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Coronavirus and your conveyancing transaction

View profile for Bhavesh Amlani
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Coronavirus has impacted on all our lives.  From Roythornes’ point of view, most of our staff are working from home and continuing to provide the high level of service for which we are known.

We have received several questions about conveyancing transactions during the crisis, and whilst it is a constantly moving target, we have answered some of the most common questions below:

Will the coronavirus affect my property transaction?

Inevitably the answer is ‘yes’.  As there is disruption in the whole system there is very likely to be some effect on your transaction.  What that is, and what you can do about it, depends very much on the situation, and the stage you are at.

There are several ways in which your transaction could be affected.  There are many different parties involved when you move to a new house, and in the current situation any of them could be affected by delays and complications including:

  • Problems obtaining searches because Local Authority offices have been closed.
  • Problems with the banking system with approvals and transaction taking longer.
  • Possible requests that properties are deep cleaned by buyers prior to moving in.
  • Delays in obtaining signatures on documents due to problems with the postal system.
  • Delays in issuing mortgage offers by lenders because they are working with a skeleton staff or from home.
  • Issues with removal companies who may not be available due to staff self-isolating.
  • Closures of estate agencies affecting handover of keys.
  • Sellers being unable to move out of a property because of self-isolation.

As lawyers we are bound by the rules of the Law Society which state that all solicitors act with courtesy, cooperate with third parties, maintain high standards and deal with others in a fair and honest manner.

In pure legal terms, if contracts have been exchanged on a transaction and the transaction does not take place then the party(ies) who have been unable to complete would be in ‘default’. However, there is the very real possibility that in these times the non-defaulting party (most likely the buyer of the property) will take a ‘fair’ view. Whilst the non-defaulting party could serve a ‘notice to complete’ i.e. force the transaction to take place, we feel this will be unlikely in the majority of cases.  We hope patience and common sense will prevail.  

Each case will be different, but there could be a number of possible solutions:

  • Exchange contracts, with a completion date much later in the year - this would commit both parties to the transaction but give some time so that the completion takes place once the outbreak is over.
  • Put a hold on exchange, so that you get all the paperwork in place but do not exchange on the property before the situation becomes clearer.  Of course, this would mean there is no legally binding duty on either party to undertake the transaction, and so relies on the trust of all those involved.
  • Exchange and complete simultaneously – again this would rely on trust between the parties, but it would ensure that there is no duty on either party until both sides were ready and when they were, the transaction would be undertaken quickly.

What can you do next?

Our advice is to speak to your conveyancer.  They will be aware of the current situation both on your transaction and those up and down the chain.  They will also have access to the latest Law Society regulations and guidance notes.

As always, if you have any questions please get in touch with the team – they will be happy to help.