Please note: The contents of this blog are correct as of 30/03/2020. Due to the ongoing nature of the situation, guidance is expected to be updated. While we are doing our best to ensure our blogs are updated, it is always advisable to speak with a solicitor for specific advice.

Update: Our most recent update on the conveyancing and coronavirus situation can be found here.

On the evening of Thursday 26th March, the government issued some further guidance on the subject of moving house as follows:

“There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to 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 must be the priority.

Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals. Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties 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 (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.”

This is not new guidance but merely a strengthening of the guidance issued earlier last week on which we reported.

The government advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property you are moving to is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter. If this is not possible though, parties must follow the advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.

The government guidance on vacant properties is that these transaction can still proceed, although buyers wanting to move into the property on completion will have to follow the social distancing guidance, so we advise discussing with your removal company how they are managing these requirements.

The Impact of Delays on Mortgages

A significant risk posed by delaying completion is that mortgage offers may expire.  On 26th March, UK Finance confirmed that, to support buyers who have already exchanged contracts for house purchases and set dates for completion, all mortgage lenders are seeking ways to enable customers who have exchanged contracts to extend their mortgage offers for up to three months to enable them to move at a later date.

It is important to remember though, as at any other time, if a borrower’s circumstances or the terms of the house purchase change significantly and continuing with the mortgage would cause house buyers to face financial hardship, they should notify their lender. UK Finance have, however, confirmed that, during this three month period, lenders will work to help customers manage their finances as a matter of urgency if such changes arise.

Guidance to Conveyancers

The government has issued specific guidance to conveyancers, advising that we should continue to support the sales process as far as possible and should make sure clients are aware of the difficulties of completing transactions in this period.

We are urged to continue to support the sales of unoccupied properties as far as possible and to make every effort to support clients who are due to complete on occupied properties in the stay-at-home period to change this date. In addition, we are to advise 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 are however to prioritise supporting any client with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus and those they are in chain with, and are urged to do all we can to help agree a new date to be agreed in these circumstances.

In conclusion, if you have already agreed a sale or purchase, there is no reason not to continue the conveyancing process and your conveyancer will advise you appropriately based on your circumstances and that of all other parties in the chain.

For more information about buying or selling a property during the coronavirus outbreak, get in touch with Farleys’ residential property team on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry through our online contact form.