Please note: The following information is correct at of 15/05/20. Due to the developing nature of the coronavirus situation, guidance is subject to change and while we are doing what we can to keep our blogs up to date, we would always advise you speak with a solicitor for specific advice.
Following on from the Government announcement that the restrictions on the housing market would be lifted; subject to all persons involved in the process of moving house continuing to observe social distancing and safety requirements, as considered in our blog on Wednesday, the government have now updated their guidance on the subject, which we first reported on 30th March.
The updated guidance makes it clear that people who wish to move home can now do so. It does however urge the utmost care in the next phase, advising that one of the simplest steps people involved in the moving process can take is to wash their hands frequently and, wherever possible, stay at least 2 metres apart from people who are not members of the same household.
In their amended guidance, the government state:
This document does not represent a return to normality. The process of finding and moving into a new home will need to be different given those involved in the process will have to adapt practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible. This will include doing more of the process online, such as virtual initial viewings; vacating your current property whilst other people are shown around; and ensuring your property is thoroughly cleaned before someone else moves in.
Advice to the Public
We strongly recommend anyone already or considering becoming involved in the conveyancing process to consider the updated government guidance and how it may effect them as there are significant practical implications on the process of moving home as a result of the public safety requirements that remain in place.
Advice to Professionals
Estate agents, developers, surveyors, tradespeople and conveyancers have all been issued with sector-specific advice by the government and no doubt, over the following days, their respective regulatory bodies and trade associations will issue their own guidance for their members to follow.
As far as conveyancers are concerned, we have been advised as follows:
Conveyancers can open for business and can take on new instructions. They should make sure their clients are aware of the differences in completing transactions during this period.
Conveyancers should aim to conduct as much of their business remotely as possible.
Where client meetings need to take place, measures should be put in place to ensure appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures.
Conveyancers should do what they can to promote flexibility making provisions for the risks presented by coronavirus, for example when advising their clients who are ready to move not to exchange contracts on an occupied property unless they have made explicit provision for the risks presented by the virus.
Conveyancers should prioritise support for anyone who is clinically vulnerable or shielding, or with symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating to agree a new date to move.
This is largely in line with previous guidance issued by the Law Society save, for now being able to meet with clients. At Farleys we are continuing to follow the government’s overriding requirement to limit contact with other people but are now allowing client meetings when such meetings cannot otherwise take place virtually, subject to strict observance of the social distancing rules and recommended hygiene measures. In the event a face-to-face meeting with your conveyancer is unavoidable, they will discuss with you what procedures must be followed to facilitate this.
Our conveyancing team can be contacted on 0845 287 0939 or by email for any legal advice relating to the buying and selling of property during the coronavirus situation.