Moving and Getting Keys in a Pandemic
18th May, 2020
The UK Government has recently updated their guidance in conjunction with Public Health England to enable buyers and sellers of private residential properties who wish to have the ability do to so during the current Coronavirus Pandemic.
The purpose of the updated guidance is to enable people to move home safely and to kick start the property market while adhering to the Government’s latest measures in relation to staying alert and social distancing.
The UK Government make it clear that this guidance does not represent a return to normality as the process of moving and buying a property will be completely different and processes will need to be adapted to ensure that the risk of the spread of the virus is reduced as far as can be practically possible.
If contracts have been exchanged, then the buyer’s and the seller’s solicitors should be as flexible as possible and may need to collaborate to delay completion.
This will depend on individual circumstances and will also depend on whether the UK Government may find it necessary to pause completions for a short period of time to manage the spread of the virus.
For example, if the buyer, seller or their family members become ill or have to self-isolate during the conveyancing process then the buyer’s and seller’s solicitor will need to be flexible and completion will need to be delayed as it will not be appropriate for the move to take place. Completion will need to be delayed until all members of the buyer’s or seller’s household have finished their period of self-isolation.
Exchange of Contracts
Once the exchange of contracts has taken place you are legally bound to complete the agreement on the completion date specified in the contract regardless of any outside factors.
The updated guidance recommends that contracts should not be exchanged without provision being made to cover any risk associated with the Coronavirus. In the event that the Buyer or Seller or a member of their household contracts the virus and has to self-isolate.
This will depend again on the individual circumstances and sellers and buyers should contact their respective solicitors or conveyancers to discuss the best way forward.
Prior to Exchange of Contracts
The updated guidance enables sellers to begin the process of listing their property for sale.
Sellers can be contacting prospective estate agents who will be able to advise them on the local property market. Estate agents will be able to visit the property in order to take photographs and videos.
The updated guidance does advise that they are encouraging buyers and sellers to carry out their searches for a property online. For example, only viewing properties which sellers or buyers believe they are most likely to want to make an offer on and move into.
No open house viewings are to take place and viewings are only to be carried out on an appointment basis.
If the Seller is having a viewing at their property then at the time of the viewing, all internal doors should be opened prior to the viewing and there should be access to handwashing facilities and ideally paper towels/separate towels. Sellers should contact their estate agents to discuss this further.
Sellers can also use the time to contact prospective solicitors and/or conveyancers to establish what costs and disbursements may be payable and can gather all information that they hold in relation to the property in anticipation of a sale being agreed.
In the event that an acceptable offer is received, the transaction can proceed as normal but it should be borne in mind that the process will take longer than usual.
Updated guidance has been issued to estate agents, surveyors and removal companies advising them of the processes that they should be following.
Sellers and Buyers concerned about their property transaction should contact their solicitor/conveyancer as to how their matter should progress.
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