Buying or selling a house during the COVID-19 outbreak
According to government data, nearly 104,000 property transactions completed in the UK in February 2020. For the thousands of people whose properties are due to complete in March, however, the government’s restrictions on movement and social contact to curb the spread of coronavirus have rendered the status of their transactions uncertain.
In this blog, we outline current guidance for those in the middle of a property transaction, and explain how your conveyancer can help you towards completion while abiding by travel and social distancing rules.
Current government guidance
On 25 March, a government spokesman commented that “Home buyers and renters should, as far as possible, delay moving to a new house while emergency measures are in place to fight coronavirus. If moving house is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on social distancing to minimise the spread of the virus.”
But what about people who have exchanged contracts and are legally bound to close the deal? Well, a recent update from the Law Society on 25 March offered further clarity on these matters. In a statement, the Society’s President, Simon Davis, said: “If you are acting for someone who has exchanged contracts and has a completion date within the next few days and you, your client and the other side are able to proceed, there is currently no government guidance to prevent you doing so.” He further added that any action taken should be done in full respect of the government rules on public health and social distancing.
How we’re completing transactions during the coronavirus outbreak
Here at Attwaters Jameson Hill, we are following government advice and advising that all clients who are in a position to delay their sale or purchase, do so. Unfortunately, given the current circumstances, we are unable to advise how long this delay period will last.
For clients who have exchanged contracts, we have adapted our working arrangements so that we can continue to assist you while working from home. While the situation we are facing is unprecedented, the requirements of mortgage lenders, the land registry and all current property laws remain the same. We still require original signed documents to proceed with your transaction, while mortgage lenders will refuse to issue the mortgage advance without a signed copy of your mortgage deed.
As such, we are asking clients to drop off any signed documents (mortgage deeds, transfers, etc.) through the letter box of your local office, making sure they keep safe and observe social distancing rules.
For the duration of the outbreak and while emergency measures last, we are proceeding from exchange to completion on the same day. This avoids the risk to our clients of breaching contract if they exchange and are then unable to proceed to completion at a later date.
The requirement for witnesses to be independent and unrelated to you unfortunately still stands. We understand that this may be difficult while social distancing measures remain in place; if it cannot be done, then we will be advising our clients to delay completion until such a time this becomes possible.
Clear advice from conveyancing experts
Moving house is stressful at the best of times, and the COVID-19 pandemic is adding even more stress and uncertainty to proceedings. That’s why Attwaters Jameson Hill is here. Whether you need advice on delaying your transaction, or you have exchanged and are uncertain about the status of your sale or purchase, we can provide you with clear, up-to-date advice on your situation. Just get in touch with our Residential Property team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0330 221 8855.