What is the Government’s guidance and how does this affect property transactions?

With the Coronavirus Act and the 2020 Health Protection Regulations being passed into law by parliament on 26th March 2020, we are inevitably seeing an impact on residential conveyancing. Here, we will answer key questions on how Thursfields are responding to the extraordinary situation and how the market has been affected.

What is the Government’s guidance and how does this affect property transactions?

Despite the Act intending to reduce people’s movement and slow the spread of the virus, many residential transactions can still be completed. The government has issued guidelines which apply to people buying or selling private residential homes which they intend to live in.  The overarching objective of the Act is to protect public health and maintain social distancing measures by preventing people coming into contact with each other as much possible.  There is no doubt that the stage of the transaction where this is most problematic is on completion as people are physically moving around and, potentially, into property that other people have been occupying.

Key points from the Government guidance are that:

  • There is no need or requirement to pull out of transactions, but parties must ensure that they are following Government measures to protect public health at all times.
  • If the property is vacant, the transaction can continue.
  • The seller and the buyer should work together to agree the move or agree to defer a date, particularly where someone has symptoms or is self-isolating.

There are situations where a property does not need to be occupied straight away, for example, because it is being purchased as an investment property, the buyer intends to carry out works or the buyer is currently renting and has time left on their existing tenancy.  In these cases, there is no need for completion to be delayed and the transaction can proceed as normal.

Where parties have already exchanged contracts, they should try to agree to the completion date being deferred.  If it is impossible for the parties to agree a deferral, then completion can still take place but the Government’s advice on staying away from others must be followed to minimise the spread of the virus.

Where parties have not exchanged contracts, they should consider whether it is possible to delay the transaction.  If they still want to proceed, they need to carefully consider the risks presented by the virus and, where possible, ensure that suitable clauses are included in the contract to take account of those risks.

Thursfields remains very busy and a number of completions have already taken place and are set to take place over the coming weeks.  Completion of exchanged matters, transactions where the properties are empty, purchases by investors where the tenants are not moving out or where the properties are empty, are all continuing as normal.  We are also continuing to undertake many transfers of equity and re-mortgage transactions where no one is physically moving.  

For those who do not want to move within the lockdown period, or simply cannot move due to an inability to adhere to the Government’s guidance on social distancing, we are doing all we can to bring new and existing transactions as near as we can to completion in readiness to finalise when the lockdown is over.   So, if you are considering moving home or have found a property and your finances are in place, then we can assist in dealing with the paperwork. With our help you are in the best possible position to secure the property and move when the restrictions no longer stop you.

Contact us on 0345 20 73 72 8 or email conveyancing@thursfields.co.uk

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