners in Spain how many are landlords? Of the rest of us who simply want check our holiday homes have not flooded or been broken into there is NOTHING.

    • That’s a good point. But there is nothing to stop you going to prepare your house for ‘rental”, this will allow you to check on it. I’m in the same situation, I need to make sure I don’t have 5 families living in my house!!

  • Chris Nation says:

    This is interesting – to me, at any rate, based in FR and needing to get to VLC if/when there’s a sale going thru’ on my flat

    From the English edition of El Pais yesterday. Seems to be confirmd by a post on the Survive France forum. A couple drove from FR to ‘southern Spain’ to help an elderly relative selling her Spanish home. There were police at the border [Hendaye] of course but no checks on the way south. We await news of how it was, getting back into FR.

    “One of the conditions for entry is showing a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before arrival. But this only applies to sea and air arrivals, as there are no controls at land borders. Many visitors from neighboring France have been driving into Spain in recent months. Data from the Frontur tourism survey shows that in January, 72,513 French nationals came to Spain for leisure purposes, and that three out of every four came in via land borders”

  • We have bought an apartment in Menorca June 2018. Due to legal issues with it we couldn’t start building until autumn 2019. Paying all taxes meanwhilee. Then my husband died in November 2019. Then covid struck. I have been pushing as much as I could with help of architect , lmited funds, not having his estate sorted until January 2021. Meanwhile my builder building. Very slowly. I booked first ferry for 22 December 2020 then Spanish government wanted a test. Having failed to arrange one on a short notice I rebooked for 19 April. I have a dog to bring along hence the ferry route. Then brittany ferries consolidated and cancelled my ferry giving me three days to re book. So now I have 28 April ferry. My builder doesnt communicate me anymore but I built the kitchen with Ikea so architect can license the apartment just sufficiently built for town hall architect.
    So I am single female going to drive Santander to Barcelona to catch another ferry with a dog, petrified of having no experience driving on the other side of the road.
    My story and Stanley’ Johnson’s ? Do you think I will make it? Including through the Spanish border. No residence permit only NIE number? Not time to get one. If someone can look in the future do you think I will do it?

    • Spanish Government is lifting its ban on UK residents on 30th March so you have no problem entering Spain. You are obviously just coming for the 90 day stay as you say you don’t have Residencia. Just be aware the Residencia application must now be applied for at the Spanish Embassy in UK. Just remember the Health Cert for your dog only lasts for 4 months. If you are going to be travelling backwards and forwards on a regular basis it might be a good idea to apply for an EU/Spanish Pet Passport as UK accepts the Passport as well. The only thing to keep an eye on is the rabies jab as Spain has an annual booster requirement. As for driving on right-hand side of the road. It will be a bit confusing getting the brain to adjust for the first few miles. Just keep in mind keep to your right and stay in your right-hand lane. Negotiating the first roundabout might be a bit confusing but stay in your right-hand lane no matter which exit off the roundabout (I know it’s mad but that’s the rule in Spain) Watch your first left-hand turn as you are crossing the traffic. Once on motorways it will be much easier as all the traffic is going in the one direction. Put a reminder on your steering wheel to drive on the right. Be careful and vigilant at all times when refuelling or leaving your car. Lock your car,lock your car, lock your car even when refuelling. Good luck and enjoy your new adventure and I hope you get your new house sorted. You have to be there in person to get anything done.

      Bee

    • I have done the Santander to Barcelona few times. It normally takes me about 8 hours (including a couple of breaks) and is mostly a Motorway (AP68 and AP2) driving, but also includes some short driving on the “A” roads.
      You will be fine as long as you stay on the most right hand side of the road, take care at the roundabouts and take regular breaks. Good luck!

  • One major problem which no one seems to have thought of, is the cost of the tests. The cheapest I can find is £120, so for two of us it will be £480 per trip. We used to go about every four wesks, but we won’t be able to afford that every month. People go to Spain because its cheap to get there. There’s no point in buying cheap property linked to cheap flights with huge testing costs to get there.

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