The impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Residential Conveyancing

May 20, 2020 | Joseph Lewis

coronavirus residential conveyancingThe coronavirus pandemic and the UK lockdown have disrupted the way we work, socialise and shop, and has caused the postponement or cancellation of countless major life events, including birthdays, weddings, and house moves.

If you are unfortunate enough to have been planning to buy or sell a house or had already started the conveyancing process when the lockdown was enforced, then you’ll no doubt be happy to see the strict restrictions of quarantine beginning to ease. But what exactly does this mean for the conveyancing process?

The good news is that, as of May 13th, the amended regulations issued by the government state that “people who wish to move home can do so.” In short, the housing market in England has re-opened.

However, the government’s guidance is very clear that the relaxation of previous restrictions does not constitute a return to normal. The ongoing pandemic means that some aspects of moving home may still be shrouded in uncertainty.

Where contracts have already been exchanged

If you had already exchanged contracts and were waiting for completion before the UK lockdown came into place, then you may have found yourself in a particularly challenging situation. With most contracts not allowing for unforeseen events (such as a global pandemic) to disrupt the moving process, you could technically be considered to have defaulted on your contract if you did not complete your move.

If you are unable to complete your purchase, you may be liable to pay costs incurred by the other party and may even lose your deposit.

With all parties in the same situation, and given that these are unprecedented times, you should speak with your legal representative as they may be able to negotiate with the other side to determine whether the contract can be varied.

Where contracts have not been exchanged

If you are at an earlier stage in the conveyancing process you will have much more to think about.

No legal changes have been implemented that prevent you from exchanging contracts or completing the purchase or sale of a property.

When the time comes to make an offer or a reservation on a property this can be done as normal, but given the greater uncertainty caused by the coronavirus and the very real possibility that someone involved in the sale could become ill, it is advisable to work with your legal representative to ensure any contracts are made as flexible as possible.

Once contracts have been exchanged, you will be bound by your obligations under the Law Society’s “Standard Conditions of Sale”. As mentioned earlier, this means that if you are unable to complete for whatever reason, you will be liable to pay interest, the costs of the other side and you could potentially lose your deposit too.

In order to prevent such a scenario, your legal representative may recommend simultaneous exchange and completion. This is the process whereby you do not enter the contact unless it is agreed that completion of the contract can occur at the same time.

The situation in the UK is changing rapidly, with the government regularly reviewing and updating guidance as the threat of coronavirus evolves. For the most up-to-date information, we would recommend speaking directly to an experienced conveyancing solicitor.

coronavirus residential conveyancingHow Elite Law Solicitors can help

Joseph Lewis is a solicitor in our Residential Conveyancing team. He is experienced in all aspects of Residential Conveyancing and can assist if you are looking to buy or sell a property or are already involved in the conveyancing process.

If you require any assistance or have any queries relating to any of the issues discussed in this article, please get in touch with Joseph by calling 0800 086 2929, emailing or completing our Free Online Enquiry Form.

The content of this article is for general information only. The information in this article is not legal or professional advice.

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