Residential Conveyancing during Covid-19 Pandemic

The Coronavirus Act and the 2020 Health Protection Regulations was passed into law by parliament on 26th March 2020.

The Act contains strict new measures to stem the spread of coronavirus, including limiting people on how often they can leave their home. People are only permitted outside on four conditions; to shop for basic necessities, one form of exercise a day, any medical need or travelling for work purposes. While the new laws aim to ease the burden on frontline staff and maintain social distancing, they will inevitably impact on an already difficult market of residential conveyancing.

Despite the Act intending to reduce people’s movement and slow the spread of the virus, many residential transactions can still be completed. The government has issued guidelines on when deals should be completed in the current climate.

They state:

  • There is no need to pull out of transactions, particularly where the contracts have already been exchanged.
  • If the property is vacant then the purchase can proceed to completion, provided rules on social distancing are followed.
  • The seller and the buyer should work together to agree the move or agree to defer a date, particularly where someone has symptoms or is self-isolating.

Boyce Hatton remains very busy and a number of completions are still taking place. Completion of exchanged matters, transactions where the properties are empty, purchases by investor clients where the tenants are not moving out, or where the properties are empty are all continuing as normal.

We are also continuing to undertake transfers of equity transactions where no one is physically moving. In these instances, we are facilitating family arrangements to add or remove a person or persons from property ownership.  We are also dealing with a number of re-mortgages.

There are also some transactions that we can bring to near completion in readiness to finalise when the lockdown is over. So, if you are considering moving home or have found the property and finances are in place, then we can assist in dealing with the paperwork.

 

At present under the new laws potential buyers are unable to view a property in person although there are a number of agents able to offer virtual tours.  This has had a major impact on estate agents.

 

However, a number of sales and purchases are still being agreed where properties have been previously viewed. There are some agents still able to offer online auction sales which continue to take place.  However, there many people postponing their house move during this uncertain time.

Some mortgage lenders have been seen to withdraw offers and have stopped all mew mortgages on purchases.  There are however many lenders that continue to offer good deals and follow on existing offers issued prior to the lockdown.

 

This does not mean that everything must stop.  A number of transactions that do not require the movement of people, or where this can be done following social distancing guidelines, are still proceeding. This includes any transfers, purchases of freeholds, empty properties, investment properties with existing tenants and mortgages.

 

Here at Boyce Hatton our staff have switched to working from home using secure online connections so that we can conduct business by email and phone.

 

We have many clients who wish to proceed so, once the pandemic ends, their transactions will be ready to proceed. Some clients, who are looking to move properties, are wanting to exchange contracts and set a completion date in 2-3 months or earlier by agreement. This is also possible and perfectly acceptable in the current climate.  If required a completion date can be flexible and most firms are agreeable to flexibility in agreeing terms on this kind of matter. For any other matters who cannot proceed towards completion, we are looking to bring the transaction up to exchange and then placing them on hold until such time as the pandemic ends and we can proceed.

 

We are expecting the number of transactions to reduce if the restrictions on movement continues as people are unable to view properties. Nevertheless, we continue to proceed with any transactions and matters our clients wish to proceed with and that we can facilitate. We will also continue to support our clients during this difficult time and provide any advice we can.

 

We are here for you – please get in touch by completing the contact form if you have any queries or would like a quote.

 

The content of this article is correct as at the date of posting and is for information purposes only. Whilst we try and ensure it is accurate we do not warrant or guarantee that this is the case, nor do we accept any responsibility in the event that it is relied on. The information is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice which you are recommended to obtain.

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