Can I move house during the Coronavirus pandemic?
The government has advised people not to move house during the period of lockdown, which currently lasts until 13th April 2020, however, there has been talks that this could be extended.
Buyers or sellers who are in the early stages of the process have been urged to delay moving until the threat has passed. House viewings by potential buyers and estate agents have stopped to adhere to the strict government guidelines on social distancing.
It has been advised that there is no need to pull out of a purchase, although, the pandemic might have some impact on housing prices. Parties should try and rearrange moving until it is safe to do so for all involved, this might mean a significant delay if there are people who are in the high risk category in your chain.
What if the property is vacant?
It has been suggested that if the property is vacant, people can continue with the transaction but they must ensure that they are following guidelines with regards to home removals.
Property listing websites have indicated a significant drop in demand and have predicted housing transactions could drop significantly, by up to 60%, over the next three months.
What if we have already exchanged contracts?
Once you have exchanged contracts, all parties are contractually bound to complete on the agreed completion date. If you were unable to complete on time, whatever the reason, including Coronavirus as things stand, you would be in breach of contract.
The implications of this can range from payment of interest under the contract for a late completion to potentially the loss of the 10% deposit (for buyers), and other reasonable costs which might flow from the breach of contract.
At present the advice from the Law Society and the profession generally remains that it is not a viable option to insert clauses into sale/purchase contracts to cover the Coronavirus – not least because such clauses cannot protect everyone in a chain and such clauses become ineffective if one person in the chain would not agree.
Purchasing a property? What you should be doing...
The advice is that a delay should be sought from all parties in the hope that everyone wishes to follow the Government advice and stay safe and protect others and the NHS.
Such a delay could take many forms and would be a matter for negotiation on a case by case basis. We can assist with this and will do our best to negotiate something that everyone can accept, but there are not guarantees as there is no obligation on parties to agree to amend the contract.
Any such delay will require compromise from everyone, but it is important to bear in mind the seriousness of the situation and the reasons why everyone needs to work together in these challenging times.
If you have not yet exchanged contracts
There are now delay in lenders releasing mortgage funds, surveys, return of searches, other parties’ Solicitors not being fully operational and removal companies not being able to do their job.
With co-operation, there are ways that these issues can be resolved, but the legal position remains that the contract is the contract and binding regardless of the reasons for any failure to complete.
Given the above and the fact that we simply do not yet know how long this situation will last, you may want to consider whether it is in your best interests to commit to exchange of contracts at the moment.
Clearly the desire for certainty and to lock in parties and prices is commercially attractive, however this must be set against the unknown risk in the future of mortgage offers being withdrawn or not renewed, the lockdown being maintained or even strengthened, removals not being possible and of course additional costs being incurred.
Before coming to a decision, it is critical that you check with all of those involved in your conveyancing transaction prior to exchange of contracts, (agents, conveyancer, financial adviser/lender, removal business), and work with your agents to keep lines of communication open.
What Verisona are doing to help
We are still available for advice and are processing the transactions that we are able to progress.
We are pushing the appropriate authorities for more direction and will keep our clients informed of any updates. If you have any questions regarding your transaction, then please do not hesitate to get in contact on 02392 98 1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org