Residential Conveyancing - Updated Government Advice

Delay Buying and Selling Homes During Stay-at-Home Period

Residential Conveyancing – Government Advice

The Government has issued further guidance in relation to conveyancing transactions. There is clear advice that were possible, those involved in property transactions should delay moving to a new house whilst measures are in place to fight coronavirus.

Buying and selling homes during the stay-at-home period

Given the situation in the UK with regard to the outbreak of coronavirus, those involved in home moving are urged to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes.

The guidance provides that there is no need to pull out of transactions, but the nation must ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public is priority.

Where the property being moved into is vacant, the guidance permits one to continue with that transaction although guidance should be followed in relation to home removals. Where the property is currently occupied, all those involved are encouraged to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus will no longer be in place.

In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.

What you need to know

  • Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus.
  • If you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.
  • If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
  • In line with Government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus, should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.

What if an extension goes beyond the terms of a mortgage agreement?

UK Finance have confirmed that to support customers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are working to find ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offer for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.

If a customer’s circumstances change during this three month period or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, lenders will work with customers to help them manage their finances as a matter of urgency.

If your home is not yet on the market

Getting your home onto the market may be more challenging than usual in this period.There should be no visitors to your home. You can speak to Estate Agents over the phone and they will be able to give you general advice about the local property market and handle certain matters remotely but they will not be able to start actively marketing your home in the usual manner.

  • If you are thinking about selling, you can use this time to start gathering together all of the information you will need to provide to potential purchasers.
  • Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite unnecessary visitors into your home, including property agents to carry out a market appraisal or take internal photographs prior to marketing your home nor and Energy Performance Certificate assessors.

Viewings

If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale but you should not allow people in to view your property.

  • There should not be any visitors into your home, and you should therefore not let people visit your property for viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings and you could speak to them about this possibility.

Accepting offers

The buying and selling process can continue during this period but you should be aware that the process is likely to take much longer than normal.

  • You are free to continue to accept offers on your property however the selling process may take longer.
  • Advice for people to stay at home and away from others means you should not invite visitors into your home including prospective buyers or advisors.

Exchanging contracts

Once you have exchanged contracts, you have entered into a legal agreement to purchase that home.

  • If the property you are purchasing is unoccupied you can continue with the transaction.
  • If the property you are purchasing is currently occupied, it is recommend that all parties should work to either delay the exchange of contracts until after the period where stay-at-home measures to fight coronavirus are in place or include explicit contractual provisions to take account of the risks presented by the virus.

For further detailed information, the Government’s advice can be found here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak