FAQ: Moving During The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

FAQ: Moving During The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Abraham Elmahrek

If you're unfamiliar with COVID-19, take a peek at the Wikipedia entry.

I scoured the internet looking for every thing about COVID-19 and moving. The CDC published recommendations for multifamily property managers and owners that had some good advice on how to clean a unit when someone moves out. The National Multifamily Housing Council has some guides about support for renters if they're having trouble making rent. The World Health Organization (WHO) has a rather extensive guide for folks working in the "accommodation" industry.

There are some ideas that keep popping up. Here, we'll provide some basic guidance and address common concerns when moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Basic Guidance

COVID-19 is transmissible by air, surface, etc. Here is some basic guidance on staying safe. If any of the below are unclear, here's a glossary of terms relating to COVID-19 that should clear things up.

1. Wear masks

There has been a bunch of research on masks since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The CDC has a mask guide with useful data links. Here are a few interesting stats from those links:

  1. Surgical and cloth masks have varying efficacy: 53%–75% and 28%–91%, respectively.
  2. N-95 masks have an efficacy of about 95%.

2. Social distance

Keeping distance between people who don't live together is an effective strategy for reducing risk. According to "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Social Distancing Interventions to Delay or Flatten the Epidemic Curve of Coronavirus Disease", keeping your distance from people can decrease spread by 95%. These numbers were derived from modeling and general spread.

Do as much as you can remotely!

3. Wash your hands frequently

The CDC recommends washing your hands for 20 seconds. WHO has a neat video on how to wash your hands:

Research has found that hand washing can reduce risk by 16-24%.

4. Clean everything

The CDC has a great guide on how to disinfect your home. The big take away: wear gloves and disinfect rigorously. Apparently, efficacy of disinfecting is really high. It's not a guarantee, but it will vastly decrease the risk of spread by touching common surfaces.


Is moving safe? Can it be done safely? Is traveling safe?

According to the CDC, WHO, San Francisco Health Department, California State Health Department, and the New York State Health Department, the best way to avoid catching COVID-19 is to stay home. Moving is the physical act of going outside. Therefore moving will put you at a higher risk. However, you can reduce the risk by following the basic guidance above.

Can I be evicted if I decide not to move?

Not until December 31st, 2020. The CDC put a temporary ban on evictions. However, come the new year, it's possible.

How can I see the apartment first?

Walkthroughs are still allowed. It's probably best to wear gloves, a mask, and keep your distance from every one else. You can also do a virtual tour if your property manager allows it.

Are walkthroughs allowed?

Yes. It can be a bit dangerous though. Follow the basic guidance above, CDC recommendations, and your local health authority's guidance.

How good are virtual tours? What can I expect to be different?

A virtual tour where the existing tenants share their apartment would be amazing. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. The majority of virtual tours are YouTube videos or staged pictures strung together. Usually basic furniture and fixtures are the same in element: cupboards, counter tops, stove, oven, microwave, floors, ceilings, etc. However, the quality and state of these things will likely vary.

Here's what you can expect to be different:

  1. Fixtures may be in worse condition. Typically pictures and virtual tours are "staged" material.
  2. You can't really test basic utilities. Outlets, toilets, etc. may not work.
  3. Sometimes common space is missing from the tours (ie. pool) or the images/video is incredibly old. They are likely of different quality.

A virtual tour is probably not enough. Unfortunately, property managers are usually require renters to sign a waiver on the quality of the unit along with seeing the tour. This makes finding an honest property manager even more important.

How do I find a roommate?

  1. Stay online. Try Facebook, Roomi, Roommates.com, and Roomster.
  2. Have a video call with any or all of your future roommates. Keep in mind that many people work from home and have different perspectives on how to handle the pandemic.

Are moving companies still in operation?

Yes. Moving companies are considered an essential service.

Is it safe to hire movers?

Generally speaking, the more people involved in a moving project, the higher the risk of transmission is. However, you can follow the basic guidance above to significantly reduce risk.

Here are some tips on how to handle/hire movers:

  1. Do every thing, except the move itself, virtually. Many moving companies offer remote estimates and consultations.
  2. Check on the moving company's COVID-19 policy. The best possible outcome is isolating your stuff from any one else's and thorough disinfecting before and after the move.
  3. Pack and disinfect every thing before hand.
  4. Try to avoid truck sharing if possible.
  5. Keep distance whenever possible.
  6. Disinfect your new place before unpacking.

What are moving companies doing about COVID-19?

Most moving companies are following the CDC's guidelines on reducing spread in the workplace. This includes doing things like disinfecting surfaces constantly and requiring employees to stay home when sick. Some companies are flexible on how they handle moves based on their client's concerns.

It's best to get a clear answer from any moving company on:

  1. Prevention in the office.
  2. Prevention during the move.

It's also a good idea to ask for guidance on making the experience even safer. This will give the moving company an opportunity to show how far they'll go in the name of safety!

What should I consider when choosing a mover?

  1. Their COVID-19 policy.
  2. Whether they use a shared truck.
  3. The kind of materials they use for moving pods.
  4. Whether you can cancel, change, and/or get a refund.

Can I cancel a scheduled move with a moving company?

According to moving.org, yes.

Are moving pods safe?

Check with the moving company on how frequently the pods are disinfected. Moving pods are common containers, but they offer some level of isolation in a shared truck.

Should different packing materials be used?

There hasn't been much guidance on which packing materials to use. However, easy to clean/disinfect surfaces would be appropriate. Cardboard boxes seem sufficient.

Are hotels, motels, and AirBNBs safe?

Hotels and motels often have strict policies on cleanliness. In fact, Marriott hotels has taken cleanliness to a new level. Here's a small list of hotels and their COVID-19 policies:

  1. Marriott Hotels
  2. Hilton Hotels
  3. Double Tree Hotels
  4. Hyatt Hotels
  5. Radisson Hotels
  6. Wyndham Hotels

AirBNB delegates cleanliness to hosts. Unfortunately, the quality may vary. However, they do provide guidance and policy that hopefully ensures a higher level of safety.

How can moving be accomplished with kids and pets?

According the New York Times, some strategies that may help are:

  1. Developing systems to help with stress that kids may feel while moving. An effective distraction will help a lot.
  2. I can't believe I read this, but sedatives for pets. If your pet is hyper active, a Veterinarian could provide you with a sedative to help with the process.


Moving is stressful and the COVID-19 pandemic makes it even more so. You can reduce risk of transmission by following the basic ideas shared earlier. Stay safe and healthy!


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