Coronavirus: Delaying Conveyancing Transactions COVID-19 update
As you may have seen, the Prime Minister addressed the nation and informed people of the next necessary steps in the fight against the Coronavirus.
If you have not already seen this the direction from the government is that people must now stay at home and can only leave for specific reasons:
- shopping for basic necessities, such as food and medicine, as infrequently as possible;
- one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle, alone or with members of their household;
- any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person;
- travelling to and from work, but only where it is necessary and cannot be done from home.
The result of these directions is that it will no longer be possible to move house whilst these restrictions are in place. For this reason, we have taken a policy decision not to agree any completion dates or exchange contracts on any impending transactions until we can be certain that by doing so we will not be placing our clients in a position whereby they are contractually bound to move house but cannot do so due to restrictions on movement.
There will be some scenarios in which we can exchange and complete transactions, for instance where a vacant property is being bought by an investor, and subject to compliance with obligations to mortgage lenders we will consider such transactions on their own merits. Many of these transactions would not involve the movement of people so we expect these instances to be rare.
I have already exchanged contracts with a fixed completion date – what should I do?
We are currently working to identify all exchanged transactions within the conveyancing department and a member of our team will contact those clients that find themselves in this position. After speaking to the respective clients we will contact other solicitors representing third parties in the transaction or the chain to discuss postponing moving arrangements in an attempt to agree a variation to the contract to delay the completion until a mutually agreeable date when the restrictions have been lifted.
It is important to remember that in these circumstances the contract will not provide for a “suspension clause” or option to vary the fixed date and therefore it will require all parties in the transaction or chain to take a sensible approach and agree a variation. If one of the parties refuses to agree this then technically there would be a breach of contract should the completion not happen and we would have to provide advice at that time depending on the government guidance and any potential legislation the Government brings forward. We appreciate that this does not provide any immediate assurances for our clients, but we stand ready to provide advice if this situation arises.
Moving house can be stressful and the current situation will only heighten this but the decisions we have taken as a firm have been taken for the benefit and protection of our clients. We will of course monitor the situation closely and provide you with any updates as soon as we can.
In the first instance if you need any advice from us, please either email or call your usual contact. If you experience any difficulty in reaching them, please get in touch with us on 0114 276 5555 or email email@example.com to be put in touch with the relevant department.