They say moving home is one of the most stressful times in your life, but how about moving home in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic?
Will houses need to be decontaminated if coronavirus is suspected? What if the seller refuses to leave the property because they are in self-isolation? How can a property be surveyed or valued? What if banks have trouble organising finance? What happens if we exchange contracts and the other side pull out because of the coronavirus? These are all questions that we are being asked by our clients.
Please be assured during this time the residential conveyancing team are working hard to ensure that your transactions are going through the process as smoothly as possible. Should the inevitable happen and we go into lockdown, we are all able to be fully operational (including our cashiers team) working from our own homes……
I have exchanged Contracts but the completion date is not for another two weeks?
Once exchange of contracts has taken place, both the seller and buyer are legally committed to the transaction and completion is to take place on the date agreed in the Contract. At the moment, if either of the parties breach the contract because of coronavirus, the normal position is that the affected party can serve a notice on the party in breach to complete within 10 working days. Failure to complete could mean the buyer loses their deposit, or in the case of a seller expose them to damages.
The Law Society (March 13th) has suggested that if completion does not take place after exchange of contracts, the non-defaulting party may consider taking a “good faith” view towards the party in default, but this is not mandatory and the normal position of default is still applicable. Although there is no official guidance available as to what constitutes “good faith”, we hope that most people will take a common sense approach. This can include either party waiving any default penalty charges in a contract to allow for a delayed completion or also allowing a variation to the Contract to allow a party to remain at a property for a period of time if they are unwell or in a period of isolation. However, as the pandemic continues and if weeks roll into months, this store of “good faith” will undoubtedly be tested.
Going forward – exchange of Contracts and Completion
At Burnetts, the residential conveyancing team are now working on the basis that we will simultaneously exchange and complete your sale or purchase on the same date so that we will not put you in a position that means you may be in breach of Contract. We believe this is a view that will be taken by other firms too. Whilst this does mean that you will lose the certainty of a completion date that an exchange of Contracts brings, we need to prepare for every eventuality over the coming weeks. Your conveyancer will keep in close contact with you and guide you through the process. We are all in this together, and working day by day on the guidance issued by the Government.
Signing Documents and Dealing with Queries
As we move into a period of self-isolation and social distancing to combat the spread of the Coronavirus, the signing of documents needed for property transactions is becoming a pressing issue for conveyancing across the country. Where possible, documents will be posted out to you for signature and we will assess each transaction to each Client’s circumstance. Exchange and completion on scanned documents is also likely to become more commonplace, and the Land Registry have already indicated they will take a pragmatic approach on this (although wet ink signatures are currently required for registration purposes).
If you do have any queries that you need to discuss with your Conveyancer, these can be done over the phone or email whether it be a legal query or just needing some reassurance, please be assured that we are here to help.
This is a unprecedented situation that we are all in and we are all going through this together. What I would say is please do not let Coronavirus halt your property transactions. Our specialist conveyancers at Burnetts are always here to help. If you have any questions at all about a property transaction, whether you are buying, selling or remortgaging, give our team a call on 01228 552222.
Property Transactions can be a real source of anxiety, especially in this current crisis, but we pride ourselves on guiding your through any problem you may encounter.