Our Residential Conveyancing Department is continuing to work remotely from home and providing uninterrupted services to our clients and our business partners, such as those estate agents involved in our clients’ transactions.
On Monday, 23 March 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out in his TV address to the nation strict new measures aimed at protecting people from the Coronavirus outbreak, known now more generally as a lockdown. Whilst the UK Government gave a reasonable level of detail on what people could and could not do during everyday life it did not provided any guidance as to whether or not people are allowed to move out of their current homes and into a new home during the lockdown.
The lack of guidance from the government on the implications of the lockdown to a conveyancing transaction has caused a considerable amount of anxiety for our clients over the last couple of days. The need for clarity on the implications to upcoming house moves has been especially important for those of you who had already exchange contracts prior to Monday’s announcement and have therefore already agreed a fixed completion date which is due to take place during the lockdown.
I have been keeping an eager eye out for any form of guidance from the government and the Law Society. Thankfully this guidance has now been provided.
On the 25 March 2020 a government spokesperson has informed the Law Society, the Council of Licensed Conveyancers and the Conveyancing Association (of which we are a member), 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 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.
“Anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice and not move house for the time being.”
What does this mean for those of you who have already exchanged contracts and have committed to a fixed completion date or for those of you who wish to exchange contracts and complete on the same day (known as a simultaneous completion)? Simply put, where parties do need to go ahead with the property purchase then they can do so as there is currently no guidance in place to prevent you from doing so. However all parties involved should take care to follow the government guidance on social distancing and hygiene.
The above position is subject to the following current guidelines in respect of public health, completions can only take place where:
- Properties not being occupied with cases (or suspected cases of) coronavirus (COVID-19);
- Occupants not being in a state of isolation; and
- All parties abiding to social distancing requirements.
So what should you do if you are going to be completing on your house purchase in the next few days.
If you are intending to complete on your property transaction in the next few days then my advice is as follows:
- Speak to your conveyancer to ascertain the progress that has been made on your transaction. If your transaction is at a stage where it is possible for it to be prepared for a completion then you can decide whether or not you need to move towards a completion within the next few days.
- You should speak to your estate agent and ask them to check whether or not the other parties in your conveyancing chain (if there is one) are also willing to progress to a completion.
- You should check to see if it is possible to arrange the logistics of completing a physical house on the day of completion. This will include finding out whether or not you are able to find a removal company to carry out the move on your completion day.
- Make regular contact with your removal company to make sure that they continue to be able to attend your property on the day of completion. I would also suggest that you speak with your estate agent and that they check with your removal company (along with you doing so) at regular intervals.
- Let us know as soon as you can if your circumstances change. We will be in contact with you during the run up to your completion and again on the morning of your completion to make sure that you are still in a position to complete. But we also rely on your to inform us if your circumstances change.
- On the day of the move make sure that you keep a copy of any correspondence that you might have from us showing that you have completed your transaction. If you are stopped during your move by a government official and or the police then a copy of the correspondence received from your solicitors can be used as evidence to support your need to move.
- Have a backup plan. Speak to your family and friends and if it is possible put together alternative arrangements that you can fall back upon should you need to do so.
Everyone should be aware that the government may at any point review its guidance to either loosen or tighten the current restrictions that it has put in place during this lockdown. It is therefore vitally important that everyone keeps a close eye on the government website https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus and review their decisions accordingly.
Please note that if you are not in a position to complete your transaction then my advice is to simply wait until you are and then review your ability to complete at that time.
I will continue to seek further clarity from the government through the Law Society and the Conveyancing Association. I will then update you if and when the guidance provided changes. It is also hoped that official guidance will be published in the next few days.
If you have any questions or require any further information please contact me or the fee earner with conduct of your transaction. My email address is email@example.com.
I hope that you, your families and colleagues stay safe.
Lyons Bowe Solicitors